Posts Tagged ‘ Sanctuary ’

Album of the Week 42-2018: Warrel Dane – Shadow Work


‘Shadow Work’ is a bittersweet affair. While it is good to have a new album with Warrel Dane’s vocals, he died during the recordings of the album in São Paulo, making this the last time we are treated to new material by Dane, who I consider one of the best metal singers of all time. One thing his fans can rejoice about is the fact that his unexpected farewell album is incredible. It is a dark, twisted record that should please all fans of Nevermore and Sanctuary, save for maybe those who only enjoyed the earliest work of the latter.

Dane’s solo debut ‘Praises To The War Machine’, released ten years ago, sort of felt like “Nevermore light”. While it sounded similar to his main band, it had a simpler, more open sound, with the virtuosic technicality of his main band reduced to a minimum. By contrast, ‘Shadow Work’ is heavy as it gets with some impressive playing by Dane’s Brazilian backing bang. Guitarists Johnny Moraes and Thiago Oliveira must be fans of Jeff Loomis or at least must have studied his work closely. Their heavy riff work and melodic ornamentation certainly would not sound out of place in Nevermore.

Where ‘Shadow Work’ does distinguish itself is its atmosphere. The intense ‘Madame Satan’ and the nearly extreme metal of the intro to ‘The Hanging Garden’ are quite possibly the darkest stuff Dane ever worked on. The guitar work manages to be vicious and atmospheric at the same time, the compositions take a few unexpected turns and Dane’s emotional vocals give this stuff a melodic dignity that many progressive death metal bands can only dream of. ‘Disconnection System’ sounds closest to Nevermore (and even recycles a bit of the lyrics of ‘The Politics Of Ecstacy’) and would therefore be the best track here to sample before diving into the album.

Metal was never Dane’s only ace in the hole though. Much of his increasingly equipped lower register has a strong gothic quality to it, which fits the ethnic sounds of the overture ‘Ethereal Blessing’ perfectly. The closing epic ‘Mother Is The Word For God’ features him snarling, bellowing, begging and whispering into your soul, truly enhancing the constantly shifting moods of the song. The track has echoes of Nevermore’s ‘This Godless Endeavor’, without sounding like a copy. The arena rock vibe of ‘As Fast As The Others’ and the ballad ‘Rain’ are slightly more accessible, but no less gloomy.

It would be tempting to call ‘Shadow Work’ unfinished. It was supposed to be an eighty minute record (instead of slightly over forty) and I’m sure Dane would have polished up a few vocal lines had he lived long enough to do so, but complaining about that would be missing the point entirely. Dane’s band deserves all the praise they can get finishing these recordings as well as they did and the singer’s emotional, dramatic delivery is exactly what makes ‘Shadow Work’ the goosebumps-inducing experience it is. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges sometimes, but that doesn’t deter from the fact that this is easily the best album with Warrel Dane singing in thirteen years.

Recommended tracks: ‘Madame Satan’, ‘Shadow Work’, ‘Mother Is The Word For God’

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In Memoriam Warrel Dane 1961-2017


Less than an hour before writing this post, word had reached me that former Nevermore and Sanctuary singer Warrel Dane has died in the middle of the recordings for what was to be his second solo album. Since Dane was one of the biggest influences on how I used to sing – if not the biggest – this news came as a shock to me, despite his history of health issues and addictions. Ever since hearing his voice on Nevermore’s ‘Dead Heart In A Dead World’, I was grabbed by his sense of drama and the operatic nature of his voice. It was an inspirational experience.

Many acquaintances of mine claim that they would have liked Nevermore if they had a grunter instead of a clean vocalist, but Dane was a significant part of Nevermore’s charm for me. Without him, Nevermore would have been just another technical groove metal band with a remarkably good guitarist. Due to the voice of Dane, Nevermore became the band that brought traditional metal and more contemporary sounds together. I have lost track of how many times I have listened to ‘Dead Heart In A Dead World’ and ‘This Godless Endeavor’, but it is likely that it will be more than a thousand times each.

Originally, Dane was the type of singer that so many metal bands in the eighties had, only even higher. His rise to prominence was Sanctuary’s Dave Mustaine produced debut album ‘Refuge Denied’, on which he occasionally went so high that I suspected helium may have been involved. Despite his obvious skills, it was apparently too much for Dane as well, as he sings significantly lower on the album’s follow-up, the delightfully dark near-masterpiece ‘Into The Mirror Black’.

