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Black Sites - 'In Monochrome' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/97/63/fb/Black-Sites-In-Monochrome-88-1503310158.jpg Hot

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Heralds the birth of a promising new band.

Admit it, you'd be stunned if Lionel Messi signed for Real Madrid and you'd literally be speechless if James Hetfield quit Metallica and joined Babymetal. Although not quite as jaw dropping, fans of extreme noise merchant Mark Sugar may be equally aghast by his defection to a major label and the glitzy world of heavy-riffing, Progressive Metal. No doubt there will be some shouts of "sell-out"!

When Trials – Sugar's former Metalcore act – called it quits in 2015, he had a clear vison for his next band; clean vocals and classic song-writing informed by old-school Metal, Prog and Hard Rock. Black Sites have fulfilled that goal in style, melding said touchstones together in a way that's classic, contemporary and uniquely identifiable in its own right.

Following ominous instrumental 'M Fisto Waltz', these eight tracks twist and turn like a snake with ADD as different styles and moods colour every song. 'Dead Languages' features a coruscating Dream Theater riff, chunky Tony Iommi groove and a venomous semi-whispered chorus. The thudding title-track echoes Porcupine Tree and Tool, while powerhouse Rocker 'Burning Away The Day' is ignited by a killer hook, incessant drumming and flashes of Rainbow, UFO and Iron Maiden before a lethal, Thrashy finale.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Sugar's compositional skill is a revelation, but the contribution of his band shouldn't be overlooked. Joining him are noted players from Chicago's underground Metal scene, including ex-Trials guitarist Ryan Bruchert – which explains the pair's telepathic and powerful six-string interplay – bassist John Picillo of Without Waves and drummer Chris Avgerin from Nequient and Autonomy.

Their collective understanding and individual abilities (relax... no overtly Proggy noodling here!) are well showcased on the epic 'Hunter Gatherer'. Ambient acoustic picking swells into soaring Queensrÿche territory and builds to a menacing conclusion where Sugar uses his extreme, Trials-esque delivery to striking effect.

The singer's clean vocals initially seem functional and a weak link, and yet there's an authenticity and restless edginess about his pugnacious streetwise attack and haunted crooning that bleeds conviction, offering a refreshingly different, idiosyncratic counterpoint to the maelstrom of sonic thunder raging around him.

Overall, 'In Monochrome' heralds the birth of a promising new band and proves that Sugar's reinvention is, dare we say it, very sweet indeed.

Simon Ramsey

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