Sanctuary - Into the mirror black
My first encounter with Sanctuary was a music video on MTV's Headbangers Ball in the early nineties where I was fascinated by their incredibly long hair... The image burned itself into my mind and I made a note to check this band out. Fast forward a couple of months and I was lucky enough to find "Into the mirror black" in an obscure record store. With this album I got what I bargained for and so much more. This is one of my all time favorites and one of those classic milestone albums that was truly ahead of its time. It was released in 1990 and it rivals anything Nevermore has put out since. Ok, a little history lesson for the uninitiated. This was the second album Sanctuary released and shortly after they unfortunately broke up. Vocalist Warrel Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard resurfaced some years later with Nevermore, taking the development Sanctuary showed with their two albums to further extremes.

Musically the band has their own sound and when I first listened to the album it was unlike anything I had ever heard before (and it still is). Sanctuary create their own progressive mix of Power and Thrash while showing a great ear for melodies. It is just about everything you could wish for. Warrel's unique and completely over the top spine chilling vocals are indescribeable. I count at least ten moments on this album where his voice makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up in a kind of joyous alarm. He reaches some incredible high notes which have not been heard since.

Warrel Dane and Lenny Ruthledge are the main songwriters and show a great inventiveness. The music is very technical and skillfully performed, always able to surprise with a cool unexpected break or suddenly slowing down for an atmospheric moment. Drums, bass and the two guitars are all audible in the clear mix and it is one of those records where after a hundred listens you still find genius little moments. The band is completely energized and often explode in a musical firework. The album just has this untouchable mystical energy about it that I cannot describe. Raw and powerful music with a nerve and intensity that was also apparant on the first Manowar releases. It is very special and not often experienced.

The guitar solos are fierce and not too long. Dave Budbill's drumming is very very high class and one of the reasons the music works as well as it does. He adds a groove and loads of detail to the sound. Warrel Dane experiments a lot with his voice and gets away with it because he has such a strong voice and it gives the songs a surprising edge. The production is interesting and pushes the guitars a little into the background in favor of the vocals, drums and bass. It gives the album a pretty unique sound and I would not have had it any other way.

Lyrically the band excels too. I have always liked the direct way Warrel Dane writes, honest and unmerciful. Religion, media, politics, personal feelings and searching for the truth are all parts of this album. Every line is delivered with brutal conviction from Warrel. Take these opening verses from Future tense and you will have an idea what to expect. It is sad to look back on these lyrics 14 years later and see that they are still as relevant.

What do you see on the news when you watch T.V.
War in the name of god, or a playground killing spree
Politicians promise you the world, and a preacher cries
All he ever wanted was your money and a bitch on the side
What went wrong? Did society twist him?

What do you see in the center of the public eye
Rock stars on smack, and a serial killer fries
Radicals blame suicide and murder on our form of art
Brainwash the youth, you know they claim we all play a part
What a shame that they can't think for themselves

The first song Future tense slowly eases you into the Sanctuary sound. When the guitars kick in and Warrel Dane's soaring voice rips through the air you will know that you are in for a treat. It is hard to sit still for very long as the music has a groove and rythm that is the ultimate invitation to an intense headbanging session. The lyrics are both angry and hopeful at the same time. A couple of highlights include the way the guitars rise in power along with Warrel's phrasing and the ending instrumental feast.

Quckly rising in intensity Taste revenge opens with a veritable attack on your senses and builds the perfect bridge to the first verse. There is a pure unbound power coming from the music and I find it impossible not to jump around in a kind of frenzy. An extremely tight and angry song which shows how well the instruments work together.

I love the opening moment of Long since dark. It builds a great atmosphere and when the song explodes it is a very powerful feeling. The dual guitars are very effective and give a great drive to the song. Lyrically there is some food for thought as well.

Epitaph adds another layer of complexity to the album. It slowly develops its dark atmosphere and when the song reaches its climax, "Bathe in the pure truth of my light", it is one of the highlights of the album.

Eden lies obscure has another killer vocal melody that is used in several verses. The song takes on a life of itself during these moments. The bass playing is excellent through the whole album but this is one song where it really stands out and adds to the song's sense of urgency.

The mirror black was a favorite right from the start. It is an epic Sanctuary ballad with a mystical quality to it. The opening minute of the song is fantastic and the guitar solo leads beautifully to the first verse. Overall a very atmospheric song with a brilliant chorus and inspirting lyrics. The song works so well in a great part because of Warrel's intense performance.

Seasons of destruction and One more murder both add to the solid foundation of the album (Don't want to dissect the whole album here...). The same goes for Communion which has some extremely cool vocals parts and ends the album on just as powerful a note as it began.

After these 47 minutes I am sure that you will need a few deep breaths to get down to the ground again. But after that you will have a hard time not pushing play again. This album is addictive and I will probably never get enough of it.

All I can say is if you haven't experienced Into the mirror black yet, then go out and find this gem. You will thank me later.

Written by Steen
Sunday, May 2, 2004
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Comment by Mads Aanum (Anonymous) - Wednesday, May 5, 2004
I got to remember to order this one somday soon...

Comment by Dean (Anonymous) - Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Easily one of my top five fav discs EVER. I have over 6000 and not much tops this. Musical perfection.

Comment by Crimson Sanctuary :) (Anonymous) - Thursday, June 24, 2004
My friend, you try to describe something that it is undescrible. Anyway, tour comments are welcome, and thank you It's excelent,to read about it. One of the best music of all times!

Comment by Sanctuary Freak (Anonymous) - Saturday, July 31, 2004
You nailed it man. It is hard to find people of remember this great band and your review was dead on. This album and Refuge Denied will always play in my CD player

Comment by Rob_D (Anonymous) - Thursday, August 11, 2005
Someone told me Nevermore sometimes still plays Battle Angles live and that Warrel can't hit the high notes anymore. =(

Comment by Mike B (Anonymous) - Tuesday, May 9, 2006
You can hear him hit the high ones in their later work, but always in a layered vocals and always quieter than the rest. I'm sure he could still hit them in the studio, but they could never tour with such material.

Comment by gizmo (Member) - Wednesday, December 16, 2009
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Comments: 140
Ratings: 4
Always liked the 2 Sanctuary albums but could never get into Nevermore. That´s kind of funny and sad

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review by notrap (Member) - Saturday, April 10, 2010
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Comments: 55
Ratings: 66
The Metal scene is full of mysteries. I really never understood why many people find Into The Mirror Black the best Sanctuary record.

In my humble opinion the previous and first record Refuge Denied is far better in all ways (except maybe the production).
When I first heard Die For My Sins, Battle Angels or White Rabbit I was completely astonish with Warrel Dane's vocal range.
Somewhere between Thrash and Heavy Metal (like the city mates Metal Church) this band released in 87 one of the most important Power Metal records of all time.

Then something happened with Warrel's voice...I don't know if it happened on Refuge Denied studio sessions or on tour...but his voice was never the same.

In my opinion Into The Mirror Black was adapted to Warrel's "new" voice and failed to upgrade the excellent previous record.
Don't get me wrong, ITMB is a good record however it's miles away from the previous masterpiece.

Sanctuary deserved a lot more.

Rating: 7/10

Posted by notrap
Saturday, April 10, 2010

Review by Steen

Released by
CBS Records - 1990

1. Future Tense
2. Taste Revenge
3. Long Since Dark
4. Epitaph
5. Eden Lies Obscured
6. The Mirror Black
7. Seasons Of Destruction
8. One More Murder
9. Communion

Power Thrash

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