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Needed For Future Potential - 70%

Sweetie, July 12th, 2019

Earlier this year, I streamed a track as well as covered the newest album by Black Sites. Those who remember, Exile is a potential album of the year for me, if not at least in the top couple. After a little digging, I found their previous record, the debut album from two years prior titled In Monochrome. It’s a pretty far cry from being as great as Exile, but it definitely holds a warm enough flame in its own merits.

For those familiar, something to know right off the bat is that this effort is far less traditional or “classic” sounding in build. The album cover may give that away, plus it’s a bit more modern in sound and uses more progressive tactics. For some, that’s a good thing, but truth be told, the first fifteen minutes were quite tough to get through. Indeed, a slow start is made from nothing memorable until the fourth track titled “Burning Away The Day.” It’s got some really beefy hooks, and it packs a lot of energy.

Regarding the rest, it’s thankfully written a lot better and showcases the musicians’ skill decently. To say the least, there are definitely some surprises thrown in. “Locked Out, Shut Down” is the heaviest Black Sites has ever gone. I don’t recall any tracks that use harsh vocals outside of this one, and the riffs come close to landing on thrash soil. I also really like “Hunter Gatherer” because of its slow and steady minor tones taking the forefront. In Monochrome ends on a softer note with “The Tide,” a beautiful acoustic ballad that picks up the pace towards the end. The vocal harmonies help it go out with a bang!

While this may not have been as impressive as I had wished, it’s likely due to me letting the most recent effort over-shadow it. But when push comes to shove, it’s a worthwhile disc that I highly recommend to those who like progressive metal that isn’t too ridiculous. Definitely a grower, and if you can get through the beginning, you’re set!

Originally written for Indy Metal Vault

Modern yet Old School goodness - 90%

ihate_00, December 12th, 2018

Trying to put the label of a specific genre on a band can be quite hard at times. 'Black Sites' is such a band, which incorporates various influences in their music, creating a mixture of many genres in their sound. But at the end of the day, music is all about enjoyment. And this band has a cast of skillful musicians producing a unique metal experience that is bound to make you head-bang like a maniac and hit the repeat button as soon as the album ends.

'Black Sites' has elements of quite a lot of genres in their style. At times they are quite progressive, they can be very thrash-y and the overall influences of the hard rock and heavy metal legends are instantly recognizable often. On paper, it seems like a monumental task to endeavor in so many different styles of music in one album, you would think such as approach would surely lead into some erroneous composition taking the valiant attempt into downfall with its overambitious nature. But proving my all misgivings wrong, these guys passed with flying colors.

To talk about an album like this without going into its different tracks is rather injustice, so I will briefly talk about the 9 tracks, which are varied yet has a sense of cohesiveness keeping the execution flowing.

It all starts with the intro 'M Fisto Waltz' which starts with a calming piano, leading into a crushing electric guitar riff. This then merges with the second track 'Dead Languages' almost effortlessly, setting the overall mood for the album. 'Dead Languages' is chock full of tight riffing, pounding drums and introduces us to the clean yet passionate singing by 'Mark Sugar'. Then comes the 7 minute long epic 'Monochrome', which starts with a soothing acoustic guitar, which quickly explodes into yet another exquisite riff, this song features some epic vocal performance as well.

'Burning Away The Day' is an unusual track in a rather good way, featuring clear influences from 1970s hard rock and prog rock yet sounding remarkably modern. 'Hunter Gatherer' is quite definitely one of the strongest tracks of the album, with its beautiful intro leading the way for some very dark and moody riffs, passionate vocals and a sweet little solo. 'Watching You Fall' might sound rather melodic compared to the other tracks, it still bears the characteristic sign of the band and creates a mood of foreboding. 'Locked Out (Shut Down)' is the trashiest song of the lot, featuring some passionate growling, which also has some beautiful melodic parts incorporated in between. "In The Woods' is just prog metal at its finest, with its 8+ minutes of length and flowing transition between slow and heavy arts. 'The Tides' is really a fitting closer, ending with some beautiful acoustic guitar work mixed with another dose of heavy riffing jammed in closer to the end.

These four know their own strengths perfectly and they showcased it all throughout the work with their passionate musicianship. 'Mark Sugar' and 'Ryan Bruchert' played their twin guitars brilliantly complementing each other and the overall structure effortlessly. The drumming by 'Chris Avgerin' never misses a bit and reminds us of the glory days of old hard rock and heavy metal while sounding shamelessly modern at times. And the bass from 'John Picillo' gives the others a solid base to work upon.

I can maybe write down about twenty bands which these guys sound like throughout different parts of this album, but I would rather everyone reading this review should give these guys a chance like I did. Trust me, you will be listening to this one for a long while once you start, as this clearly is one of the best metal albums of 2017.

Overall Score -
9 out of 10.

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