By Carl Begai
Nevermore has been a regular and welcome guest in the house that Metal Tim Henderson built pretty much since BW&BK’s inception. More often than not, vocalist Warrel Dane has been the one to step up (or be lured into) spending time talking music and related chaos with the BraveWords family, and we’ve never come away from a conversation with the man disappointed. Over the past 20 years the question of a Sanctuary reunion has been raised repeatedly, more as our running joke for the past decade given that every metal mag big and small poked Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard with questions abour resurrecting their former band. Dane maintained he was dead set against the idea, saying people should be happy with Refuge Denied (’87) and Into The Mirror Black (’89), but he changed his tune in 2010 revealing Sanctuary would release a new album featuring most of the original line-up. Four years and a handful of reunion shows later, main songwriters Dane and guitarist Lenny Rutledge have made good on their threat with The Year The Sun Died.
Dane: “We don’t like to call it a reunion; we refer to it as a re-invention (laughs).This record doesn’t sound like the first record, and I think it may be a bit closer to Into The Mirror Black. Kind of like the brother or sister to the Mirror Black record with bigger hooks.”
Given Dane’s long-standing resistance to even entertaining a Sanctuary reunion, Nevermore’s (supposed) demise in 2011 made for one hell of a push to follow through with it. He doesn’t officially acknowledge it as a factor, and it turns out there were other forces at work in putting Sanctuary back together. One of them was actor and Tenacious D mastermind Jack Black.
Rutledge: “One of the things was getting an offer to use one of our songs in a game called Brutal Legend. That got us talking a lot and we discussed the possibility of maybe getting together, doing some shows and having some fun with it. We did that and we discovered the chemistry was still there. I had a couple songs in my back pocket that I was holding on to for what I thought would be for Warrel some day, never really knowing if we would actually get together. We started working on these songs and it was like being back in the ’80s. That chemistry started to develop again and we ran with it.”
Dane: “Jack Black personally picked the song ‘Battle Angels’ for Brutal Legend. He’s a real metalhead. We’ve never met or spoken to him, but we did learn that he picked all the songs that are in the video game.”
Anyone familiar with Sanctuary – particularly Into The Mirror Black – will recognize The Year The Sun Died as new music from the band. Those fans will also likely be somewhat miffed that Dane doesn’t use his trademark high-end vocals as much as he did on the first two records, particularly Reguge Denied. In fact, it’s a minor element on the new record. Dane insists that his range is still very much intact, however, and his voice in perfect health.
Dane: “The ’80s called; they wanted my high voice back (laughs). I can still do that; we still do ‘Battle Angels’ live even though I don’t sing it note-for-note like I did back in the day. Hell, back in the day sometimes I couldn’t even sing that song. It took a little bit of work for me to fall back into that groove, and I thought it would be best to use the high notes tastefully. We knew going in it wasn’t going to be another Refuge Denied, and to tell you the truth I wouldn’t want it to be.”
Rutledge: “We could have done something like Refuge Denied, but I think it would have locked us into that time frame. I know everybody likes to hear their favourite band sound like their favourite record so many years later, but I don’t know if that’s realistic.”
It turns out some of the music on The Year The Sun Died has been waiting the better part of two decades to be unleashed. As Dane puts it, “It’s been hanging around in Lenny’s brain for a while.”
Rutledge: “The music didn’t come directly after Mirror Black. It was maybe four years later but it wasn’t necessarily a plan for Sanctuary. I was messing around with some other people and some of the ideas were in a much rougher form, but I knew they’d be great if I could get Warrel to work on them. Eventually I did; it was another 10 years later (laughs) but it worked out like I felt it would.”
There’s no getting away from the occasional Nevermore-isms on The Year The Sun Died largely thanks to Dane’s voice, but it’s clearly not a Nevermore record. It’s nice to hear Sanctuary wasn’t counting on the hype that comes with a stamp from Dane’s and Sheppard’s former/other band.
Dane: “Right. And the obvious difference between Sanctuary and Nevermore is the use of six-string guitars and seven-string guitars. Of course Nevermore started out with six-string guitars, and singing over six-string in standard tuning which we’re using in Sanctuary is a completely different animal. It was really refreshing to be able to go back to doing that because singing over Jeff’s (Loomis) shit is fucking difficult (laughs).”
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