Before Nevermore, there was Sanctuary. The Seattle power/progressive metal band released two albums; Refuge Denied (1987) and Into the Black Mirror (1989) before splitting up in 1992. Since that time, vocalist Warrel Dane formed highly acclaimed metal outfit Nevermore with guitarist Jeff Loomis. However, with Nevermore on indefinite hiatus since 2011, Dane has again turned his attention towards Sanctuary. The Year the Sun Died is the band’s third album and its first release in 25 years.
“Arise and Purify” opens the album and is the record’s first single. The song is a colossal machine of strong rhythm guitar and sweeping leads. The Nevermore sound is apparent from the start as the musicianship is technical and precise. Although fans will miss Jeff Loomis’ outworldly guitar work, Brad Hull and Lenny Rutledge are fantastic shredders in their own right. The machine continues on the mysterious “Let the Serpent Follow Me.” The hypnotic chorus is the highlight as it sways back and forth like a snake. The apocalyptic psychedelia of “Exitium (Anthem Of The Living)” is only made more dramatic with the despairing chorus. Dane is in top form on this track and belts some powerful notes. The band gets into a nice groove on “Question Existence Fading,” that does not relent until the end. Again, Hull and Rutledge pull out some razor sharp riffs underneath stellar lead work. The melancholy of “I am Low” hits hard thanks to a descending acoustic riff and Dane’s solemn vocals.
The apocalyptic theme is evident throughout this album. While the record is not a concept album, the songs are connected by dour lyrics and urgent musicianship. Zeuss (Crowbar, Hatebreed, Shadows Fall) produced the record, which is an interesting choice as he is known for producing hardcore records. Still, the sound is crisp and lush, and there is no clicking or dryness anywhere. Production is always a primary issue for power and progressive metal albums. It is necessary for all instruments to be heard in order to convey the complex musicianship on each track.
The Year the Sun Died will satisfy fans of Nevermore. Although some will argue that Nevermore should regroup, Sanctuary should silence most critics with this record. It is a strong American metal release that stacks up with any contemporary prog/power release. While the youthful vigor found on the band’s first two records is largely absent, the heaviness and musical dexterity is abundant. The Year the Sun Died radiates heaviness.
The Year the Sun Died will be released on Oct. 14, 2014. Follow the band on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sanctuaryfans