December 13, 2017 – Warrel Dane (Sanctuary/Nevermore) was born on March 7, 1961 as Warrel G. Baker in Seattle, Washington.
Warell, who first came to fame as the high-pitched singer of Serpent’s Knight, was famed for his vocal range and had originally trained for five years as an opera singer and utilized a very broad vocal range, spanning from notes as low as the G♯ below low C, or G♯1, to notes as high as the B♭ below soprano C, or B♭5. While his high head voice style vocals were much more prominent in the older Sanctuary albums, there were instances where he utilized it in Nevermore as well. Later in his career, Dane became more notable for his distinctively deep, dramatic voice. He cited Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Jefferson Airplane, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, The Doors as his musical influences and Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson as his main vocal inspirations.
Dane, along with bassist Jim Sheppard, was a certified chef and formerly owned a restaurant in Seattle. As reflected in his songwriting, Warrel was critical of religion and government and he expressed mixed feelings toward the advancement of technology.
It all started out with the Seattle Trash metal band Sanctuary in 1985, founded by vocalist Warrel Dane, guitarists Lenny Rutledge and Sean Blosl, bassist Jim Sheppard, and drummer Dave Budbil. They released a demo in 1986, which was well received, and that led them to sign with Epic Records in 1987. They released their debut album, Refuge Denied, in the following year. It was produced by Dave Mustaine, frontman of thrash metal band Megadeth. The album received a tour alongside Megadeth and the German band Warlock. After the tour, Sanctuary entered the studio to record their second studio album, Into the Mirror Black, which was released in 1990. A video clip for the song “Future Tense” was made and received some airplay on MTV’s Headbangers Ball. During the promotion tour (with the bands Fates Warning, Forbidden and Death Angel), Sean Blosl left the band and was replaced by Jeff Loomis.
Shortly after, increasing pressure from Epic Records to fit in with the flourishing Seattle grunge scene caused disagreements between band members regarding the band’s musical direction. As a result Sanctuary officially disbanded in 1992.
After disbanding, Warrel Dane, Jim Sheppard and Jeff Loomis formed the band Nevermore that same year. Lenny Rutledge became a music producer with his own studio and helped Nevermore on the demo sessions of their 1998 album, Dreaming Neon Black.
Achieving a stable line up by 1994, Nevermore became known to incorporate elements from various styles such as power metal, modern hard rock, classic heavy metal, and technical thrash metal.
In 1995 they released their self-titled debut album to much acclaim and its release was followed by a European tour with Blind Guardian and a North American tour with Death, followed by another studio effort in 1996 titled: The Politics of Ecstacy.
The next 3 year period painted in hindsight the demise of Warrel Dane into depression and suicidal thoughts. Leading up to the release of the album Dreaming Neon Black, Dane lost his longtime girlfriend to a religious cult, never to be seen again, and the consequential lyrics resulting from this event equal total destruction inside an eerie aura of absolute despair and horrifying desolation and hopelessness. It’s not clear whether alcohol was already a mainstay in his life before, but definitely became his go-to-drug since.
Even though the band kept on touring and recording for the next decade and did not officially disband until April 2011, by 2005 health problems for several bandmembers, mostly addiction related in Dane’s case as well as diabetes, as well as touring pressures were becoming major issues. By 2008 some members were recording solo albums. Warrel Dane released “Praises to the War Machine.”
In 2010, four of the founding SANCTUARY members — Warrel Dane, Jim Sheppard, Lenny Rutledge and Dave Budbill — came together for a few select reunion performances. At first, it was just going to be a handful of shows, but the response and chemistry on stage was so overwhelming that they decided to reunite permanently. The band’s first shows after included Jeff Loomis as a second guitarist, though he departed simultaneously to his departure from Nevermore. Former Forced Entry guitarist Brad Hull, who had earlier touring experience with the band, became a permanent member shortly after.
Nevermore eventually went on hiatus in April 2011 after 19 years and 7 studio albums.
Sanctuary’s 2014 comeback album The Year the Sun Died finds widespread acclaim and for a short while it seems like anything is possible, Sanctuary touring the world, solo albums and a reunion for Nevermore.
Warrel Dane tours Brazil in 2014 and builds a back up band there. He loves the culture and fans reactions there and decides to record his second solo album in Sao Paulo. In April 2015, lead singer Warrel Dane confirmed that Nevermore had not disbanded, and there was a possibility for them to continue in the next two years with another album. Dane’s death in December 2017 ended hopes of a reunion.
On December 13, 2017, it was reported that Dane had died of a heart attack in São Paulo, Brazil, at the age of 56. He was working on his second solo album with the band he had down in Brazil, put together after his Brazil tour in 2014. The guitarist of Dane’s solo band Johnny Moraes stated that, “He died in the night. He had a heart attack, He was in the apartment where he stayed during the recording of the album when it happened. I gave him cardiac massage and we called the Mobile Emergency Care Service (SAMU), who came very fast, but when they arrived, he was already dead.“
Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine tweeted: “So incredibly sad to hear that Warrel has passed. I recorded his first album with him, we were family. He was important to so many people and so many loved him. His legacy lives on with his songs and his voice.“
A uniquely talented, intelligent but mentally troubled and tortured man that left his undeniable mark on Heavy Metal history, Warrel Dane later described NEVERMORE in an interview as “the greatest band that alcohol ever ruined.”
Nevermore was their own form of underdog. They were fighting for every scrap, every fan, every bit of credit for being one of the pure talents in heavy metal, which they were. Shows were selling out, and they were the headliner, but a lot of attention was going to this little band from Sweden called Opeth, playing before them.
When Nevermore should have been reveling in their time of coronation, their spotlight was muted, dulled, and sullied.
In truth, Nevermore was an acquired taste. They were too forward-thinking for the standard power metal crowd. For most, Warrel’s vocals were polarizing. While most power metal dorks were singing about Tolkien and dragons, this guy brought the agonized reality of a lived experience. True, piercing, somber emotion in a metal scene dominated by machismo posturing and choreographed rage.