It’s never easy coming across a news story about someone for whom you have a great deal of respect passing away suddenly. Warrel Dane, vocalist of the bands Sanctuary and Nevermore, died earlier this morning in Brazil due to what is suspected to be a heart attack.
Dane was one of a kind. He had a very polarizing voice. It was one of those voices that people either loved or hated. His early work with the progressive thrash band Sanctuary was known for his trademark high pitch screeches that were prevalent throughout the 80s metal scene. He just looked how a heavy metal frontman should look. He sported this super long white/blond hair that made him look much like a witch when he would swing it around on stage. Plus, there was just his name: Warrel Dane. It just sounds menacing. Even without knowing what he looks like, the name just sounds like someone who is not to be taken lightly. (OK…in full disclosure, his given name was Warrel Baker. Granted, not as menacing.)
Sanctuary is one of those bands that only the really seasoned metalheads knew about. They only had two proper albums that came out in 1988 and 1990, but man, both of them are just barnburners. Sanctuary ended up being one of many heavy metal casualties after the grunge craze hit in the early 90s. The band ended up breaking up because some band members wanted to try to cash in on trying their hand at grunge. Dane, bassist Jim Shepherd and new guitar wiz Jeff Loomis all decided to stay true to the metal vision started in Sanctuary and formed a new band called Nevermore. Nevermore ended up being one of the unsung heroes of keeping metal healthy and alive during the grunge years. Dane’s vocals took a decided deeper tone during the Nevermore years. He just had a depth and an emotional style that just isn’t found in most vocalists. There was just a power there. I would put Nevermore easily in my top ten favorite bands of all time.
Lyricists in music have never really been a major focus point for my interest in music. I’m usually all about the musicianship rather than the poetry of the lyrics. However, Dane was one of heavy metal’s true poets. There are countless lyrics from Nevermore’s albums that always seemed to hit a personal note with me.
This loss is going to linger with me for some time. Cheers to you, Voyager. Thank you for all of the music you left behind.