SANCTUARY vocalist Joseph Michael has confirmed that the band is continuing work on material for a new full-length album, "Transmutation", tentatively due in 2020.
On December 13, 2017, Warrel Dane, the legendary lead singer of SANCTUARY and NEVERMORE, passed away while recording his posthumously released studio album "Shadow Work". At that time, SANCTUARY had already confirmed and announced a U.S. tour supporting ICED EARTH in February and March 2018 and, while shocked by Dane's passing, decided to turn it into a tribute to his legacy, with Michael (also of WITHERFALL) at the mic.
Performing tracks from 1988's "Refuge Denied", 1990's "Into The Mirror Black" and 2014's "The Year The Sun Died", Michael delivered a stunning performance and received very positive feedback from the fans attending the shows. Remaining founding members Lenny Rutledge (guitar) and Dave Budbill (drums) ultimately made the decision to continue with SANCTUARY and Michael not only as a live act, but also compose and record a new album.
Speaking to the "Iron City Rocks" podcast, Michael stated about the progress of the songwriting sessions for SANCTUARY's next disc: "We finished that tour, and then Jake [Dreyer, WITHERFALL/ICED EARTH guitarist] and I went in to do a WITHERFALL record. So we didn't really start the writing process until perhaps August or September of last year. So we haven't even been at it for a year.
"The way SANCTUARY works, and, from what I understand, how they've always worked is that Lenny will kick around some ideas and some riffs. Then he'll send 'em over to Warrel, or now me, and see what, if anything, strikes a nerve — like, a melody pops in. Then it gets kicked back over to Lenny, and if he likes that, then he goes in with Dave and we'll all get together and see if we can come up with some arrangements. It's really an old-school way of working. It's not something I used to… These guys act like an old-school band where everything gets passed to the next guy until it passes everyone's muster."
Asked about the differences between his vocal approach and that of Dane, Michael said: "There's a little bit of overlap between our styles. And luckily, there's a little bit of overlap between what I do and what he did in both eras — NEVERMORE and 'The Year The Sun Died'-era SANCTUARY. I'm in no way a replica… I'm not a soundalike, and I knew that going in — I was not gonna be able to go in and sound like a jukebox. But I knew I had the range to hit everything that was on the old records, and I also have a more aggressive sound going on — so the modern stuff, like 'The Year The Sun Died', wasn't gonna be a problem.
"You get people that are hardcore Warrel Dane fanatics — I mean, I admit, I was one of 'em — that are gonna nitpick, like, 'Well, his voice doesn't do this on that note,'" he continued. "And I'm, like, well, yeah, 'cause it's not the same human being. Even Warrel didn't sound like… There was never one time where Warrel sounded like everything from his entire catalog. Early on, he didn't sound like he did in NEVERMORE, and then later, he didn't sound like he did on 'Refuge Denied'. It's just the biology of being a vocalist. It's not like being a guitar player, where you just pick up the instrument and it's there. Your health has a lot to do with how you sound and what you are able to pull off technically."
SANCTUARY recently kicked off a North American tour on which it is performing the entire "Refuge Denied" album.