Sanctuary – The Year the Sun Died (Century Media – 2014)

 

Nevermore is one of my favorite bands, or should I say was? There didn’t seem to be much left after Loomis left. To me there were always three major parts to Nevermores music that stood out: 1: Jeff Loomis amazing technique and sense of melody. 2: An unbelievably tight rhythm section. 3: Warrel Danes vocals. His voice is so powerful, filled to the rim with emotion and yet he can still belt out the aggression better than most singers in metal. Except of Loomis, this album contains two of the three.

I discovered Sanctuary not through Nevermore, but through the fact Dave Mustaine produced their debut Refuge Denied. I wasn’t particularly impressed. A run of the mill mid 80s american speed metal album, nothing special. When I discovered the link between Nevermore and Sanctuary, I decided to check out their second release as well, Into the Mirror Black, and I was in love.

Sanctuary are basically Nevermore without Loomis, both in a literal sense and in their sound. The songs are structured around Danes vocals. The way they arrange the songs are also very reminiscent of Nevermore. I think this album could have easily been released under the Nevermore banner without people lifting an eyebrow.

What this album lacks are the strong guitar riffs from the Into the Mirror Black album. The magic of that album was the mix of the vocals and riffs, with a solid rhythm section to back it up. The problem here is that the guitar part is missing from the recipe. The guitars are loud, but riffs are not up to the what I expected based on earlier releases.

I’m not sure what to think about this album. Is it a comeback that has been many years in the making? Has Lenny Rutledge been sitting on this music for twenty years, just waiting for a chance to reconnect with Dane and Shepard? Or maybe these are Nevermore leftovers, released under a different name? Will there be another album after this one?

Even though the guitar isn’t where I was hoping it would be, I still enjoy this album immensely. It does rock and have a drive through it, from start to finish. Jim Shepard does a stand up job, like he always does. Love his sound and approach to the bass. There are probably more to playing bass and bass sounds than what I know, but I like it when the bass sound is punchy and clear, yet able to rumble  and tickle my guts in just the right way when I turn up the sound.

I think the second track Let the Serpent Follow Me is my favorite track, maybe because of the Nevermore sound and feel of it. Exitium is just a brilliant song, beautiful in it’s own way. The title track is another quality track and so is I am Low.

I miss the big riffs, but other than that this record is above the water and worth owning. It also works great for commuting to work.

Recommended dowloads: Let the Serpent Follow Me, Exitium

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