A brand new album from Sanctuary in the year 2014 - I never, ever thought I would type those words, yet here I am, like a child in a sweet shop because it has finally arrived after a wait of 25 years! Yes, we've had some inspired and brilliant Nevermore albums in the intervening years, but it has been four years now since Sanctuary announced their return and with Jeff Loomis departing the ranks in 2011 it looked for a while that Sanctuary would implode before anything actually got recorded.
Thank goodness that hasn't happened because, with the arrival of guitarist Brad Hull, Sanctuary have only gone and released a stunner. 'The Year The Sun Died' (magnificent title) is not an album to placate former fans. This isn't a 'Refuge Denied' or 'Into The Mirror Black' part two. As wonderful and different as those two albums were, this feels like a natural progression, almost as if all the years in-between have been mere months. One thing that does stand out is the production quality as this is far and away the best Sanctuary have ever sounded. Producer 'Zeuss' (Chris Harris) has done a monster job in putting this band and their unique sound firmly back on the map.
As soon as the opening riff to first track, 'Arise And Purify', hit, it stopped me in my tracks and then 'the voice' hits you like a bulldozer. If there was one aspect of Sanctuary that really made them stand out to me, it was the vocals of Warrel Dane. He has a unique delivery and even though I also own every single Nevermore release, as far as I'm concerned, he has come home; Sanctuary is THE band for Warrel. He may be singing in a very slightly lower range these days, but when he needs to hit those big, high notes, it is completed with absolute ease (and I know he can still do it live as well).
Newish guitarist, the aforementioned Brad Hull, is the perfect fit for Sanctuary. His solos are beautifully worked out but not full of histrionics and he plays in a more regular manner than the admittedly gifted Loomis, who probably would have made Sanctuary sound too much like Nevermore anyway! Every song here, whether it's up-tempo or much slower is a beautiful statement of intent. It's a very dark and menacing album with gloriously written lyrics (and you can hear every word sung). In places, there does appear to be an element of 'Operation Mindcrime' era Queensryche apparent, which is obviously a huge compliment. Of course, the rest of the band - Lenny Ruttledge (guitars), Jim Sheppard (bass) and Dave Budpill (drums) - put in nigh on perfect performances throughout.
'The Year The Sun Died' improves every time you listen to it and I've listened to this many times already. The second half of the album, from 'One Final Day (Sworn To Believe), with its hauntingly beautiful acoustic guitar is, incredibly, even better than the opening six tracks. 'The World Is Wired', 'The Dying Age' and the title track are all utterly stunning. And there’s also a bonus track on some versions of the album, and it's a cleverly chosen and captivating cover of 'Waiting For The Sun', originally by The Doors. Sanctuary have completely made it their own and it completes the album in total style. I could not have wished for a better comeback album from a band I have always loved and admired. Sanctuary are not living in the past; 'The Year The Sun Died' is a glittering look into the present and, hopefully future, of this incredible band.
THE YEAR THE SUN DIED
Review by Rick Tilley
6th Oct 2014
1) Arise and Purify
2) Let the Serpent Follow Me
3) Exitium (Anthem of the Living)
4) Question Existence Fading
5) I Am Low
7) One Final Day (Sworn to Believe)
8) The World is Wired
9) The Dying Age
10) Ad Vitam Aeternam
11) The Year the Sun Died
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...this feels like a natural progression, almost as if all the years in-between have been mere months."