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The 1980s were such a wonderful time for heavy metal, birthing some all time classics like the early Maiden albums, Omen’s Battle Cry, Jag Panzer’s Ample Destruction, Mercyful Fate’s Don’t Break the Oath, the early albums by Queensryche, Crimson Glory and Fates Warning…yeah, don’t you just wish naming good bands in a review of a crappy one would make said crappy album better? It doesn’t. Sanctuary is still a lame ass band and Refuge Denied is still a lame ass album. Why? Well, what isn’t lame about it? That’s the shorter answer! Let’s get started.
This is a really good example of why the 80s should never come back. I mean, listening to this album makes me glad the 80s are done with, and I didn’t even live in that time period! For those not in the know, Sanctuary was the band that perpetual underachievers Nevermore’s prominent members started out in before they went on to form that band. In a way, it makes sense. Nevermore were a stereotypical 90s metal band with lackluster songwriting, and Sanctuary were a stereotypical 80s metal band with lackluster songwriting. Don’t you just love how things go in circles?
Everything about this is more or less what you’d expect. The vocals from Dane sound like a dead ringer for Painkiller-era Halford a few years early – shrieky and high pitched like a wolverine on helium – the guitars are melodic and crunchy, the drums are galloping along…this should be a really good album. And for a while it is, with the opener “Battle Angels,” which is the only song that anyone really likes off of this album even when they give it positive ratings. It’s a cool song, I cannot deny. ”OOOOON YOUR KNEEEEES!” Pretty cool song, even if it still isn’t some forgotten classic or something. And the band’s self titled song “Sanctuary” is pretty good, too. Even if it does make the chorus of Queensryche’s “No Sanctuary” pop into my head over and over again, instead. Maybe that’s why I like it.
But everything else on here is just half baked. “Termination Force” has some really uninspired slow parts slagging along like a bad Crimson Glory impersonation, and it’s too short to be a real epic like it’s trying to be, with the transitions between slow and fast being clumsy. It just sounds confused and directionless. “Soldiers of Steel” is a little better, but it still just doesn’t captivate. It sounds a bit like Savatage, except again, not as good. The cover of “White Rabbit” is just pointless, and there are several songs that just don’t really click: “Die for My Sins,” the which-song-did-we-re-use-this-riff-from “Ascension to Destiny” and the boring last two tracks. Seriously, “Veil of Disguise” has got to be the most hacked up, cliché piece of 80s nothingness I’ve heard in a long, long time.
Sanctuary’s problem on here was just that they didn’t really write great songs. These songs have nothing technically wrong with them most of the time; they’re just dull, and they don’t go anywhere. People will crow on about how this is a lost classic, but really those people just need to start discerning between good and bad 80s metal. Seriously, just because it’s from the 80s and is classic sounding heavy metal…doesn’t actually mean it’s a classic. Listen a little closer.