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December 13, 2018; One Year Without The Sun: A Retrospective On The Life And Death Of WARREL DANE

By Wendy Jasper, Fort Worth Correspondent
Thursday, December 20, 2018 @ 9:10 AM


"Time cannot erase the mark I leave on time and space…"

- advertisement -
You are forever in our hearts…

If I said this article was not about me, I would be lying. It is about me. It is also about the family, close friends and fans around the world that loved Warrel. This past year has been difficult and I have thought for months about how to approach this. Now that Shadow Work has been released, let us take this time to talk about the man. Not the rock star, not the tortured soul that the press has made him out to be, and let us get beyond all of those write ups that have made his problems the focal point of the article. This article is not about that because those days are over.

What you will read is personal memories from the days preceding his death, the days and months following, and the memories of family and friends. Included is a collection of photos shared by the Baker family, Epic Records, bandmates, fans, friends, and from my personal press archives. I have also embedded several links to videos or live performances that showcase Warrel at his best.

This retrospective would not be possible without the assistance of the SANCTUARY and NEVERMORE family of fans and friends. I would like to thank Warrel’s sisters Caroline, Marilyn and Terra and the extended Baker family for allowing me to take a glimpse into the stories my friend always told me about his family and helping me make sense of it all. I also want to give heartfelt thanks to Jim Sheppard, Lenny Rutledge and Kendra Tetzlaff, Siobahn Chandler, Larry Petro, Stephanie Shoulders and everyone at Century Media, Chrisa Adams, Dave and Dianne Budbill, Jeff Loomis, Van and Dore Williams, James Overaa, James Rivera, David Rivera, Stephanie Cabral, George Hernandez, Joey Concepcion, and Joseph Micheal.

Thank you to my parents for putting up with my crazy Warrel stories for the past thirty years…they knew him through osmosis…and from the times they were in the room when he called and he spoke with them. They thought he was extraordinary in his ability to articulate even the most minute detail.

And finally, I want to thank my son, Jenssen Rivera. He is an inspiration and he is wise beyond his years. Warrel loved and believed in him and we feel his presence always…

Past Tense…
October 26, 2017
7AM

“Mom, Warrel is trying to Facetime you,” Jenssen said as he brought my phone into the kitchen. I already knew what was about to happen. It was the same thing that happened every October 26th for as long as I can remember, except that in the early years it may have been a collect call from a pay phone, or from home in Seattle. Now it was via Facetime and coming from Brazil, so I answered.

“Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you…happy birthday dearest Wendy, happy birthday to you,” he sang. To which end he followed up with “You’re like, OLD now!!”

“Yes, Wally, I’m older, but I’m not nearly as old as you!” I laughed. We had this conversation every year and he would try to say he was only forty-eight, or thirty-nine, or perhaps even sixty. In his constant quest for age anonymity, he waged a war with Wikipedia over when his actual birthday really was. Every time they would try to put the correct year on his profile, he would go back and edit it. It was an ongoing battle to keep his secret. As much as he tried to hide it, those closest to him knew the real year.

As per usual, when he was on one of his trips to Brazil to work with his solo project band on his latest opus, he called daily; sometimes more than once per day. It was imperative to him that he stay close, even if via Facetime, Facebook video, text messaging or calls, to his friends and family. His sisters got daily calls, he checked in with Kendra (Tetzlaff) and Lenny (Rutledge), and he always spoke multiple times per day with Jim (Sheppard). He was well known for randomly using Facebook Messenger to contact a fan or online friend. That is just who he was, and it is why he is so loved.

He had the ability to make you smile and laugh about the most absurd things…like Jim (Sheppard) putting his phone in the oven to dry it faster after he dropped it in water…the results of said event were not as Jim expected…and we still laugh about that today…
But we must move forward…

What do you think they will say when they look back on this…
November 18, 2017

“How is Jenssen?” Warrel asked. Jenssen had been in the hospital and Warrel had called several times to check on him.

“He’s better. He gets to go home tomorrow. When are you coming back?” I asked.

“I’m hoping around December 5th. I have a lot more to do than I thought on this (the recording) and with the tour coming up I really need to get to work on some of the songs. I’m really not sure about my voice. I’ve been singing in a deeper register for so long. I may can still pull it off but I may have to work around some of the notes.”

