Up Close and On Fire – Corners of Sanctuary – CD Review

CORNERS OF SANCTUARY

 

The band for this week’s episode of Up Front And On Fire left me in a bit of a conundrum. I was presented with five of their releases to go through for this week’s episode of the show. Unfortunately, two of them were not properly tagged, so they couldn’t be reviewed. Bands, please double-check your ID3 tags in your mp3 files before you send them to radio stations, podcasts, and blogs, and submit your track listings to Gracenote as well if you’re sending CD copies to stations – it only takes five minutes to do this in iTunes. (ten if you’re careful with your typing!)

Corners of Sanctuary are a Philadelphia-based band that classifies itself as the New Wave Of Traditional American Heavy Metal. And they really do consider themselves that. Let’s check the evidence via the three albums that were properly tagged: the 2012 EP Forgotten Hero, their first full-legnth album Breakout (also released in 2012), and their fourth album, 2013’s Axe To Grind.

 

The Forgotten Hero EP (which is presently unavailable to obtain from the band, even as a legal digital download – ) appears to have started out as a demo, judging from the somewhat boxy production. Vocalist Frankie Cross sounds like Geoff Tate without the wannabe-Rob-Halford histrionics (musical and otherwise). The rest of the band (guitarist Mick Michaels, bassist James Pera, and drummer Sean Nelligan) has their textbook metal licks down pat. Michaels in particular is not shredding for the sake of shredding here.

 

Breakout, released a few months after Forgotten Hero (and including the title track from that EP as a bonus track), has somewhat improved production, although a few of the tracks appear to have been recorded at the same time as the Forgotten Hero sessions. Cross’s vocals here appear double tracked for the most part, adding some additional harmonies where needed (including a few high notes that remind me of King Diamond) or effortlessly kicking off a Halford falsetto note in his main vocal (as he does on “Revenge”). A couple of songs sound like clones of each other – a circumstance of writing a lot of material in a concentrated time frame – but when you consider that they wrote enough material for an EP and album and released both within four months of each other, their prolific bent alone is very respectable.

 

Axe To Grind, the most recent of the properly tagged releases we had on hand, sees the band continuing to improve by increments on their production, and their songwriting game has also improved dramatically by this point as well. This album is my favorite out of the three I was given for review. They’re definitely on a roll at this point, and since then, according to their website, they’ve already had a half-dozen other releases out since then on various labels – including a live CD and a compilation. A new drummer – the band’s only personnel change in their history – is on board as of last year, and another EP is already set for release next month.

 

Highlighted tracks:

Cross of War (Forgotten Hero EP)

Revenge (Breakout)

A Fist Full of Vengeance (Axe To Grind)