After Sanctuary folded the way many eighties metal bands did – a silent break-up after disagreements over musical direction after grunge took over the guitar landscape – Dane formed Nevermore with Sanctuary’s bassist Jim Sheppard and live guitarist Jeff Loomis. Nevermore was notably different. Slower, down-tuned and more technical. A dark, heavy band that outdid the grunge of their shared native of Seattle in terms of sheer cynicism and dreariness. With a highly skilled guitar player, an extremely passionate singer and bass drums that pounded like there was no tomorrow.

Nearly a decade ago, Dane released his first solo album ‘Praises To The War Machine’, which I at the time described as Nevermore light with a larger number of introspective moments. Though it lacked the consistency of Nevermore’s best works, I loved the album’s goth-ish feel – its cover of ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’ introduced me to the music of The Sisters Of Mercy – and personal themes. The ballads ‘Brother’ and ‘This Old Man’ still stand as the best ballads Dane has ever recorded for me, together with the title track of Nevermore’s ‘Dreaming Neon Black’.

Of course, criticism of Dane is justified. He didn’t always take proper care of his voice and his live performances varied wildly in quality. I have seen Nevermore live at least four times and he was only truly good at half of them. The last time I saw Dane perform was two and a half years ago when a reformed Sanctuary opened for OverKill in Zwolle, promoting their excellent comeback record ‘The Year The Sun Died’. There, he actually showed that he could work with his diminished range, resulting in a good, if somewhat restrained performance.

Ultimately, I will always remember Warrel Dane for how unashamedly emotional his vocal performance was in a time when tough guy posturing seemed to be the norm in contemporary metal. He left behind a legacy of excellent metal. I’m just sad that this is it.

Album of the Week 41-2014: Sanctuary – The Year The Sun Died


Nevermore’s breakup – or hiatus, whatever you choose to believe – was terrible news for yours truly. Nevermore’s unique blend of crushingly heavy riffs, compositional complexity, Warrel Dane’s incredible clean vocals and a sense of melody that seems to be forbidden in contemporary Metal made them one of the best bands on the planet. Luckily, Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard also reformed Sanctuary, the band that put them on the radar in the late eighties, around the same time. With most of its original lineup intact even. ‘The Year The Sun Died’, their first recording after the reunion, is a downright fantastic record which sounds a lot like Nevermore.

Obviously, Dane’s typical voice would push anything he sings on into Nevermore territory, but Lenny Rutlege’s riffs sound surprisingly similar to those Jeff Loomis wrote for Nevermore. In all honesty though, the album’s predecessor ‘Into The Mirror Black’ – released a quarter of a century ago! – would have sounded quite a lot like this if it also had such a contemporary production with such a punchy low end. The lead work by Rutledge and the band’s only new addition, Forced Entry guitarist Brad Hull, has a distinctly more old school vibe than Loomis’ and the progressive sections have a hint of the early work of fellow Seattleites Queensrÿche, but any fan of Nevermore should get some satisfaction from this.

‘The Year The Sun Died’ seems to be a concept album about the fall of a civilization, which prove to be one of Dane’s favorite lyrical subjects through the years. The imagery fits the dark sound of the music really well. Most of the songs are built around powerful half-Thrash riffing in the intros and verses and wide chords topped off with strong vocal melodies in the choruses. The acoustic based ‘I Am Low’ and ‘One Final Day (Sworn To Believe)’ stray from that formula a little, with the latter being one of those sinister sounding semi-ballads that Sanctuary traditionally excels at.

With this being a concept album, it is best listened to in its entirity. Yet there are a few standout tracks. ‘Frozen’ has it’s killer, relatively uptempo riffs and Dane harmonizing with himself in the immense chorus, ‘Question Existence Fading’ is one of the most violent tracks on the album rhythmically (hats off to Dave Budbill’s drumming) and has another big, ominous chorus, while the title track is the doomy, pitch black closing statement that the album requires. That atmosphere is nigh impossible to reach. Just brilliant.

Fans of Nevermore can buy ‘The Year The Sun Died’ blindly and the only old school Sanctuary fans that may want to listen first are the ones who might expect another feast of falsetto mayhem and uptempo riffing akin to the band’s debut album ‘Refuge Denied’. Those who end up buying this would do wise by getting the limited edition, because of the awesome cover of ‘Waiting For The Sun’, one of the highlights of The Doors’ discography. It fits the band’s own material nicely, and not only because of its title. This is a release that will definitely end up extremely high on my end-of-year list. Why? Because it’s a god damn masterpiece, that’s why!

Recommended tracks: ‘The Year The Sun Died’, ‘Frozen’, ‘Question Existence Fading’

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