The time is almost here. Many fans have been anticipating it since Sanctuary announced they had reunited in 2010. We have all waited a long time but the band has finally given all of us their first new album in twenty-five years. Sanctuary was one of the more promising power/thrash metal bands in the late 80’s and early 90’s but because of creative difference, they disbanded in 1992 having released only two albums. Vocalist Warrel Dane, guitarist Jeff Loomis and bassist Jim Shepherd would move on to form the well know progressive thrash act Nevermore. However, many fans wondered what could have been and always clamored for more. Well perhaps now we can get at least a small glimpse of what subsequent albums would have been like, or maybe not.
Remember it’s 25 years later so if you’re expecting the Sanctuary of the past, you can forget it. The musical speed has been clipped back quite a bit and even though Dane stated that he could still hit the high notes from the early days, there are really none to be found here. The album has more elements of traditional/doom/Gothic metal this time around that takes a bit of getting used to but once you do, it’s downright enjoyable. There are still some solid thrash jams on the album like “Arise and Purify”, “Frozen” and “The World is Wired”. These are also probably the best tracks that The Year The Sun Died has to offer if you are looking for some semblance of Sanctuary’s past like I was.
With that said the slower tempos usually come mixed in the same track with faster ones so you there are not too many songs that are entirely doom or Gothic metal. “Let the Serpent Follow Me”, “Question of Existence Fading” and “The Dying Age” come to mind as having the best blend of pacing. The only point where the album’s momentum feels totally out of whack is on the very Gothic metal sounding final track, “The Year the Sun Died”. Here the vocals just come off as way too deep and almost baritone, and the arrangement feels like it is lacking something. This wasn’t what any of us would expect from a Sanctuary song and it really didn’t work. “I Am Low” and “One Final Day” were two acoustic tracks that also didn’t particularly fit with the rest of the record either.
There is also the issue of the vocals. At first, they were a bit off-putting but after multiple listens, I began to really enjoy the evolution of Dane’s style. Be aware that they will take some time to get used to but I assure you they are worth it. There are even a few instances of strange vocal harmonies, usually on choruses and bridges, of songs like “Arise and Purify”, “Exitium” and “The World is Wired”. It might remind you of the signature vocals of Jerry Cantrell and the late Layne Staley. I know Sanctuary hails from Seattle and that is probably a big influence as to why they incorporated this. However, I do find it a bit strange as the band broke up in the 1990’s due to creative difference regarding pressure from the record company to become more grunge. So they disband because they don’t want to become Seattle grunge but then on their comeback album, they add in a sprinkling of grungy Seattle style sludge. Really though, it’s no matter because it actually works pretty well. They probably could have created an even bigger following for themselves in the 90’s with this particular sound.
Will The Year The Sun Died be the album that you expected and that you have patiently waited for for twenty-five years? Probably not, but it definitely has its strong suits and something different isn’t always a bad thing. If Sanctuary had never broken up and kept the same style over the years, this album would not have worked at all. However, with such a long hiatus, you would expect a band to have at least a bit of a rebirth. Sanctuary’s latest effort is a solid heavy metal album with excellent riffs, well crafted solos and different, yet sneakily good, vocals. The Year The Sun Died may not have you jumping out of your seat in the way you may have hoped but it definitely should not disappoint.
The Year The Sun Died will be released on October 14, 2015 via Century Media Records. Make sure you take a listen and give us your opinion on Sanctuary’s somewhat updated sound in our comments section.