SANCTUARY had been asked to join ICED EARTH on the road for their North American Tour in support of Incorruptible that began in early 2018. Warrel was excited about this and we reminisced about the tour in 1999 when Warrel and NEVERMORE had toured with ICED EARTH and DESTINY'S END. At that time, I was still in a relationship with Jenssen’s father, DESTINY'S END and HELSTAR vocalist James Rivera.

Warrel and James developed a close friendship during that time and while James and I parted ways in 2002, Warrel remained friends with both of us and saw himself as Jenssen’s “God-Uncle”. He often called himself “Uncle Walnuts” and said he planned to take Jenssen to his first strip club whether I liked it or not. To be clear, I didn’t approve, so he persisted in antagonizing me with it.

James, too, fondly remembers the time on the road with Warrel and recently said that Warrel’s passing saddened him because they had shared vocal tips and secrets with each other and he considered him a good friend. “You know, he was the person that told me a shot of Jagermeister before going on stage was good for your vocal cords,” James said. “I thought he was kidding but I researched it after I tried it and it worked. It’s because of the licorice in the drink. Who knew?”

NEVERMORE live at Backstage Club in Houston, Texas, May 5, 1999

“Remember the time me, Jim, you and James and the guys were in Dallas and we got kicked out of that strip club?” Warrel asked, recalling Jim’s birthday in 1999 and a short lived trip to the topless bar near our hotel in Arlington that included me, James Rivera, Dan Delucie, Brian Craig, David Rivera, and Roger Augustine.

“It was Flashdancer Cabaret in Arlington, not Dallas,” I said. “And besides, I don’t know why they kicked us out just because I was taking pictures. It was Jim’s birthday! The back of the picture (see included photo) says May 8, 1999. And no, you are not taking Jenssen to a strip club so don’t even start!”

He laughed and asked how I remembered things like that. Then he made the comment that he was still a bit worried about the tour. Even back in the nineties he said he struggled with the high pitches so how was he going to pull it off thirty years later?

“I’m about to go into the studio but I’m starving so I’m going to eat first,” Warrel said in a FaceTime call that November afternoon. “I’m at this awesome Brazilian steakhouse. Hey…I think I’ve told you about this place! I called you from here and your parents were visiting and I talked to your mom!”

“That was thirty minutes ago in the living room, Walnuts.”

“Oh yeah..hahaha…have you told them what we talked about when you get done with school? I think it’s a great idea.”

I am finishing my Doctorate in education and Warrel liked to tease me about coming to work for the University of Washington and living with he and Jim so I could take care of them in their “old age”. “Yeah, they (my parents) think it’s a dumb idea. Besides, I have no desire to change your Depends and would put you in a nursing home anyway.”

“Bitch…love you, gotta eat! Look at the photo Jim texted of Mona (their cat). Talk to you later so I can go sing and my voice is just not feeling it…ugh!”

His voice and the ability to still sing songs like “Battles Angels” and “Die For My Sins” was something that resonated heavily with him. He knew fans wanted to hear the songs, but he also knew they wanted to hear them sung the same way they were in 1988 and it was harder as time went by for him to hit those high notes. Rather than not do the songs at all, he sometimes changed the vocal tone, but he knew he had pulled off a stellar performance during festival season in 2015 and he said he planned to attempt the songs.

His performance anxiety was something he mentioned frequently in the following days and was usually followed by him stating his desire to come home and see his family and friends.

All will be revealed, wisdom of the ages falls like rain…
December 12, 2017
6PM

The Facebook Messenger video call opened with him showing me the new kind of chocolate milk he had found at the corner store there in Sao Paulo and he was excited because it was okay for diabetics. Being a chef himself, he delighted in newly discovered food or drink and expected everyone else to be as excited as he was. He often prepared dishes I couldn’t pronounce and he often uploaded his “food porn” to Facebook.

“It has no sugar! It’s pretty good. I think I will have all of this (recording) wrapped up and be able to be home by next week. I was supposed to come home on December 5th but we are not where I want to be yet so I am not leaving until all the vocals are done,” he said. “What did you think of Madame Satan? It has this whole introspective, twisty feel, right? I think it’s biographical…I think I actually know this woman, but she is more like a feeling rather than a real person…I don’t know…I have to think about it….I have written down all of this other stuff…have I told you about the one about the kid that is small and bullied? I’ve got a working title for that one too but I may change it (He was referring to “As Fast As the Others”)…it’s an important social topic right now…I’m going to be a social justice warrior..hahaha…not really but I think it’s a good song. I want to go home and go to The Purple Store…I want to go see Wonder Woman again too and see my sisters.”

