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First off, fuck Nevermore. I've never been a fan of that band and probably won't be anytime soon, especially when I can just listen to "Refuge Denied" whenever. The relationship between Nevermore and Sanctuary is basically the same as the one between Machine Head and Vio-Lence. Both Sanctuary and Vio-Lence are bands that are highly respected in the underground while bands made up of former members go on to shit on the bands they once played in by making very lackluster music that panders to the mainstream. It's ok though, because "Refuge Denied" and "Eternal Nightmare" are always there to listen to endlessly.
Anyway, back to Sanctuary. These guys played some great power metal that really took influence from Judas Priest (A very heavy influence I might add) and the early thrash bands of the eighties. Quite a few of the riffs have K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton written all over them, with the catchy melodies intertwined, most notably on the songs "Ascension to Destiny" and "Die For My Sins." Some of the riffs were a lot faster and could have fit well on a speed metal record. Tracks like "The Third War" and "Battle Angels" in particular, as both songs have an almost anthem-like feel to them, making them perfect songs to charge into war to.
While the aforementioned songs are all terrific, Sanctuary was really at their best when they were successfully blending those elements with clean and acoustic sections. The intros to "Sanctuary" and "Veil of Disguise" add an epic atmosphere to the overall product, especially when the vocals come in. The combination of the chilling clean/acoustic interludes and Warrel Dane's "Marcolin-esque" vocals are damned good, and even better once some heavier riffs come in and Dane's vocals start to resemble Rob Halford. The song "Termination Force" is another great track from "Refuge Denied" that features the clean guitar passages, but throughout the song and not just the intro.
It's definitely a shame that Sanctuary never got the attention that they deserved, but that's all part of being an underground legend I guess. It's clear that the work the band did on this record was influential as it can clearly be heard on albums by bigger bands such as Iced Earth on their "Night of the Stormrider" album. "Refuge Denied" is a must-have if you're a fan of great music and if not, then enjoy listening to your Nevermore.
"Die For My Sins"
"Veil of Disguise"
Originally written for Nightmare Reality Webzine.