You will have to admit that when it comes to the topic of band comebacks or reunions, that you can never really be too sure about the rationale behind them in terms of why or when they might actually happen. Some come to fruition when you least expect it and leave you saying “wow, never saw this one happening” and I had to say that this was my thought process when it was announced that singer Warrel Dane had reactivated his legacy band Sanctuary. The Seattle based Power Metal band was active in the middle eighties and disbanded in 1991 when Grunge Rock was taking over their home base. The singer would form Nevermore with some of the other Sanctuary members and keep their pursuit of Metal strong for many years but the early part of 2011 appeared to be a difficult one in the life of the band and after some tour cancellations and members resigning, Dane announced the band was on a for the foreseeable future hiatus. Even with this event happening I didn’t ever see a Sanctuary reunion happening because in all honestly while popular among some underground circles there was not a whole lot of buzz around them or a hopeful return. The show would hit the Gramercy Theatre this evening and bring along a host of local area opening acts. This is how the night took place for those who didn’t attend.
Starting off the show were a couple of independent (or unsigned) bands in Sanitarius and Gothic Knights along with Nightmare Records’ own Cypher Seer and while I would walk in towards the closing of the Seer set it was clear instantly that the interest in this show was for a very dedicated crowd and maybe a handful more. I was surprised because not only did I expect the headliners return to attract a healthy batch of fans but I also totally expected that regional talent would have been able to scare up enough people to fill the venue. That would not be the case. My how the times have changed since my attendance at shows at L’Amour. Anyway, when Sanctuary took to the stage the response from the attending fans was a great one. The band had two albums in “Refuge Denied” and “Into The Mirror Black” and then a live release so the entire night would be dedicated to songs from the release. The 2012 Sanctuary features almost all original members in Dane, Lenny Rutledge, Jim Sheperd and Dave Budbill. While Sean Blosi’s roll was later filled by Jeff Loomis, neither of them would be a part of the reunion gigs and instead be replaced by Brad Hull on second guitar. The set began with “Eden Lies Obscured” and the band showed to be on the mark with excellence even after so long a time before their actual return. They had done a gig on the 70k Tons Of Metal cruise but who knows how much actual preparation went into that particular show. Dane’s vocal register surprised me as the last few times I had seen Nevermore he appeared to be either ill, or just recovering from being ill and often struggled with the notes. Tonight he seemed alright and delivered the notes all the while sporting some signature merchandise from the band. He had the official skull cap, sweatbands and t-shirt. It was almost like seeing Zakk Wylde who is clothed almost head to toe in BLS schwag at their shows.
Even though the show focused on these two albums there was the occasional fan who screamed for some Nevermore and Dane quickly dispelled any hope of that happening. It would not have made much sense for the reunited band to touch upon the material that the group had become in my humble opinion. Perhaps this would have been a little different were it a Dane solo show or a Nevermore gig to pull out some Sanctuary tunes during the show but not otherwise. There were some excellent moments found in “Battle Angels” and their clever take on “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. I’ve also long been a fan of the song “Future Tense” and was jumping all around when that one came up in the set list. Warrel spoke to the crowd a few times and based on the numbers appeared to be able to hear them when any particular fan directed a shout out to him and yet while there could have been some more people it surely seemed to me that everyone around me was nothing less than a diehard fan. Even my buddy who joined me for the show disappeared into the mix. You have to admire that in a crowd. All fists pumping up in the air and shouts of Metal approval. For “Long Since Dark” he said his goodbyes but they would return for “Taste Revenge” and he directed that the whole crowd go insane for this one which they did. From there the show was over and while there did not appear to be any sanctioned meet and greet with the band members I did notice a couple of them around the merchandise booth and downstairs bar. I didn’t see Dane come out and since the Gramercy staff clears the fans out rather quickly after a show ends neither did anyone else. I did enjoy the show even as more of the casual fan and think that it might have worked out better if they had served as an opener for a currently more active group. Maybe being on the Symphony X tour would have helped their case a little more and helped them reach more new fans as opposed to mostly legacy ones.
To the best of my knowledge the reunited band currently has no official US record deal but Dane has cited in many interviews that new material will be recorded and released in the near future so there must be something in the works that the public doesn’t know about yet. I do know that back in 2010, the Iron Bird Records company released a double CD edition of “Refuge Denied” and “The Mirror Black” for your consumption. Be sure to look for that one if this band was one that you missed greatly. I know I want a copy for sure but it seems to be an import and hence a little pricier than a domestic release. Welcome back Sanctuary, we wish this return the best of success.
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Official Web Site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanctuary_%28band%29
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