They released a demo in 1986, which was well received, and that led them to sign with Epic Records in 1987. They released their debut album, Refuge Denied, in the same year. It was produced by Dave Mustaine, frontman of thrash metal band Megadeth. Thus followed a tour alongside Megadeth and the German band Warlock.
After the tour, they entered the studio to record their second studio album, Into the Mirror Black. It was released in Europe in 1989, while the US version came out the following year. A video clip for the song "Future Tense" was made and received some airplay on MTV's Headbanger's Ball. During the tour (with the bands Fates Warning,Forbidden and Death Angel), the guitarist Sean Blosl left the band and was replaced by Jeff Loomis.
Shortly after, pressure from Epic Records to fit in with the flourishing Seattle grunge scene caused disagreements between band members regarding the band's musical direction. In 1992, Sanctuary officially disbanded.
Epic Records was to release a full length live recording from this final tour, but only a limited number of copies of a promotional live EP ever saw the light of day. It was named Into The Mirror Live.
Refuge Denied and Into The Mirror Black were re-released as a double CD set by IronBird Records on February 22, 2010.