Released: 2017, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
A word of warning: for those who have come to Sanctuary, and this record in particular, as fans of Nevermore: do not expect anything like that. While the band's post-reformation album "The Year the Sun Died" might have hints of Nevermore, this album is firmly fixed in Sanctuary's older, original style. Which should come as no real surprise, as it's a remastering of their oldest material, mostly from the debut album.
Having not listened to the original recordings much, I can't make any direct comparison. It is worth knowing that aside from the swapping out of "Termination Force" and "Sanctuary" for "Dream of the Incubus" and "I Am Insane" (from their 1986 demo) this is largely the same track listing as that debut. It definitely sounds like a product of its time, but the sound quality is wonderfully clear, with just a dash of rawness and echo in the vocals to lend it authenticity. Lyrically too, this definitely feels old-school: "Dream of the Incubus" displays an obsession with perverse imagery and wicked wordplay so typical of younger metal bands, and which some may find off-putting while others welcome it with a laugh. "Nightmares in the dark can penetrate you" still gets a chuckle out of me.
Inception is pure classic metal, Agent Steelian wails and King Diamond-y theatrical cries over unrelenting early power-thrash assault reminiscent of Liege Lord, Paradox and other lesser-known gems. It's vintage 80s metal through and through, coming before any real progressive or modern metal influences appeared in the members’ repertoires. "Battle Angels" is a perfect example of the style and one of the best tracks on here. It's an absolute stonker and will have you screeching "Craaawl! Oooon! Yooour! Knees!" for ages, neighbours/significant other/passing public be damned. The interplay between the vocals and instrumentation is also excellent, every time one fades back the other takes up the fore, keeping up the constant flow of molten metal.
For those that already have Refuge Denied, this might still be worth a spin to see how the remastering measures up. For those who don't, this is a solid slab of classic 80s metal at its finest, and well worth picking up.