In a way, SANCTUARY was the band preceding NEVERMORE. On this album, Warrel Dane (v.) and Jim Sheppard (b.) already played together, later on Jeff Loomis (g.) joined the band and played bass on the second album “Into The Mirror Black”, before the band split up after only two albums and the three above-mentioned musicians went on to form NEVERMORE. Musically, “Refuge Denied” can only partly be compared to the work of NEVERMORE, as the album simply is more deeply rooted in the eighties.
The music sounds quite original and can probably best be described as a mixture between classic Power/US Metal with some Thrash/Speed influences. Opener “Battle Angels” is a very well-done mid-tempo stomping song, while “Termination Force” with its thrashy “gang-shout” chorus, that does not appeal to me very much, however, as well as “Die For My Sins” are way faster. In my opinion, the latter is the disc’s highlight, as it is very catchy yet varied and comes up with a great solo towards the end – just pure 80’s Metal the way we all (?) love it! “Soldiers Of Steel” is another excellent song that roams the realm of mid-tempo and where Warrel Dane’s voice is lifted up to downright unbelievable heights, which might put some people off, I like it anyway.
Instead of describing dong by song, I would rather like to mention the cover of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE drug song “White Rabbit”, which is not as good as the original version but really well-done and which creates a dense and stoned atmosphere thanks to Dane’s vocals, which interpret the crazy lyrics very well. The guitars at the beginning are played by none less than Dave Mustaine (MEGADETH), who as the producer was also responsible for the record’s sound, which is very clean and balanced for 80’s standards.
Overall, it is a very good album, just „Termination Force“ and „Ascension To Destiny“ do not appeal to me that much and “The Third War” is “just” good, although I think I have read that other reviewers listed some of those songs as the highlights, so you would best check it our yourselves. In fact, those of you who are into classic Power or US Metal cannot go wrong here. (Online April 2, 2006)