“You’ve already seen Wonder Woman about six times. Go see something else. What about the new SANCTUARY music?” I asked. “Have you even started on that yet? I thought you were going to be done with the new project before the end of the year. You go on the road with ICED EARTH in March. That is pretty soon. I do like the working title for the solo album, though. What exactly do you mean by Shadow Work? You know I’m recording this so I can write it all up for KNAC when you guys are ready.”

“I think that Madame Satan says where I am right now mentally…ooh, you’re recording? Speaking of recording, have you heard my new voicemail greeting? (His voicemail had the most obnoxious greeting…I won’t even repeat it, but if you ever called him and got it, then you already know) What was I talking about, oh yeah, the song, I’m in the shadows, creeping around and getting into my head and pulling out dark thoughts. It’s what drives my creativity. I am waiting for Johnny (Morales) to pick me up so we can go work,” he said. I couldn’t argue with that because he often went into trance mode when he was writing and the things that spilled forth were unlike anything most of us would ever hear. His inner voice was the ingenuity behind the lyrical content of all of his projects.

“I have some really good ideas to share with Lenny when I get back,” he said. “I am putting down my notes, I just have to get my head wrapped around finishing this and then get ready for tour and recording mode. I have been talking with the artist for the cover for this (solo album) and between the two projects I’m all over the place. I think everyone likes Inception and singing those songs again is going to push my voice and I….wait, Jim is calling. I will call you back.”
He didn’t call back.

And so I leave this world…
December 13, 2017
7:35AM

“Mom, Jim is calling your phone,” Jenssen said as we drove from the house to the high school. I had the phone running through the car navigation system and it didn’t always tell me who was calling but Jenssen could see the face of the phone. Why would Jim be calling so early?

“Hey Jimmy! What’s up?”
“He’s gone,” he cried.
Gone? Who was gone? Why was my green text message button going crazy? Thirty text messages? From who? “What? What are you talking about?”

“Warrel…it’s all over Facebook. It’s out in the press already. I didn’t want you to see it there. I have to call so many people… They said it was a heart attack…I can’t…I didn’t want you to find out on Facebook…I have to make more calls…”

Chaos ensued. Jenssen was crying. I was crying. My chest was tight. I had to pull over. David (Rivera) called and I answered and he was crying and asking me if it was true. It was all over social media. I refused to believe what I already knew to be true. I think I knew when he didn’t call back that something was wrong. He always called back and I had woken up to a strange feeling.

I logged onto my Facebook app and it was the first thing that popped up. Brazilian paramedics had responded to the call from his bandmates when they found him unresponsive in his room. Johnny had told the reporters how they had found him. The music community was in an uproar and Warrel had passed away in a foreign country where he had no family.

December 13, 2017 was when the sun died.

My journey has begun, am I blessed or am I damned…
Warrel George Baker was born to Warrel Clinton Baker and Virginia Marguerite Baker on March 7, 1961. He was the youngest of his siblings, with sisters Caroline, Marilyn and Terra and brother Denny completing the clan. He always laughed that he was a “golden years” child because of his father being in his fifties at the time of his birth.

Creative, inquisitive and vocal, he knew he was born to sing and create music. His initial vocal training indicated that his range was extensive and he would often work through operatic scales. Though he was naturally baritone, he could also reach a five or more octave shriek and as a young singer he would push himself to reach those highs.

Warrel’s first band, SERPENT'S KNIGHT hit the local music scene in Seattle and quickly became a popular staple for music fans in the early 1980’s. It was in 1985 when he, Jim and Lenny started SANCTUARY with Sean Blosl and Dave Budbill that music as a career choice started to seem like a more realistic option. The band was courted by a major label and the rest is history.

