As seems to be a theme in many recent releases we have looked at there is something familiar to and at play within In Monochrome, the new album from US metallers Black Sites, and like within many, it is an essence which only adds to the potency and enjoyment of its individual enterprise.
Chicago based Black Sites emerged in 2015 from the mind and intent of vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Mark Sugar (Bear Mace, ex-Trials) “to challenge myself with clean singing and by writing well-crafted songs.” Drawing on inspirations taken from old school metal, prog rock, hard rock, and classic songwriting, Sugar drew upon the talent of drummer Chris Avgerin (Nequient, Autonomy) to bring the idea to reality with bassist John Picillo (Without Waves, Immortal Bird) subsequently joining the duo during recording sessions at Gunpoint Recording Studios alongside recording engineer Quentin Poynter (The Skull) and ex-Trials guitarist Ryan Bruchert joining up after the recordings.
What emerged from that moment is an album which captivates from start to finish; it has moments of sheer majesty but only captures the imagination and enjoyment from its first to last moments. In Monochrome opens with the instrumental M Fisto Waltz, its piano led theatre a dark intriguing lure which grows and broadens note by dramatic note until rising in a crescendo of classic metal incitement with glorious flames of brass leading to the waiting jaws of Dead Languages where grooves instantly entwine ears as riffs snarl and devour the senses. With the rapier swings and growl of drums and bass, it is a formidable and fiercely appealing mix only enhanced by Sugar’s clean tones. The track is superb, a rousing threat and incitement already feeling familiar but relishing such hues in its own almost carnivorously virulent sound and enterprise. Sugar’s guitar craft is just as appetising, grooves a steely nest of inventive vipers winding around his melodic endeavours and the growling trespass of rhythms.
A mix of varied metal flavours round Black Sabbath seeded grooves, the outstanding track is followed by the equally dynamic and creatively predatory Monochrome. Grooves and hooks swiftly create another ear enslaving net as progressive melodies and essences weave magnetic enticement aside formidable rhythmic pressure. Sugar’s vocals again impressively share clean and varying levels of growling intent across the song, adding additional texture to the slightly mellower, compared to its predecessor, roar of the striking encounter.
Burning Away The Day rumbles and grumbles next, its tapestry of sonic dexterity quickly engaging ears and appetite as the senses take another forceful incitement from earthy basslines and the jabbing swings of Avgerin’s hungry beats. A creative blur of hard rock and classic metal, the track resourcefully blazes within ears, skilfully blending melodic seduction with rapacious aggression before the excellent Hunter Gatherer caresses the imagination with its melodic grace and increasingly volatile and dynamic adventure, every moment developing suggestive drama as compelling as it is tempestuous.
There is a more stable nature and climate to Watching You Fall, its character at times like a blend of Type O Negative and Fates Warning and more irresistibly engaging with every listen while Locked Out – Shut Down mixes irritability and sonic artfulness in its own unpredictable maze of sound and imagination. It too took a little longer than other tracks to tempt to the same degree but convince it surely did with its psychosis of contrasting textures embroiled in some of the album’s most skilled and stylish craft.
In Monochrome concludes with the pair of In The Woods and lastly The Tides, both tracks a gentler affair though the first from a melodic simmer bursts into a fire of emotive intensity and incendiary energy around another tapestry of varied hues and suggestive adventure. Its successor is an acoustically woven ballad crafted with folk essences which also turns its smouldering attraction into a fevered blaze of emotive drama and sonic passion to ensure the album leaves on a final high.
As impressive as it is first time around, In Monochrome is a grower which really comes to life as each listen unveils new depths and layers of invention. It is not the most unique offering yet that is another reason why it is so potent, Black Sites sharing their open inspirations in their own undoubtedly individual way.
In Monochrome is out now through Mascot Records/Mascot Label Group across most stores.
Pete RingMaster 03/05/2017
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