...and so comparison to Nevermore is inevitable.
With Warrel Dane standing at the helm of both bands, similarities are obvious enough, but one difference immediately stands out--the vocals are actually on key. The majority of Nevermore's catalog circumvents the accepted musician's rule book and sits firmly off key, clashing with each note Dane spits through the microphone. Sanctuary, on the other hand, revels in melody and, while still rather unconventional, doesn't run the risk of being an ear sore. More accessible is better way of putting it.
Like King Diamond's early years in Mercyful Fate, Dane wasn't fully developed as a vocalist when he fronted Sanctuary. Relative to his tenture in Nevermore, he favored short, piercing bursts of falsetto, something he rarely, if ever, used later in his career. But because the music called for it, the technique never felt out of place--Dane gave Sanctuary an identity, and Into the Mirror Black wouldn't feel half as momentous without him.
|A young Warrel Dane is pictured in the middle.|
On the other side, lyrically, Into the Mirror Black takes an unexpected turn. Being very socially aware, almost to the point of drawing inspiration from thrash metal, a few of the songs jab slyly at politicians, war, and distrust of higher authority. "Future Tense," in particular, speaks of this and the uncertainty of approaching nineties, from a societal standpoint and almost as symbolic look at music's progression past the "golden age." Metal would never again experience such a mainstream renaissance as it did in the eighties.
Having said that, Sanctuary still made an effort to step away from the mainstream and filled their music with offbeat melodies, like Hollow, a band reviewed on The Metal Advisor last year. This is really what makes Into the Mirror Black as special as it is, even though the track listing has inconsistencies here and there. Ultimately, Sanctuary's biggest downfall was that Into the Mirror Black spelled the end for the band, putting an abrupt halt to a full-fledged discography. And although they've recently reunited, only time will tell if another record--if even on Into the Mirror Black's level--will prove to be possible.
Recommended for nostalgia, damn good music, and as a glimpse at what Dane sounded like in his younger days.