As all of the metal world knows by now, we lost Sanctuary/ex-Nevermore vocalist Warrel Dane a couple of days ago. This is on par with losing Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell; this loss is beyond words.

But I do have a couple of funny stories to offer up…

April 1988: I saw an album by a band called Sanctuary at a record store in Rutherford. Looking at the back, I saw a dude with SUPER long hair (mine was short at the time) and instantly thought “This band must be pretty good.” So I bought the cassette without knowing ANYTHING about this band. Smart move on my part: I was blown away by what was coming out of my boom box speakers. Warrel had that voice that could cut through concrete….yeah it was pretty awesome!

Saw Sanctuary play a tiny club in Newark around the same time, and needless to say, they were just amazing. Also have to add that there were maybe 20 people there the whole night. After the show, I somehow found the balls to walk up to Warrel and said “Dude, your hair!” He looked at me and said, “One day yours will get there.” I told him and bassist Jim Sheppard that I had just heard of the band a week prior to this show and Jim said “Would have been nice to have played to a crowd but…” Soon after, they were on tour with Megadeth, so yeah they got to play to more crowds!

Cut to 2000: I pick up a cd by a band called Nevermore entitled DEAD HEART IN A DEAD WORLD. “Oh shit, this is Warrel’s band?!” Instantly bought it, threw it in the cd player and yep…eyebrows scorched right off. And it was 7-string guitar playing too! SWEET! Saw the band with a guitar student in December 2000 at…a skating rink in Wayne, NJ!? (There’s video of this show and you can hear Warrel saying “This is the weirdest show I’ve ever played!”) Man, Nevermore just blew the other bands off the stage! Meanwhile, little Jimmy was skating with his parents on the other side of the building. Yep, Spinal Tap to the max.

Afterwards, I saw Jim Sheppard at the snack bar and he said “Hey man! Pipeline Club! You were there!” I was shocked that he remembered. He found Warrel and said “Remember this guy?” Warrel looked at me and said in a deadpan voice, “Dude…your hair.” I rarely get tongue-tied but on this night, words couldn’t come out of my mouth. I said “Wow, thanks for remembering, I didn’t expect that.” Warrel said that this was definitely the most bizarre night of his life and thanked me for coming, and asked “How did it sound out there?”

Sounded like a metal show at a skating rink, of course!

Upon reading the news that Warrel passed away, I was instantly transported back to 1988 when I was a short-haired geek who felt lucky to be talking to this new metal band. No, I am not going to sit here and say I knew the guy, but I was emotional just the same. The outpouring of sadness and good memories came flooding through on social media; it’s nice to know that despite such tense times, metal can bring everyone together.

And as Warrel said about Chuck Schuldiner, I too will say the same thing…

“Let the metal flow into eternity…”