Released: 2014, Century Media
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Sanctuary are back!
It's been 24 years since Sanctuary last released a studio album with Into the Mirror Black, after Grunge became the desire of every major recording label which eventually lead to the break up of the original lineup. Yet after announcing their intentions to reform in 2010, Sanctuary could have been forgiven for having a bit of a period of readjusting, a spell where maybe their first release after reforming wasn't quite as emphatic or even relevant to the current desires of the people. Yet as Sanctuary have shown in their third studio release 'The year the Sun Died' there was no chance that this sentiment would have been warranted.
The opening track 'Arise and Purify' is the perfect way to announce your intentions with an opening solo that will give the listener enough inspiration to throw their head into a mad fit of energy expelling circular spinning. With Warrel Dane now entering with a barrage of powerful vocals announcing "We are unchanged, We are Forgotten" you can understand the general vibe of the rest of the album. Powerful rhythm sections blend well with a multitude of filler solos which adds to an impressive entrance to the album. All the more so since Rutledge and Dave Budbill have been practically inactive in the music industry since the initial breakup.
The album continues with 'Let the Serpent Follow Me' which is prevalent with a similar potent blend of abrasive rhythm and lead sections witnessed in the first track. We are only two tracks in now and you can sense that there is a consistent level of maturity and controlled aggression that Sanctuary have a firm grip of control with. The tone of the guitars gives a modern edge with a lot of the credit having to go to Zeuss at the production controls. As the album progresses there's a couple of slower paced tracks that are broken up between the more thrashier Question Existence Fading and Sanctuary display a willingness to explore other musical avenues but still retain a decent measure of heaviness (listen out for the acoustic solo in One Final Day).
Throughout the album Sanctuary continue with tracks that show a mix of softer bodies of rhythm coupled with hard hitting break downs and thrashy riffs that keep the listener interested. Songs like the World is Wired provide a thrash groove that reignites the classic Sanctuary sound. Warrel Dane keeps his voice in controlled measure with glimpses of the Banshee-esque screams that were the cornerstone of earlier Sanctuary, although it is certainly more limited than what it once was. I would say this is the defining let down for any of the Sanctuary faithful, from all that time ago, although as mentioned there's still enough to be excited about. The album ends on the albums namesake - The Year the Sun Died. It has some of the best guitar work of the album, bringing an emotional element to the listener. It does not provide any last embrace of the thrash metal ideology yet it does provide a more atmospheric and conclusive end to the album.
Overall this has been a good album to listen to. I'm sure most will play this album and be taken aback by how fresh it sounds and how Sanctuary themselves have come together after so long (with some notable absentees) and produce a fine example of more modern metal built on a classic blend of thrash guitaring. It is definitely a good piece of metal music which most fans, be it young or old can enjoy either in the comfort of their living-rooms, bedrooms or live at Bloodstock etc. as they played back in 2012. It has been a long time coming as there seems to have been a long suppressed musical ideology within the members who have come from musical obscurity in the last 22 years to reunite with their former band-mates and produce a fine example of metal. There is an appetite for this genre so this could be the start of something longer lasting, albeit a start from a former beginning. The Year the Sun Died has plenty for all, not as mind blowing as some may expect, yet still good enough to create an atmosphere and entertain most metal purists.