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Sanctuary - "The Year The Sun Died" (CD)

Sanctuary - "The Year The Sun Died" CD cover image

"The Year The Sun Died" track listing:

1. Arise and Purify
2. Let The Serpent Follow Me
3. Exitium (Anthem of the Living)
4. Question Existence Fading
5. I Am Low
6. Frozen
7. One Final Day (Sworn to Believe)
8. The World is Wired
9. The Dying Age
10. Ad Vitam Aeternam
11. The Year the Sun Died

Reviewed by on October 1, 2014

"Sanctuary has.....construct[ed] the perfect bridge between 'Into the Mirror Black' and the entire Nevermore back catalog."

Here we go again…..exceedingly heightened expectation levels cause a barrage of neural activity…an attack of electrochemical signals bursting through axons and disgorging from dendrites. The explosion of activity approximates the typical 4th of July celebration as hundreds of thoughts ranging from the ridiculous (“Refuge Denied, Pt. 2”), to the acceptable (“well as long as Warrel screams, I’ll take it!”) to the plausible (“it’s going to sound like Nevermore performing ‘Into the Mirror Black’”) rain down like a mushroom of sparks.

I stand torn between two halves of a life - one half that adores “Battle Angels” and the other half that admires “Dreaming Neon Black.” It is nearly impossible to keep the auditory exertion in check for a band that is so revered in metal, but which has so little history to show for it, living proof of how it only takes one or two classics to create such a major impact on one’s life. With the teasing album title surfacing in 2011 (ironically, one of my very first news stories for MetalUnderground.com), the mental acrobatics worsened, as there was another three years of agonizing wait for “The Year the Sun Died.” Now set to face a world of cynics and disbelievers, Sanctuary has presented an album that represents the precise evolution had the continued post-1992, all but securing a “Comeback of the Year” award.

Admittedly, there was a part of me clamoring for “Battle Angels,” knowing full well just how ludicrous the notion was. Musicians go through so many levels of maturation in the course of 5 years, let alone 22 years. Fans who expect things to go back to precisely where they left off are many of the same ones who refuse to exploring music outside self-made walls, thus missing out on the true passion of music….exploration. Ironically, after multiple listens to “The Year the Sun Died,” you quickly start to realize that Sanctuary has done precisely that, constructing the perfect bridge between “Into the Mirror Black” and the entire Nevermore back catalog. Is it all pristine and amazing? It all depends on which shade of gray your melancholy desires. There is plenty here for both fans of Sanctuary and Nevermore. There is one thing everyone will agree on....this beast is heavy as fuck!

If you combine “Arise and Purify,” “Let the Serpent Follow Me,” “Exitium (Anthem of the Living),” “Question Existence Fading,” “I Am Low,” “Frozen,” and “The World Is Wired” alone – there is more of Sanctuary’s power brilliance then on any latter Nevermore album. It seems like years of pent up energy and hate have spewed out in the form of titanic riffs from mid-ranged gougers (“Let the Serpent Follow Me” and “Exitum”), briskly paced/near thrash jackhammers (“Arise and Purify,” “Frozen” and “The World Is Wired”), and the crushing builders (“Question Existence Fading” and “I Am Low). “Frozen” is the winner of the album (just barely beating “The World is Wired” and “Arise and Purify”), sounding as fresh and dominant as I have ever remembered Sanctuary, including what sounds like a nod to Testament at 4:31!

For seasoned Nevermore fans, there is a fair share of brooding, moody, and deliberate tracks: “One Final Day (Sworn to Believe),” “The Dying Age,” “The Year the Sun Died” and “Waiting for the Sun.” The guitar due of Lenny Rutledge and Brad Hull (ex-Forced Entry) prove to be insanely potent, with Rutledge reprising that signature style patented on such classics like “Taste Revenge,” “Long Since Dark,” “One More Murder,” and “Eden Lies Obscure.” “The Year the Sun Died” is the best of both worlds leaving me wondering “Jeff who?”

All the while, Warrel Dane’s low register seems ten times lower, making this one of his most potent vocal performances ever. He manages to eke out a scream here and there (“Arise and Purify,” “Let the Serpent Follow Me,” and a small one at the tail end of “Question Existence Fading”), all of which are expectedly buried inside a sonic wall of guitars and vocal harmonies. Still though, it’s like briefly reliving the memory of your first real sexual encounter!

Would I have preferred an album with more of a “power metal” punch like “Refuge Denied?” Sure! But to expect that is ignoring the evolution of the band that started on “Into the Mirror Black” and continued on through Nevermore. Keeping youthful enthusiasm in check, “The Year the Sun Died” sounds exactly where Sanctuary should be in 2014: all the trademarks of Sanctuary with a healthy dose of Nevermore’s progressive groove. Add stellar production and this cinches a “Comeback of the Year” award for the band along with an album that ranks among this year’s best!

Highs: The natural evolution of Sanctuary, packed with elements of both old and Nevermore!

Lows: Those expecting "Refuge Denied, Pt. II" and the Warrel Dane shrieks that came with it will be disappointed.

Bottom line: Sanctuary "arises to purify" a metal scene with a comeback worthy of the legends!

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)