Sanctuary – The Year the Sun Died (Century Media)

Sunday, 21st September 2014
Rating: 9/10

Reunion mania has been an ever present bone of contention for metal fans. Why do some bands have to go away, only to return at the money prospects that lurk on the horizon? Let’s face it – sometimes spending a decade or more apart we’ve been fortunate to witness some incredible comeback studio recordings (Carcass’ Surgical Steel, Candlemass’ self-titled), as well as some lukewarm efforts (Death Angel’s The Art of Dying) or abysmal offerings (Thrust’s Invitation to Insanity). So to wait twenty plus years for the third studio album from Washington power veterans Sanctuary and say anticipation is through the roof would be an understatement.

To those expecting Warrel Dane and company to not use the knob twiddling expertise of current producer Zeuss (Shadows Fall, Hatebreed) and instead stick with an older style producer/recording, well prepare yourself for The Year the Sun Died does take full advantage of sounding vicious, potent, and definitely 2014. With four-fifths of the original lineup in tact (second guitarist Brad Hull taking over for Sean Blosl), these 11 tracks burst at the seams to prove the old guard still has plenty of screams and riff/tempo firepower that the masses make mandatory in their lives.

First single “Arise and Purify” sets the tone early, Warrel sending chills down the spine again through those high piercing screams he could pull off 27 years ago on Refuge Denied while guitarists Lenny Rutledge and Brad Hull team up to delivering crushing power parts and jaw dropping lead breaks/harmonies. ‘Purify the ignorant/the bitterest detractors’ spews from Mr.Dane’s bellowing metallic larynx on the follow up “Let the Serpent Follow Me”, another mid-tempo anthem with Jim Sheppard and Dave Budbill pounding the rhythms home like sledgehammers.

There will be trickles of Nevermore darkness and atmospheric textures on the slower, churning “Exitum (Anthem of the Living)” and even more gloomier “I Am Low,” but then you have the double bass laden “Frozen” featuring ripping, chaotic leads and cyber-sinister “The World Is Wired” to remind you that the US power roots remain resolute as this quintet’s benchmark. A lot of the young guns could learn a thing or two about Hull/Rutledge and their lead skill sets, often foregoing the obvious ‘shred’ bombing for sparse, natural melodic runs that fit the mood and texture of each track.

Wisely hitting the road first before hunkering down to studio work, The Year the Sun Died provides 49 minutes of wisely executed American power metal. The grey color scheme against the yellow fireball for the cover paints the accurate picture for Sanctuary today, realists and glad to be back performing for the first and second generation faithful followers of the genre. Fall on your knees, hail to our dawn – the battle angels have reappeared!

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