R.I.P. Warrel Dane: 1961 – 2017

Christ, it seems like I’m writing one of these somewhere about every two weeks now…

But here we go again.

We all woke up this morning to terrible news: Another metal brother gone, this time Warrel Dane (Sanctuary / ex-Nevermore). Back in Ye Olden Days, Sanctuary’s first two were leading lights of the US power metal scene — progressive, vicious, melodic, and all bolstered by Dane’s godly range, ungodly power, and impeccable sense of drama. Like the rest of the world, my first impression came from Refuge Denied‘s opening number, the blistering “Battle Angels” — still my favorite of any Dane-fronted song, although there’s plenty of competition. “Battle Angels” is a perfect combo of Priest-ly riffing and ohmyGOD those falsetto shrieks, razor-sharp and piercing like lasers to the skull, and all of that in the best way. As a teenager singing along to Halford, Tate, Dickinson — well, those screams were everything I wanted to do, everything I wanted my pathetic voice to be…

Follow-up Into The Mirror Black went further into the progressive, previewing Nevermore, the next incarnation that took Sanctuary’s power/prog base and added to Dane’s talent some groove metal heft, an even deeper sense of gothic moodiness, and Jeff Loomis’ equally godly guitar shredding. In a decade or more of metal, Nevermore never quite fit anywhere comfortably, and yet, they occupied space in many worlds, all of them defined by that combo of Loomis riff and Dane’s layered vocals and somber tones. Detractors mocked Warrel’s solemnity, or his snarling operatics, but they never got it, not like the rest of us did. The man was a godly vocalist, unafraid to be distinctive, and able to use his voice perfectly to create that idiosyncratic melodrama that will forever be his calling card.

After seven records (a full five of them classics), Nevermore would collapse — Loomis and Dane going their separate ways — and Sanctuary returned once more, releasing one of the greatest comeback albums in recent memory, the truly killer The Year The Sun Died. Since that one was so unexpectedly strong, I’d been holding out hope for further Sanctuary music, but all we got was a demo compilation and the announcement of a new Warrel solo record, on which he had just begun vocals when he passed away of a heart attack.

I had the pleasure of seeing the reformed Sanctuary on the Year The Sun Died tour, at a club in Kentucky with about 20 other people. We certainly weren’t their biggest crowd, but they played like we were, and it was an absolutely stellar show, and one that means even more now knowing that I won’t see them again.

Godspeed, Warrel — rest in peace, and thank you.

“…when there’s nothing more left to dream
And nowhere left to wander
The memories will be there for you
To give you peace of mind
And when there’s nothing more left to gain
And no risks left worth taking
The memories will be true to you…
In memory, in memory…
Memory is alive…”

Posted by Last Rites

GENERALLY IMPRESSED WITH RIFFS

  1. Nevermore were and will always be a band ‘out of time.’ They never fit, but they always fit. They didn’t look back to the eighties, they didn’t look east to Power Metal strongholds in Europe in the 90’s, they didn’t slink to middling hard rock in the ‘00’s. Hell, they came out of Seattle in ‘95 without a hint of grunge. They will always sound old in a way, but every song could be released today and sound new – my guess is that they will never sound dated. Warrel was a huge part of that and Nevermore were a HUGE part of my formative Metal years – I bought ‘Politics of Ecstasy’ in ‘96, without hearing note, just off ‘word of mouth.’ Blew my doors off, and Warrel’s voice has been a constant friend and comfort ever since. I have a deep and abiding love for ‘Dreaming Neon Black,’ my favorite Nevermore album and maybe one of my all time favorites in general.

    Today sucks. R.I.P. Warrel, you’ve earned it.

    Reply

    1. Same here, “Politics” and especially “Neon Black” have a special place in my heart and were close companions during my teenage years. Not to speak of Sanctuary marvels like “Long Since Dark” (that opening!!) or “Communion”.

      I only saw him live once, on the “Enemies of Reality” tour in a small European club. That room was so full of energy during that show, it was unreal. Sound was awful(insert joke about “Enemies”), but the band’s intensity and Warrel’s charisma more that made up for it.

      Warrel Dane sounded like nobody else. And he could write lyrics, personal ones as well as political ones, which resonated with me, which offered catharsis and comfort.
      “Philosophy cannot soothe your soul”, the man sang. But a song can. Thanks for your songs, Warrel.

      Reply

  2. I’m curious now which albums Andrew considers to be less than classic. I would go with Enemies of Reality (some amazing songs like the title track, and then some filler) and The Obsidian Conspiracy, but opinions eh?

    RIP Warrel. You’ve left your mark on the world, and the rest of us will be sadder for your absence.

    Reply

    1. Enemies, for sure, and I never loved the debut that much.

      Reply

    2. Pretty sure those your names are the answer

      S

      Reply

  3. Nevermore to feel the pain
    The heart collector sang
    And I won’t be feeling hollow for so long.

    Reply

  4. I remember going to our local metal store asking for sanctuary back in 95 – and everyone was thinking it was a madeup name. And then getting the lp of politics…next year, 97 in Athens, seeing them alogn with Iced earth and ppl asking them to finish so they can see Iced earth..and suddently everyone praising them…Im happy i got the chance to see them and have their records be a part of my life until the past years.. Long live Warrel, an excellent guy, a true metalhead and creator of one of my all time favorite lps…

    Reply

  5. Along with Opeth, Nevermore were one of the bands that pushed me along from progressive metal into extreme metal. Warrell Dane’s powerful voice was key to that. I was lucky enough to see Nevermore in 2006, and Warrell Dane powered on through the show despite being sick.

    Even now, This Godless Endeavor and Dead Heart in a Dead World are both classics, and the commanding vocal performances and songwriting is part of the reason why.

    Reply

  6. FYI: The title of the article needs changing, born 1969 not 1961

    Reply

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