On December 13th, 2017, Warrel Dane, the legendary lead singer of Sanctuary and Nevermore passed away while recording his posthumously released studio album “Shadow Work”. At that time, Sanctuary had already confirmed and announced a US tour supporting Iced Earth in February/March 2018 and while shocked by Warrel Dane’s passing, decided to turn it into a tribute to his legacy with exceptionally talented Witherfall-vocalist Joseph Michael. Performing tracks from 1988’s “Refuge Denied”, 1990’s “Into the Mirror Black” and 2014’s “The Year the Sun Died”, Joseph Michael delivered a stunning performance and received very positive feedback from the fans attending the shows. Despite the tragedy that led to this, remaining founding members Lenny Rutledge (guitars) and Dave Budbill (drums) were overwhelmed by the great feedback they received as Rutledge explained to Decibel Magazine in December 2018: “Jon Schaffer suggested that I contact Joseph Michael. He mentioned that Jake Dryer (Iced earth guitarist) was in a band with Joseph called Witherfall and he might be able to pull off a similar vocal style to Warrel. I had never heard of Witherfall at that point. After listening to their debut release I realized that Joseph definitely had potential. Joseph demoed a few of the songs and after a meeting we decided to move forward with the tour. Joseph did a great job on the tour and the fans responded positively. I remember seeing skeptical members of the audience in shock when he nailed classics like “Battle Angels” and “Die for my Sins.”
After this bittersweet tour had become such a great success, Rutledge, who had been working on a follow-up to “The Year the Sun Died” while Warrel Dane was still alive, ultimately made the decision to continue with Sanctuary and new singer Joseph Michael not only as a live act, but also compose and record a new album, which is currently expected to surface in 2020: “It’s still early but I think fans can expect music similar to “The Year the Sun Died” with some of old school vibe”, Rutledge reveals. “As far as vocals, we shall see but there are a lot of possibilities. Again, I think some old-school vocals may be on the agenda as well.”
While the new album is still months away, Sanctuary will continue to perform live with newly found motivation and a positive outlook towards the future as Joseph Michael enables the group to do intense old school sets including the soaring vocals and high screams, fans know and love on albums such as “Refuge Denied” and “Into the Mirror Black”. Sometimes, great triumph comes from great tragedy, and this sounds true in regards to Sanctuary!
Sanctuary, originally formed back in 1985 are one of the most unique and captivating acts to emerge from Seattle, Washington. While Seattle gained massive global attention during the “grunge” boom of the 90s, it was also home to metal giants such as Queensrÿche, Metal Church, and Sanctuary. The band’s 1988 debut album “Refuge Denied”, produced by none less than Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), quickly established the band as a household name for high-class metal. Blending the best of British and American influences musically with Warrel Dane’s extraordinary vocal and lyrical skills, Sanctuary gathered supporters all around the globe, upping the ante considerably when unleashing the darker, more refined masterpiece that is “Into the Mirror Black” in 1990. While the grunge-style brought the band’s commercial career to an unfortunate halt, the end of the band’s first phase meant the rise of Nevermore who released several much-acclaimed albums via Century Media Records between 1995 and 2010. In 2011, Sanctuary reformed, celebrated its live comeback, performed at high profile festivals such as Wacken, Metalcamp, Bloodstock plus the 70.000 Tons Of Metal and Barge To Hell cruises and put out their third album, “The Year The Sun Died”, in 2014 (#39 in the German charts). In 2017, the restored and remixed 1986 demo recordings, were released as the historical “Inception” release, which charted on #53 in the Germany. Then Warrel Dane died on December 13th, 2017, but with vocalist Joseph Michael, Sanctuary now are eager to start an exciting new chapter in the history of the band since the sheer power and depth of these classic albums may not be forgotten, and these timeless anthems deserve to be remembered in the best possible way. Welcome the new ‘Soldiers of Steel’!