Album Review By Chris Palmer
Hailing from Chicago, USA, comes four-piece band Black Sites. According to the band’s press release, Black Sites is a supergroup of sorts and features some of the finest musicians from Chicago’s underground metal scene. The band is comprised of Mark Sugar (ex-Trials) [Vocals/Guitar], Ryan Bruchert (ex-Trials) [Guitar], John Picillo (Without Waves, Immortal Birds) [Bass], and Chris Avgerin (ex-Autonomy, ex-Lost Dog) [Drums].
It can be said that Black Sites was formed in 2015 when Mark Sugar had a creative breakthrough. Being the guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the band Trials, this creative breakthrough led him to leave that so-called modern metal legacy behind and forge a new one. I can honestly say that I’ve not heard of Mark’s previous band, so cannot comment. However, having heard the new material from Black Sites, the term “Modern Metal Legacy” is a perfect description.
To give you an idea of what Black Sites sound like, I’d like to take the following quote from the band’s press release:. “The four-piece band draws inspiration from a panoramic pedigree of classic and modern metal and hard rock influences including Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Fates Warning, Motorhead, Queensryche, Voivod, Hammers of Misfortune, and Dawnbringer.”
All these aforementioned influences come together in the form of debut album, “In Monochrome”, which was released on February 17th via Mascot Records. The album runs for a total time of 50 minutes and 38 seconds over ten slabs of invigorating heavy metal. It should be noted that Mark and Chris worked on the original demos as a duo. The recording of the album took place in Gunpoint Recording Studios with engineer Quentin Poynter. Bassist John joining the band halfway through the sessions and guitarist Ryan signed on after the recordings were complete.
The album itself begins with the short instrumental number “M Fisto Waltz”, which contains some beautiful sounding keyboards and guitar strings before pounding you in the face with heavy riffs and a pummeling rhythm section that leads you into the excellent “Dead Languages”. Containing an impressive groove and heavy riffs, “Dead Languages” is a terrific number that’ll have you nodding your head and singing along to the memorable vocals. I’m hooked immediately after such a superb opening and can’t wait for what comes next.
I’m not disappointed as the equally terrific “Monochrome” hits me with a flurry of excellent guitar-play and outrageous riffs that have me headbanging right off the bat. With its well-timed changes in tempo and excellent instrument-play, this is an absolutely cracking listen that’ll have you hitting the repeat button numerous times. The same can be said for “Burning Away The Day”, which increases the speed a bit with a series or pummeling riffs and fast drumming as Black Sites blast through this 5+ minute monster. A little respite is allowed as “Hunter Gatherer” begins with light strings and vocals, before the tempo starts to rise as you approach the halfway point … Furious bouts of banging-of-the-head is now the order of the day! Man, the rhythm and groove is an absolute joy to the ears as the band bring the first half of the album to a close.
The second half kicks off with “Watching You Fall”, which keeps the momentum going with another impressive and contagiously heavy rhythm and impressive vocal performance. “Locked Out – Shut Down” swiftly follows with its unique guitar-play and combined clean/harsh vocal attack. The guitars and drums pull you into “In The Woods” and are joined by impressive bass lines before those vocals come in, as Black Sites launch into another display of musical excellence. This track contains varying speed/tempo levels and the guitar-play throughout is thoroughly enjoyable. “The Tides” crawls along with a beautiful combination of strummed guitars and melodic vocals, thus bringing an air of calm to proceedings. Don’t get too comfortable though, as that calm will soon be shattered with the arrival of heavy riffage during the second half, setting you up perfectly for the album closer, “Steamrock Fever”.
The ten tracks throughout “In Monochrome” blast past in what feels like just a few minutes. The album is a thoroughly invigorating listen and one that begs to be repeated numerous times. Each track contains a variety of positive elements, from uncompromising heavy moments, to the more melodic with unexpected twists and turns, which can be associated with both modern and classic Progressive Hard Rock/Heavy Metal.
Performed with musicianship of the highest order, “In Monochrome” is an album full of heavy metal riffs and vibey grooves. It’s an album that is an essential addition to your music collection and Black Sites is a band that you must definitely check out. I hope to get the opportunity to see these guys in a live environment one day soon and await with anticipation for the next piece of musical excellence. Terrific job guys!
M Fisto Waltz
Burning Away The Day
Watching You Fall
Locked Out – Shut Down
In The Woods
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