“I think that we are doing something different with our sound. It was unique enough for us to be noticed by Dave Mustaine and have him produce our album, so we must be doing something right,” Warrel said in an interview I conducted with him in 1988 for my high school newspaper, The Hive. Refuge Denied was a major label offering on Epic Records and was receiving critical acclaim. “I can’t really explain it. I just open my mouth and it comes out and when I was younger and taking voice lessons I realized that I could go very low and very high. I’m not special or anything, it just comes out that way.”

But he was special. He didn’t think he was and he routinely proved that by the way he interacted with his fans.

“I never met anyone who cared more about their fans than Warrel,” Lenny said. “I spoke with him a few days before he passed and I remember him saying ‘I love you’ loudly before he hung up and then a few days later he was gone. We had been working on new music and we were planning the tour with ICED EARTH for Inception and there was a rebirth to all of these old songs. He was looking forward to performing them but I know he was also a bit apprehensive about it because his voice had changed over the past several years.”

As Warrel aged, so did his voice. It had a different timbre’ and he opted for baritone during his work with NEVERMORE rather than the high-pitched wails that were so prevalent in SANCTUARY’s music.

“Many of the fans are comparing the new record to NEVERMORE because I am the singer, but there is absolutely no similarity,” Warrel said in a 2014 interview with me for KNAC.COM. “NEVERMORE did put out more records and that fan base has transferred over, but this is a return to our roots and it’s been very powerful for us as a band. I see the next record as being deeper and heavier and we have a lot of ideas for how we are going to proceed with the writing and recording.”

“He had such a unique voice and I really love how The Year the Sun Died turned out,” Lenny continued. “I think it went where both and he and I wanted it to and the sound may have sometimes been compared to his work with NEVERMORE and sometimes he didn’t like that because they were two very different bands but we embraced it and moved forward and he knew where his vocal strengths were and he capitalized on that. When we wrote together he would just come out with something and I would say ‘perfect’ or ‘let’s keep going’ and we would just come up with so many ideas. Being back together after twenty five years and doing an album was scary because we weren’t sure how it was going to turn out but it turned out so much better than we imagined and we are all proud of it. Warrel had such great mental strength even if he was frail in other ways from dealing with diabetes. He always seemed to create and build the lyrics to a song, sometimes from nothing.”

Video footage of the CD release show for The Year the Sun Died in Seattle, WA.

And when we’re old and grey these stories will be told…

SANCTUARY was, literally, created in a warehouse. The idea was conceived by Lenny and his cousin, SANCTUARY guitarist Sean Blosl. Sean has retired from music and remains reclusive, but in the 1980’s the duo knew they wanted to do “something big” and that turned out to be a warehouse with a full stage set, house PA and, what appeared to the gangly young singer named Warrel, to be a dream come true. Jim and Dave completed the rhythm section and a band was born.

The demos that have now been released as Inception were some of the band’s first attempts at recording their original music and they had started to gain quite a bit of attention.

“Sean and I had wanted to have a band called SANCTUARY since we were kids,” Lenny said. “We were actually working on music for about two years before we met Warrel, but we knew that we had to find the right players, work on securing funding and get in front of the right people. We wanted to do something big! We had managed to get a huge piece of plywood to make a stage, we had what looked like jail bars around the drum riser and we practiced every day. We even had an office and a viewing area in the warehouse. I remember the look on his face the first time he came to practice. It was like, ‘what are you guys doing here?’ and he hadn’t ever seen anything like it before. We shared our practice space with a company that sold PA equipment and when we had guests they would see our set up and freak out. We gave him a tape of "Soldiers of Steel" and he took it with him and when he brought it back after working on the lyrics, it was exactly what I wanted. It gave me chills. It was truly a magical time for us. We got played on the Brain Pain radio show by Jeff Gilbert and started getting popular locally and we finished the demo. From there we signed with Epic and it was unbelievable.”

SANCTUARY travelled the world on tour after the release of Refuge Denied and after that, they went directly into work on the band’s second album, Into the Mirror Black.

That album had a video for “Future Tense” that was in heavy rotation on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball and they secured tours that were lucrative, but it wasn’t to last. Sean left the band and his spot was briefly filled with young guitar virtuoso Jeff Loomis. However, internal struggles ensued and the band split, leaving Warrel, Jim and Jeff to venture forward with a new project.

