by D.M. Jones

      Now (reviewer uses best crotchety old man voice) back in my day, metal bands used to mix a little melody in with their crunch. They used to sing once in awhile, not this glass-gargling stuff you whippersnappers listen to nowadays. This here band Sanctum must have stumbled onto some good ol' classic 1980s hard rock along the way, because their debut deftly mixes modern, aggressive riffage with some honest to goodness songcraft.

      The disc opens with "Slave of the Night," a chugging, hard-hitting rocker that builds to an epic, Danzig-like chorus. "Destination X" begins mournfully, with singer Vince Meyer intoning, "I haunt these streets with rhythm and pain." The song's quiet/loud dynamic is conventional enough, but layers of classic hard rock provide variety and dimension to the tune.

      Meyer's vocals swoop and swoon over a bed of John DeMille's guitar nails on "Winds of Rage." Greg Seymour (drums) and Nick Thieme (bass) provide a pumping rhythm section that eventually carries the song into prime Judas Priest territory.

      "Spells of Misery" rubber-bands a tension between verses and choruses, with a creepy bassline to match. "Your sins are alive and all so real," sings Meyer, adding to the dark depths before an epic guitar solo breaks the song wide open. Seymour's solid drum work anchors the closer, an uptempo rocker called "K.M.A."

      By deploying elements that defined hard rockers of the past within a contemporary framework, Sanctum manage to add color to an increasingly streamlined, monochromatic genre. The album (which was, by the way, recorded professionally and clearly at New Haven's Monastic Chambers) is available locally at Wooden Nickel stores. Go to www.sanctumband.com for more info.

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