Have a quick glance at the Mascot Label Group artist roster, and mixed in amongst some of the most famous names on the current blues scene, you’ll find a healthy smattering of the blues bastard child – metal. Lody Kong, Meshiaak, Stoneghost, and now Black Sites, all sit alongside Bonamassa, Cray, and Trout… among many, many others. Hailing from Chicago, Black Sites play doom, they play thrash, they play prog. Hell, you might even hear some Mike Patton tossed into the blender, but above all they play metal, simple as that.
‘M Fisto Waltz’ is a short instrumental opening track. The gentle piano gives way to some crushing riffs, with a neat mariachi trumpet in the background. Leading straight into ‘Dead Languages’, it’s a great way to kick the album off. ‘Dead Languages’ is classic modern metal, loads of tempo changes, breakdowns, buzzsaw guitars with a Dimebag groove, and a nice, clean vocal from Mark Sugar. Where many others would have gone with death growls, Black Sites opt for the clean approach. At times, the song strays into prog territory, but without the over-playing that can often blight the genre. The seven minute almost-title-track ‘Monochrome’ is deliciously riff-heavy and expansive, as Sugar flexes his guitar muscles. Although it has an overall doom feel about it, the song is modern. ‘Burning Away The Day’ begins with (to my ears, at least) a homage to Rainbow, as it tips its hat to the classic ‘Stargazer’. Tribute over with, the song settles into a Maiden-esque galloping rhythm, as Black Sites go full-on classic metal.
‘Hunter Gatherer’ begins with a simple classical acoustic guitar, on a track that recalls early Queensrÿche, and even earlier Scorpions. The plain spoken word vocal from Sugar is highly effective in setting a scene. Simple but dramatic in its execution, it gives way to many twists and turns. Twin guitars lead into more classical guitar, the vocals change from soft spoken word to guttural growls. The Mike Patton comparisons come through on ‘Watching You Fall’, which considering the fact that I reckon Patton is an overrated tit (I never really got Faith No More), I actually enjoyed the track immensely. Go figure. ‘Locked Out – Shut Down’ is thrash through and through. A great mix of clean vocals and death growls, it’s one of the shortest tracks on the album. Mix in some prog guitar breaks and relentless bass drum action from Chris Avgerin, then you have an idea of what it sounds like. By comparison, ‘In The Woods’ is almost double the length, weighing in with an epic eight minutes worth of modern metal, dipping it’s toes in prog. ‘The Tides’ features more gorgeous classical acoustic guitar from Sugar on what might just be the standout track on the album. The mixture of acoustic guitar and full on sludge riffs is incredible, and I’ll be damned if I don’t get another whiff of Patton. It’s actually quite a chilled out four minutes that had me reaching for the repeat button once it finished.
An album of different shades, with songs for all moods… now bring on some live shows!
Available now through Mascot Label Group
Review – Dave Stott