Warrel Dane ‘Shadow Work’ Review

Incredible posthumous release 8.5/10Warrel Dane band

The posthumous solo album from the immensely talented former Sanctuary and Nevermore vocalist, is due to be released October 26.

Sanctuary was ‘discovered’ by Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) after he was handed a demo by guitarist Lenny Rutledge. Mustaine produced, provided backing vocals and even a blistering guitar solo for ‘White Rabbit’ on their Sanctuary debut, Refuge Denied. This Jefferson Airplane cover, demonstrated the diverse vocal range and power of Dane and was my introduction to the band. Nevermore in turn evolved from the refusal to jump on the 90’s grunge bandwagon, their debut EP contains a Bauhaus medley. There had been talk of a Nevermore reunion, which is sadly now impossible.

Praises to the War Machine, Warrel Danes 2008 debut contained material as diverse as the melodic prog power metal of thrash influenced Messenger, to a gloriously heavy Sisters of Mercy cover (Lucretia, My Reflection) the emotional Brother, ­­by way of an incredible and terrifying re-imagining of Paul Simon’s ‘Patterns’.

The recording of this album commenced in autumn of 2017, with Danes tour band of Brazilian musicians Johnny Moraes (guitar), Thiago Oliveira (guitar), Fabio Carito (bass) and Marcus Dotta (drums). During the recording process it was stated that

‘“Shadow Work” will offer darker, heavier, more complex songs, occasionally flirting with extreme metal by incorporating such elements as blast beats and combining this with Warrel Dane’s unique, dramatic trademark vocals.’

With a truly unique style of vocals ranging from smooth molten chocolate to banshee wail, Danes untimely departure of this plane, during the recording of this body of work is a terrible shame. Despite such tragedy, a surprisingly proficient and cohesive product has emerged from the pre-production tracking, demo and recording sessions available.

Warrel Dane

Ethereal Blessing is a haunting and highly unexpected introduction, complete with strings and Eastern influenced percussion. While Madame Satan continues to surprise with its incredibly guttural vocals, in addition to the typical silky baritone of Dane. The production is astonishing, with its melodic backing vocals yet it is deliciously dark, technical and very heavy.  Disconnection System continues in a similar vein and is a testament to the musicianship and passion of the band. The anthemic As Far as the Others disrupts the melancholia, with a powerful ode to the downtrodden and freaks, based upon a boyhood friendship with a boy who was wheelchair bound and the issues of bullying. Poignantly, guitarists Thiago Oliveira and Johnny Moraes recall

“One day, Warrel came into my studio with this strong, anthemic melody that called in for a mellower song. I worked on riffs and arrangements for the next days and soon he came in with these lyrics.
After Warrel had passed away, as a tribute, I gathered many singer friends who were Warrel’s fans and friends to take his melody and turn it into this arena rock singalong, as both a celebration and memorial. Needless to say, it was as beautiful as it was devastating.”

Shadow Work the title track is indeed ‘like a hound that haunts you and drags you to the ground’, it’s powerful, welcoming and melancholy. The Hanging Garden is once more an epic choice of cover, this time by The Cure and is as haunting and percussion driven as the original. However it is excitingly reimagined as (dare I say) a death metal classic and its bloody great. The pace slows a little for Rain an incredibly moving ballad with Dane in great voice and such delicacy.

Mother is the Word for God is simply magical and an incredible close to the diverse musical repertoire of Warrel Dane.

Warrel Dane RIP

The album covers elements of thrash, technical, death, progressive, metalcore and even groove metal and it’s difficult to imagine what it must have taken to complete this. At times it’s easy to reflect upon how Warrel Dane might have finally chosen the vocal progression or end product, other moments certainly wow.

In all this is a celebration and a fantastic tribute to a truly magnificent voice in metal.

Jens Prüter, Head of A&R, and Stefan Franke, Product Manager of Century Media Records, have stated:

“ The dedication his band, Travis Smith (artist) and our team invested in completing “Shadow Work” was astonishing and the entire record carries an eerie atmosphere of Warrel already feeling that this might be his last work. It is heartbreaking that he was right in the end. Rest in peace, friend.”

Warrel Dane Shadow Work Album Cover

Shadow Work will be released as Special Edition CD Mediabook offering a 44-page booklet, as Gatefold LP plus CD and 12-page LP booklet and on all digital platforms. Each song is illustrated by Travis Smith’s art, created as his personal tribute to Warrel and further explained in his personal liner notes. Furthermore, photos, lyrics and moving statements from the musicians are included as well.

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