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By Wendy Jasper, Black Metal Aficionado
Thursday, May 11, 2017 @ 11:21 AM

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Century Media

Before I begin to wax poetic or nostalgic about the wondrous beauty of 80’s metal and the happy event that was the release of SANCTUARY’s lost demos in the form of Inception, let me say this one thing; Warrel Dane is one of my oldest, closest and dearest friends. Because of that particular relationship, gentle readers, I am able to imagine a young Warrel furiously and thoughtfully penning the lyrics to “Dream Of The Incubus” (lyric video HERE) and thinking that the line “I give the gift of sacred sex to you” was a good idea. I have giggled hysterically (snort) over this with him on more than one occasion…because I can. However, let’s be honest with ourselves, ladies, in 1986 one hair flip from him would deliver enough sensuality to sustain you through the next 25 years. Sigh…giggle…snort…

However, all kidding aside, let us look at the importance of this record in this way; This story is not necessarily about what SANCTUARY was when they were young, new and eager, but what they would become once the demos that you are hearing on Inception finally morphed into the raging monster that was their first major label release.

Refuge Denied, the final choice of title for the debut, forever emblazoned the SANCTUARY logo into the minds and hearts of metalheads worldwide and that is why the release of these early demos is so significant. SANCTUARY was a band that won the hearts and minds of metal fans in the 1980’s, 1990’s and beyond; it’s what new metal fans need to hear to give them historical context regarding their favorite genre of music.

Dane’s vocals are singular. No one else sounds like him and no one ever will again. I remember the first time I heard “Battle Angels”. It gave me goosebumps and in that five-minute period, I knew I had heard the voice that would always be my favorite; and I am not the only person that felt that way. Critical acclaim for the song was unparalleled. The raw demo of the song featured on this album is, in a way, more powerful than the final product. It gives proof to the fact that the intricacy of the music and the power of Dane’s voice was natural and unforced; it was not created in a studio.

The original line-up of the band includes Dane, bassist Jim Sheppard, guitarists Lenny Rutledge and Sean Blosl and drummer Dave Budbill. The album is hailed as a “prequel” and the raw footage was found by Rutledge in the converted barn the band now uses to rehearse. The original tapes were salvageable and the band wanted to share them with fans while they worked on music for a new studio album. After a lot of mixing and work, the tracks were cleaned up and restored by engineering wizard Chris “Zeuss” Harris.

While some of the lyrics of the opening track “Dream Of The Incubus” were giggle-inducing, there is nothing laughable about the pure visceral onslaught of the music. This song did not make the final cut for Refuge Denied but it is an outstanding gateway to the tracks that did, ultimately, see release in 1987. We move right into “Die For My Sins”, which is a cult favorite amongst the band’s fan base and from there we segway right into “Soldiers Of Steel”.

These are the songs that caught the attention of Dave Mustaine in the 80’s and lead to his producing the debut effort. “Death Rider/Third War” was the precursor to “The Third War” on Refuge Denied and following that is the cover of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’s “White Rabbit”. I think what Dane and company did with this cover was so powerful that it remains a standout in today’s metal world. It holds its value as much today as it did the first time I heard it in 1987.

Following the cover is “Ascension To Destiny” and then comes the absolute diamond that shone so bright on the debut; “Battle Angels”. This is the song that put the band on the metal map. It is the song that fans who followed Dane and Sheppard on to their successive band, NEVERMORE, wanted to hear and were sometimes treated to depending on the mood of the show. It’s the song that fans chanted for when SANCTUARY toured in 2015 in support of their highly anticipated reunion album The Year The Sun Died.

A nice surprise for the fans is a stunning piece that did not make the debut but probably should have if there had been space and time. “I Am Insane” sears you from the inside out. The entire song is thunderous and shows the intricate pacing of Sheppard and Budbill to perfection. The vocals on the song have perfect tone, pitch and inflection and Rutledge and Blosl are fluid with their fretboard mastery. It might have been nice if it had been saved for the band’s sophomore effort Into the Mirror Black, but by the time that was released in 1990, the band had a catalog of music that would have made it hard to choose which songs made the cut.

Rounding out the prequel is one of my favorites. “Veil Of Disguise” does not sound much different in demo form than it does on the debut. It has everything you would wish for in a SANCTUARY song. It is performed effortlessly and once again reiterates that this band is so good that they didn’t need overly produced, slick studio work to make them sound good. They just simply are THAT good.

So sit back, put on this album and prepare to remember the glory days…and maybe even giggle a little…

5.0 Out Of 5.0

Grab a copy of Inception in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.

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