"Future Tense" Video. Epic Records/Youtube

Shifting, shaping currents flow in memory…

NEVERMORE filled the void that was left by the demise of SANCTUARY and they released their self-titled debut on Century Media records in 1995. Warrel, Jim, Jeff and drummer Van Williams were the core members of the group and would remain in the line-up until the official defunct status of the band was made public. The mark they left on the metal scene was significant and Warrel was proud of the work they did.

“This is very different from anything I did with SANCTUARY,” Warrel said in an interview with me for Sonic Boom Magazine in Houston in 1996. “It is dark, forbidding and heavy. I don’t scream as much but I think that fans of SANCTUARY will like this too.”

Video for" What Tomorrow Knows"/Century Media

In a time when grunge was dominating the airwaves, metal fans flocked to the new project and the release of their second album, The Politics of Ecstasy, brought them into the limelight.

Video for "Next In Line"/Century Media Records

Dreaming Neon Black would carve out a niche’ for the band amongst the insipid offerings by other bands that year. It was eccentric yet it told a story and while some critics speculate about the story behind the album, Warrel spoke very candidly about it with me. The album’s prevailing narrative was that of a man who is slowly driven insane over the disappearance and subsequent loss of his girlfriend to a religious cult. Warrel was often intrigued by religious lore and questioned all things related to organized religion. He was well read, highly educated, and wrote frequently about the hypocrisy of theocracy, but he was also a spiritual human being. He believed that since he had a real experience with the subject, that it would make for a good album.

“I had this girlfriend who just basically disappeared,” Warrel said in an interview in he and I did in 1999 for Ironworx Magazine. “No one knew what happened to her and then when I was writing these songs I had been having dreams about her. Long story short, she joined a cult and no one ever heard from her again and I imagine she is no longer living and maybe that is why I was able to conceptualize all of this; I don’t have closure.”

There is a lot more to the story than Warrel ever made public, but the impetus for the music remains the same and it was something different in a time period where the music that was popular was flat and lacked emphasis.

The album was met with mixed reviews but the ensuing tours with ICED EARTH as well as headlining shows created a surge of interest with fans and this trend continued with each new project.

Dreaming Neon Black was followed by Dead Heart in A Dead World and this release in the year 2000 would be the band’s most critically acclaimed. “The Heart Collector” and “Believe in Nothing” showcased the band in a way that kept them in front of their contemporaries in the metal community.

When NEVERMORE toured through Houston with IN FLAMES in support of Dead Heart in A Dead World, they played at Fitzgeralds. As usual, we all managed to hook up before the show and I became “band mom”. While James and Warrel visited, I drove Jeff to get cigarettes, sewed a hole in Jim's pants, made sure they all ate, and made everyone stay off the bus so Van could take a nap.

However, since no trip ever went completely smooth, at the end of the night, Warrel and I were standing outside looking at the big dent in the fender of my Camaro where the local opening act had backed into me with their gear trailer. They were young kids and their dad fixed my car but the forbidding and ominous looks of Warrel, Jim and James seemed to have scared them.

Warrel’s response? “Well, at least you can tell your dad it (the accident) wasn’t YOUR fault this time…”

“Shut up, Walnuts.”

“Not my fault you can’t drive, Band Runner Barbie.” Never mind the fact that I wasn’t, in fact, driving and the kids had backed into a parked car.

That was just how it was with us. He would antagonize, I would respond…but we would always end up laughing.

Video for "Believe In Nothing"/Century Media Records

It was evident to the fan base that Warrel liked to work on conceptual lyrics. Whether it was an entire story encompassed in one album or just a single song, he was able to create the most visceral of images. He was a horror fan to the core and researched topics that most people would find bizarre. More than once these types of themes could be heard. In 2003 when the band released Enemies of Reality, Warrel again tackled the vampiric lust and debauchery that so intrigued him. The video for “I, Voyager” was heavily viewed and the band launched a headlining tour that took them across the United States and Europe.

Video for "I, Voyager"/Century Media Records

Jenssen was still a baby, having been born in October 2002, but when the band came to Houston, I took him with me to see Warrel and we went out to lunch. It was heartwarming to see him gleefully playing with Jenssen and it is depressing to know that those photos and negatives were lost in Hurricane Ike in 2008. NEVERMORE went on to have a revolving door of rhythm guitar players, but the foursome of Warrel, Jim, Van and Jeff remained solid through nine studio albums, a live double CD and a video for "The Year Of The Voyager".

