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Back From Beyond: An Exclusive Interview With SANCTUARY Frontman Warrel Dane

By Wendy Jasper, Black Metal Aficionado
Tuesday, September 9, 2014 @ 5:37 PM

"I’m really proud of it (the new SANCTUARY record), so proud, in fact, that it’s hard for me to articulate how putting this record together has affected me.”

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SANCTUARY roared out of the depths of the Seattle metal scene with lightning speed guitars, a pounding rhythm section and a voice that broke sound barriers. The band’s debut album, Refuge Denied, was released in 1987 and boasted production by MEGADETH’s Dave Mustaine. The album garnered positive reviews from metal press and their shows were heavily attended both in the United States and abroad. 1990’s Into The Mirror Black pushed the band even farther toward success and the music was lauded by critics as being the best metal offering of the year.

SANCTUARY was poised for greatness and they gathered a loyal following of fans worldwide before their demise in the early 1990’s. However, vocalist Warrel Dane, bassist Jim Sheppard, guitarists Lenny Rutledge and Sean Blosl, and drummer Dave Budbill were never far from the most avid fan’s mind and there was always hope that they would reunite.

Songs like “Battle Angels”, “Veil Of Disguise”, “Die For My Sins”, “Future Tense”, “Eden Lies Obscured” and “The Mirror Black” remained fan favorites and in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, when Dane and Sheppard were touring with their band NEVERMORE, the occasional SANCTUARY song would be showcased because of fan demand.

Much to the joy of the metal world, SANCTUARY has resurfaced and has finished up what may be the most critically acclaimed release of 2014. The band is strong and ready to tour. However, Blosl decided not to join the endeavor and has been replaced by guitarist Brad Hull, and now the band is poised to release their first album in 25 years.

The Year The Sun Died boasts eleven tracks of pure metal that has a conceptual theme. The cover art by Travis Smith is extravagant and follows the format of the music.

“I’m going to let the cat out of the bag,” Dane said. “It’s a comic book. I can’t wait for fans to see it. You really have to read the entire cover and view the artwork to get the full affect but it is really astonishing and I think that fans are going to love it.”

The first single is “Arise And Purify” and it has already started burning up the metal airwaves. According to Dane, the song’s heavy tone is indicative of the intensity of the entire record. “"Arise And Purify" really expresses the tone of the record,” Dane said. “It's old school and it's rooted in that classic metal mindset. The song has really turned out beyond my expectations and it’s indicative of what the rest of the record sounds like. It’s something you need to hear to really understand how killer the whole record is. I’m really proud of it, so proud, in fact, that it’s hard for me to articulate how putting this record together has affected me.”

He goes on to explain that the concept of the record is blended in with introductions to the songs and definitions in the liner notes; a notion very similar to what NEVERMORE did with Dreaming Neon Black. He also says that working together as a band again has been evolutionary for SANCTUARY.

“The NEVERMORE record Dreaming Neon Black was well explained as a concept record and I put quotes in between all the songs on that record,” he said. “We did the same with this so when you read the liner notes it will be clearer. There has been a lot of growth for us. Having us all back together and playing is surreal. Sean decided not to stay with us but we tapped Brad Hull to fill his spot. Its feels weird but satisfying at the same time. I don’t know how else to describe it. Brad has been a friend for years and he filled in for Sean a long time ago and now he is back with us. He is a freaking amazing guitar player and he has really stepped up his game for this.”

The album was recorded in Seattle with well-known producer Zeuss. While his work over the past few years has been with rather different genres of metal, he brought his unique approach into the studio and Dane says that it brought the band together as a unit.

“The producer, Zeuss, pushed all of us really hard and made us all better musicians. He made us perform to the fullest extent of our abilities and the recording process took about a month,” he said. “The record is still very much a SANCTUARY record but he gives it a modern feel and the atmosphere was highly charged and it brought out the best in all of us.”

The band recently went to Germany to perform at an array of festivals and to shoot the video for the tune “Frozen”. The video will debut online on September 23rd, and the album release will be on October 14th in the United States. Tour plans are in the works and some shows have already been scheduled.

“Right now we have some shows planned in the late part of fall,” Dane said. “We will definitely tour extensively for this record. We plan to try to hit every city we can; anywhere that we know people want to see us. I know we will do the festival circuit next year as well. I am prepared for whatever comes our way and I am ready to get out there and for people to hear this record. I think it will surpass the expectations that the fans have had all these years waiting for us to give them new music.”

With that said, check out the album track listing. SANCTUARY can be seen live at the below dates. Also, check out the stream of “Arise And Purify” below while we await the album release.

The Year The Sun Died track-listing

  • "Arise And Purify"
  • "Let The Serpent Follow Me"
  • "Exitium (Anthem Of The Living)"
  • "Question Existence Fading"
  • "I Am Low"
  • "Frozen"
  • "One Final Day (Sworn To Believe)"
  • "The World Is Wired"
  • "The Dying Age"
  • "Ad Vitam Aeternam"
  • "The Year The Sun Died"
  • "Waiting For The Sun" (THE DOORS cover; included on the mediabook, plus CD insert inside the LP)
  • 11.14 - Seattle, WA - S7
  • 11.15 - Vancouver, BC - Rickshaw
  • 11.16 - Portland, OR - Hawthorne
  • 11.19 - Anaheim, CA - The Grove
  • 11.20 - Las Vegas, NV - LVCS
  • 11.21 - Phoenix, AZ - Club Red
  • 11.22 - San Diego, CA - Ramona Mainstage

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