Metal Review – Sanctuary: Into the Mirror Black

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Metal Review – Sanctuary: Into the Mirror Black
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Sanctuary: Into the Mirror Black
Power Metal
Epic Records
February 27th, 1990
Release length: 46:37
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Into the Mirror Black marks a dramatic change in Sanctuary. The final release from this U.S.-based Power Metal act, the release shows a band growing and showing their fangs to take on a different approach to Power Metal that sheds itself of the stereotypical ideas of it’s time to look forward at a progression within the sound. But, is this release truly that much more unique over Into the Mirror Black, or is it just a more modern, pollished version of an album that lacked much potential, but still had a run of solid tracks on it?

Right away listeners will pick up on the more modern production quality of the recording. Sanctuary leaves behind the heavier echo effect on the music that made their material sound haunting, a signature style for the eighties, and seems to incorporate an overall quality that rings in the start of the early nineties sound of Metal. This gives the recording a much more serious sound with a clearer presentation, but still has that little bit of raw edge to make the music retain the bite it once had, just with a completely different and cleaner atmosphere to it. Another big change is in the vocals. The performance is still energetic, but the constant high falsettos have been kept to a minimum, and the shaking vocal approach has been restrained as well, being utilized for key moments that work with the progression of the songs, though sometimes used when not really necessary. All of this leads to an energetic album with a great performance by Sanctuary that gives the group their own voice, making the recording more accessable to the Metal masses, and doesn’t come off as an album you need to put down after a few tracks so you wouldn’t get some sort of migraine.

The vocals here have a fantastic range to them that was absent from Into the Mirror Black, and that becomes the biggest allure of this album. From low clean singing to powerful yet chaotic energy driven vocals that feel a little dirty or rhaspy, to high falsettos when necessary, this release really shows the potential in that department of the band, and the music takes on a more technical approach to the Power Metal style that seems to have a strong Progressive Metal foundation at times as well given the way the songs progress. Essentially, this album maps out the blueprints of the dawning of Nevermore, but as a standalone Sanctuary album, it’s very impressive. While “Future Tense” really takes hold of the listener with it’s impressive performance from the band, it isn’t really until “Long Since Dark” that the point of the album comes across to the listener. This track features some more technical work in the music, and really shows how the vocals can suit the varying shifts in pace, sound and atmosphere that Sanctuary can bring into one song. This track essentially manages to capture the listeners attention, as well as his or her imagination, allowing the listener to get lost in the often chaotic-sounding world that somehow makes sense.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the band has forgotten the foundation of their sound laid out with Into the Mirror Black. There are still a decent amount of slower tracks here that are meant to capture that haunting atmosphere the band was known for, but thanks to the more modern quality of the recording, that atmosphere is something that doesn’t quite work out completely, and it feels much weaker then it should be. “Epitaph” is one of those songs, and it’s also one of the few to really beat the falsettos and shaking vocal approach back into the mix. This isn’t that bad a song, but it becomes more of a traditional Power Metal song with a little more technicality in the mix then normal, and comes off a bit like filler that doesn’t really bring anything too interesting to the mix. While this is enough to make one worry about the rest of therelease, “Edenlies Obscured” manages to save the day with it’s solid chugging riffs and great vocal range that make the song catchy and heavy, yet very unique for a Power Metal song. This song also shows the most progress for the band, leaving behind much of the approach they brought with them to Into the Mirror Black outside some King Diamond similarities here and there, and that shaky falsetto approach that appears here and there throughout the song. Aside that, this doesn’t even sound like a Sanctuary track, and it only manages to get better from here as the band explores the slower, haunting passages, and just manages to continue growing and pushing forward into a jaw-dropping sound that brings a fresh sound to the style at that time, such as the dark and very sinister “The Mirror Black” that has a heavy Progressive Metal sound that leaves all preconceived ideas of Sanctuary in the dust and solidifies a whole new sound that has been building since the start of this effort with “Future Tense”.

This change also effects the closing heavier and faster tracks. “Seasons of Destruction” makes for a much more aggressive song overall, and shows a very stern and energetic vocal performance against a solid faster and heavier overall performance from the band. Musically, this becomes of the must hear tracks off the recording, and only opens the floodgates wider for the closing tracks. “One More Murder” builds up the band’s more technical Progressive ideas and really pulls the listener in various directions with a vibe that is still aggressive, but not as much as the one on “Seasons of Destruction”. Again, however, Sanctuary doesn’t necessarily deliver with the closing track. “Communion” is an interesting song, but it doesn’t really feel like a climactic track to bring such a unique experience like this to an end in a manner that will leave the listener feeling whole. Actually, had this song appeared before “One More Murder”, then this album would have had a suitable ending, as “One More Murder” just feels like a very appropriate closing track.

In the end though, the final Sanctuary CD, Into the Mirror Black, learly shows the blueprints for what is to come from two of the group’s members. Unlike Into the Mirror Black, this release shows plenty of promise from the group, and takes a leap away from the traditional concepts and stereotypical sounds of the Power Metal genre, leading to a very fresh and rather technical sound that appears more to focus on a Progressive approach then anything else. There’s no real fast paced material that will have the listener to their feet chanting along while the band continues to command them along with furious and catchy music, and that does become a bit of a disapointing decision with this release despite the change of direction in music. But, as a final release, Into the Mirror Black ends the legacy of Sanctuary as a band in good spirits, leaving the listener wanting more, hoping to see this particular group continue to grow and evolve. While this does happen down the line, this effort makes for a nice end of the chapter of this band’s career, and is one that fans of Nevermore should definitely check out. It’s not the greatest release of this style, or perhaps the latter group’s career, but it’s still a solid effort that showcases where it all starts.

01. Future Tense – 5:10
02. Taste Revenge – 5:03
03. Long Since Dark – 5:08
04. Epitaph – 6:05
05. Eden Lies Obscured – 5:24
06. The Mirror Black – 5:10
07. Seasons of Destruction – 4:54
08. One More Murder – 4:24
09. Communion – 5:38
Initial Pressing Score: 8/10

Sanctuary
Sanctuary

{hysical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.