The Year of the Voyager (Full DVD)/Century Media Records

Destiny, Tranquility, Validity of Soul…

During 2008, Warrel made the bold move to release a solo album. Praises to the War Machine was autobiographical and well thought out. “There is a lot to say in this record,” he told me during an interview in 2008. “I know we talk about my family a lot and I am really close to my sisters, but my brother Denny and I have our issues. We don’t really have a relationship and it has always been very hard for me. I wrote the song “Brother” about that because it gives me a sense of closure that I haven’t really ever been able to reconcile before. My brother is ill and his disconnection from the family is disturbing.”

Warrel held strong feelings about this situation for most of his life. When his brother passed away in 2015, Kendra took him to the service. She described the situation as a sad one but that Warrel was able to make peace in his heart with Denny. This made Warrel’s emotional bond with his sisters stronger than before and he started to work on new music with NEVERMORE because he felt the emotional pull that only writing gave him.

“Being able to take him to his brother’s funeral was emotional but we also bonded so much more,” Kendra said on the phone not long after Warrel’s passing. “He was such a huge part of my life. He had lived with us (Kendra and Lenny) and we had traveled together. He was family, he was like a brother to me.”

Video for "Brother"/Century Media Records

A return to the studio for NEVERMORE yielded positive results, but personality conflicts and other issues would bring about the demise of the band, something Warrel hoped could be rectified in the same way it was with SANCTUARY; he hoped for a reunion show. Unfortunately, the band’s last album would be The Obsidian Conspiracy and from there Van and Jeff would go their separate ways and pursue their own projects; Jeff is now the guitarist for ARCH ENEMY and Van has a new project called GHOST SHIP OCTAVIUS. Both of them have had success in their endeavors and hold their memories of their friend close to them. While a NEVERMORE reunion is now impossible, the remaining members worked with Century Media to release an all-encompassing boxed set of all the band’s albums this past year.

Aside from the boxed set and other projects, Jim, too has been working on a memorial tribute album. He texted me often over the past several months and gave me progress updates and to date he says he has completed fourteen songs for the album.

He cloistered himself in the studio to work and believes that Warrel’s inspiration was what allowed him to forge ahead with the new music. It is his tribute and while it is uncertain if the songs will ever be released, he has shared them with me and they are poignant and lovely.

We speak frequently and text often but I have opted to keep those conversations private. Just know that Jim is taking life in stride and has a wonderful support system. The fact that he has starting writing music again is a major move toward healing for him and he credits Warrel for his newfound motivation.

As if to make the lunatic look sane…

The lure of Brazil, new music and a change of pace took over when Warrel met a group of young musicians in Sao Paulo. Thiago Oliveira, Johnny Moraes, Marcus Dotta and Fabio Carito were instrumental in the release of Warrel’s final work.

After the end of NEVERMORE, he embarked on a project in South America and Greece that spanned the last four years of his life. Included in the plans for his second solo effort was a tour to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the release of Dead Heart In A Dead World. He also included songs from his first solo album in a series of solo shows that featured either a full band or just acoustic versions of the songs.

“I’ll have done two weeks of shows in Greece for the Dead Heart In A Dead World 15th anniversary,” Warrel said. “I have an entire band that is devoted to my international shows. I found a band in Brazil that are such incredible musicians and I am very lucky to have found them. They can play the music perfectly and it is something that I have to do. It means so much to me to not only be able to play again with SANCTUARY but to have my solo career. I am hoping to bring some of these shows to the States in the near future.”

In 2015, Warrel worked his trips to Brazil around shows with SANCTUARY as they trekked across North America and Europe in support of The Year The Sun Died. When the tour was over, he some time at home in Washington with his family and friends and then made plans to go back to Brazil and work on the solo songs. This would be the trend for the remainder of his life.

“The focus will be on writing now that this tour is over. I just know that when we started this that we were going to transcend what we had done with the first two albums and that it would be good,” Warrel said in 2015. “I think there will be a big jump from The Year The Sun Died to whatever we come up with for the new record. I know it’s going to be fresh and there will be a progression. I think this is all what we would have naturally morphed into had we stayed together all these years. I want the songs to be faster, heavier, and more powerful. In addition to writing, I am doing another solo tour in March and then I will take a break. I am NOT complaining. I chose this and I love it.”

