Posted by & filed under Features, Live Report, Music.

Sanctuary roll through Vancouver

Sanctuary poster

Ah the reunion tour. These are always interesting prepositions, especially for bands who split up a couple decades ago but developed a cult following while members went on to do better in other things.

Sanctuary first split up in 1992 after two albums of all-American heavy metal. Both albums gained a following, especially because Warrel Dane and Jim Sheppard went on to form Nevermore. Following Nevermore’s dissolution in 2011, Sanctuary decided to reunite with almost the entire original lineup. They released a new album, The Year The Sun Died in October of this year, and have a North American tour in support of that. On a cold but beautiful Saturday in November, they arrived in Vancouver for a show at the Rickshaw Theatre.

Local heavy metallers Iron Kingdom were up first. Due to venue shenanigans, their set was delayed a little bit, but seeing as there were only three bands on the bill, there was some leeway for them and they were onstage before too long in any case. Their brand of heavy metal is quite the throwback to 80s power metal, and their artwork reflects that. Frontman and guitarist Chris Osterman has a very unique voice and a wicked fiery guitar playing style; in particular, his soloing was theatrical and fun to watch.

Second guitarist Kenny Kroecher handled most of the rhythm parts but did get his moments to shine as well. Bassist Leighton Holmes was content to provide backing vocals and solid rhythms and drummer Amanda Osterman absolutely rocked the kit. All in all, the band rocked hard, only hindered a bit by a weird stage set-up which had the drums off to one side meaning the guitar amps all had to be on the other side. Their finest moments were perhaps their anthem “At Home in the Dark” and the epic “Egypt (The End Is Near)”.

After their set, I wandered around and ended up hanging out with the (strikingly handsome) guitarist Kenny, buying a shirt from him and chatting. He’s really one of the nicest dudes ever.

It wasn’t long before the next band, The People Now, were onstage, however. Before they started, they introduced themselves and they really stood out from the all metal crowd that night. They looked a lot more like “free love 70s hippies” than anything I’d have expected to be opening for Sanctuary. Still, it isn’t fair to judge a book by its cover, so I was willing to keep an open mind about them.

They began with some of the best, pitch perfect harmonized vocal lines I have ever heard, without any accompaniment at all. Their sound, however, was less impressive. During their better moments, they were something like Queens of the Stone Age, but most of their songs felt like Tool worship, and band that I carry some distaste for, so this did not really excite me. Additionally, between songs their vocalist would preach socialist philosophies. Left wing ideologies don’t bother me – hell, I myself subscribe to them – but something about his mannerism while doing it felt really smug and preachy and it was quite a turn-off.

That, combined with music that I found uninteresting, meant I was left very unimpressed with The People Now. And the real puzzler is why they, an alt-prog rock band, were on a tour with heavy metal legends Sanctuary.

It was another brief interlude until the headliners, but the anticipation was building in the Rickshaw. Sanctuary are perhaps best described as a band with a small but devoted following. The turnout was not great, but everyone who did come was absolutely dedicated to the Seattleite heavy metal legends.

And when Sanctuary finally did come out, they proceeded to absolutely tear the place apart. The band played songs from all three of their albums and the material from their comeback album The Year The Sun Died fit very well as a natural progression alongside their two classic albums.

New songs like “Arise And Purify” got enthusiastic cheers and the old material like “Battle Angels” and “The Mirror Black” brought the house down. I particularly enjoyed the excellent rendition of “Die For My Sins“, a true-blue heavy metal anthem. There was a bit of friendly heckling, but frontman Warrell Dane handled it all with good humour and taste.

What was not in good taste though, was the hat he was wearing, which made him look sort of like Kid Rock. That is an image I will not be able to forget.

But that certainly did not affect his voice, which still sounded in top shape; he could still hit those same high notes, albeit with a bit more strain than in times of old. Rather than walking off stage and coming back for an encore, the band just said “Okay, we’re not going to do that rockstar nonsense, we’d rather just play the last song for you!” and did exactly that, to thunderous cheers. I managed to catch a guitar pick, and all was good.

The crowd was in a great mood after the show, as expected. Despite the lower point that was The People Now, the night was a rousing success. Iron Kingdom showed that they are a force to be reckoned with, and Sanctuary lived up to their legacy.

Until next time!

Kevin writer banner Jan 2014