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Sanctuary is a band that was a very good start for Warrel Dane and Jim Sheppard, who would go on to form Nevermore. And Refuge Denied is the beginning of even greater things to come for these two people in the future. Enlisting Dave Mustaine to produce this album, the album would sound fairly good in the mix department, with the vocals and guitar in particular being very clear. Unfortunately, the band is a little bit all over the place to consider this an excellent job in production from the Megadeth mainman.
The highlights: Warrel Dane is a great singer, and he shows off his pipes by using his falsetto in a big way. This is the first (and last) album where he really lets his falsetto loose, perhaps even a little too much so. There are some really excellent songs that hold up this album very well. "Battle Angels" has an excellent head moving rhythm and highly effective Dane vocals, and "White Rabbit" is one of the best covers I've heard done by anybody. In my opinion, this cover miles ahead of the Jefferson Airplane version. "Die For My Sins" and "Soldiers Of Steel" are also good, with the latter song having an etched and refined guitar solo in the last third of the song. The vocals on "Die For My Sins" have a very evil sound to them, especially in the chorus. "Termination Force" has a good guitar sound, and a nice solo around the middle of the song.
The lowlights: Like I said earlier, the members of the band seem to want to do a little bit too much of their own thing in differnent parts, making some of the parts feel slightly disjointed. Many of the songs sound too much alike, mainly due to the lack of variety in the songwriting and Dane's high-end vocals that are beaten a little too much to death here. The songs, while very good, seem to follow the same format for the most part. "Ascension To Destiny" and "Sanctuary", while they are good enough songs, are examples of songs that sound too similar, and leave the listener scratching their head. Sanctuary will improve on these mistakes on the next album, fortunately, and then a much better form of this band called Nevermore will arise in the future.
Who this album's for: Power metal fans with a love for falsetto vocals like Geoff Tate's and Bruce Dickinson's, and newbies to Nevermore who do not know Warrel Dane's and Jim Sheppard's beginnings. Also for people with an interest in music (mainly metal) that came from the Seattle besides grunge.
The bottom line: A good, but not great power metal album with some hints of thrash, with mixed results, especially in terms of production, songwriting and variety. Not the best place for a newbie to Warrel Dane's work to start, I would recommend Nevermore's Dreaming Neon Black first.