Released: 2014, Century Media
Reviewer: Helias Papadopoulos
It took them four years after the announcement that they intend to release a new album and the reuion, thus prolonging our expectation. Sanctuary are back with a new album, the third one. I can imagine that the thought which prevailed throughout this period in the minds of their fans was whether the new material would resemble what they had composed 25 years ago. I was cautious to it, too, and finally I vindicated.
Let's clear up two things before proceeding. Is THE YEAR THE SUN DIED close to the style of the two flagship albums? The answer is simple and easy: No, it’s not. It sounds like Nevermore? This answer is easy and simple too: Yes, as the Dane's vocals are closer to this way of interpretation, but this is not a bad thing. I think that he didn’t risk being exposed using that past voice, aided by whatever tricks can provide a recording studio. Also, the modern production (many thanks to Zeuss. He made very good job with other big names such as Six Feet Under, Shadows Fall, Agnostic Front, Hatebreed, Soulfly, Suffocation etc.) plays its role. On the other hand, the synthetic approach differs from Nevermore’s one, as the guitar playing are not so “complicated”. Although missing the outbursts of the past, the songs are several variations of themes and style which makes them extremely interesting. Generally if you analyze the style, we conclude that rather hear a pretty heavy album, massive guitars and basically mid-tempo tracks; this doesn’t mean that there are not some faster songs (“Let The Serpent Follow Me”). Lyrically it is quite dark, while the American element is present as a smoldering, almost gloomy and claustrophobic atmosphere due to the lack of melodic guitar parts. The multifaceted compositions give a proggy mood of course, while the rhythm section of Sheppard and Budbill, although robust and essential, it hasn’t the creativity of the past.
Let get a close look on the album tracks. The opening "Arise And Purify" is clear example of conflict between the two trends. The initial riff is quite heavy and modern but the refrain is the vocals reminiscent of other seasons. The solo of Rutledge and Hull put to good morning as is aptly and technical needs. The "Let The Serpent Follow Me" is quite up-tempo, but to refrain rate falls, followed by a bridge something out of the old before the solo. The first slow song is "Exitium (Anthem Of The Living)", where after the calm comes an excellent introduction riff with Dane gives us a very good performance. The synthetic direction rotations issues alive and well and in "Question Existence Fading", which starts with a quick cutters and aggressive riff, has double bass drumming and finally a fantastic performance by Dane and an awesome solo. "I Am Low" is one of the most peaceful moments of the album. It starts with harpist but strengthens the guitar refrain and earn enough pain issues. One of the highlight of the new work is "Frozen" coming hard to come time and again will drop the speed to refrain, while the solo give and take throughout the course. The weakest moment of the album comes with the tranquil "One Final Day (Sworn To Believe)", while "The World Is Wired" is pretty groovy, though in the course of the hearings lost some of its initial good impression I had makes. The best moment of the album is the title (along with the audio input "Ad Vitam Aeternam") and closes the album perfectly. Whatever we say here will be a little. It's slow, heavy and always imprinted in your mind from the first moment. The recitation in Latin at the beginning, despair after the refrain when Warrel sings «what if there is nothing more, what if there is only emptiness ...». The bends on the guitars and the super solo. A really wonderful composition I have to say.
Sanctuary with their new job they did what they had to do. There was an evolution. The fact that this was done after 25 years may be not the best but someone who can expect a second "Into The Mirror Black" is understandable. The fact that the intervening Nevermore maybe cut a significant percentage of surprise.
To sum up, THE YEAR THE SUN DIED is a good album to listen, without reinventing the steel, but it contains good songs if you like Nevermore. BUT if my son will ask me which Sanctuary album he shall listen to, I would strongly recommend “Into The Mirror Black”.