And we won’t be here for long…

Warrel left Washington for Brazil one last time in September 2017. When he arrived in Sao Paulo he already had a visualization for the album artwork and he was working on that with Travis Smith; he and Travis had worked on other projects together over the years and he knew Travis would do exactly what he wanted with the final work.

No one, least of all Warrel, thought this would be the last time he would record. He had wrestled with the topics of death, destruction, war, resurrection, eternity, life, and birth in any number of different ways over the past thirty years. It was evident in his songwriting. The lyrical content of SANCTUARY and NEVERMORE albums, as well as his solo work, delved deep into the psyche and he loved to talk about the things that fascinated him with his friends. His ingenuity was notable and other writers and singers would attempt to emulate his style and he had obtained an iconic presence in the metal world.

Warrel’s long time friend James Overaa had debated such topics in many conversations with him and felt that his innate ability to investigate the omniscient was profound.

“I listened to "Sanctuary" (the song) and "This Godless Endeavor" (the song) this morning on the way to work,” James said in an earlier conversation. “These songs were bookends by a man obsessed with the meaning of life, and the prospect of death. In hindsight, it seems to me somehow appropriate that he leads the way beyond for the rest of us. I just kinda got that... Still miss him terribly though. I hope he's right (about the afterlife).”
I hope he is too.

I will live on, pure energy and perfect knowledge…
October 26, 2018

I stared at the email that had come in from the record label a few days before. I hadn’t opened it yet. It was my 45th birthday and Warrel’s posthumous release, called Shadow Work, was in my mail box waiting for me to listen to it. This was the official release date. On my birthday. I don’t know if there was some divine providence in the release date; I would like to think so.

The album is good. The lyrics to the songs were intrinsically Warrel. It sounded like him. I listened to it all the way through and cried. He very clearly wasn’t done, but what was there was good and the completed product had the same depth of character as the man. His words carry weight and they always will. In March 2018, as originally planned, SANCTUARY conducted the Warrel Dane Memorial Tour in direct support of ICED EARTH. Joining Lenny and Dave were bassist George Hernandez, guitarist Joey Concepcion, and WITHERFALL vocalist Joseph Michael, who has since been named the band's permanent new lead singer.

They played in Seattle on March 5th to an expectant crowd. How was it going to sound? Would Joseph be the one to carry the songs vocally? Was everyone going to compare him to Warrel?

Jeff joined the band onstage for “Taste Revenge” and Jim joined them for “Future Tense” and helped the band carry out a proper send off for the man whose voice had the ability to send chills down your spine.

As the tour continued, the reviews started pouring in and they were positive. Of course, there were comparisons, but the fact that it was a tastefully done tribute tour with a singer of similar caliber helped bring closure to the fans.

sanctuary came through Dallas on March 14th and the moment they took the stage it was driven home that Warrel was gone. Though it was emotional, I also felt a bit of closure. I think that was what this tour was for a number of family members, friends and fans. In every way, Joseph did him justice. The good reviews were encouraging. I think Warrel would have been proud. Actually, I know he would have been.

SANCTUARY in Seattle, Washington on March 5, 2018.

Future Tense…
December 13, 2018

It has been one year. The sun is starting to come out a bit now. As of today, SANCTUARY plans to continue as a band and have been working with Joseph to write lyrics for the new songs. Lenny, as a songwriter and performer, has much more to do. He isn’t ready to retire but he moves forward with clear affirmation that Warrel would not want the band to end.
So bittersweet…

“I truly believe we were able to honor Warrel with the tour,” Lenny said earlier this week. “We did songs we hadn’t done in years and I really can’t say enough good things about the job Joseph did. It really does seem that people want us to continue and I base that on the fan reaction to the live shows. Right now we are really in the early stages of writing and this is a new era and a new way of writing. We are exploring all of our options and I really don’t know yet what it will sound like, but I will say that it has to be good. We won’t release anything that isn’t. It will be different because there won’t ever be anyone else like Warrel. He was unique; I love him and I miss him. We all do.”

Time cannot erase the mark I leave on time and space…
Rest in Peace, Warrel George Baker.
“Are you ready for BATTLE??”
Yes, dear Wally, we are…


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