A little bit ago, I had the pleasure of premiering Black Sites’ track titled “Feral Child,” and upon spinning it just once I knew I had to get ahold of the full length. With one previous record in the books, the second chapter is titled Exile which delivers a super fresh serving of melodic heavy metal with progressive chops that reign over the entire release. The first thing that may come to mind is a modern-day Queensryche, but rest assured that Black Sites have an identity entirely of their own that’s far from just that.
Modern sounding guitar tones that are cooked well-done but played in an old school style are the essential materials for what we’ve got before us. Such an intriguing combo which can be heard right off the bat in “The Night They Came For You,” and it fits perfectly with the clean vocals that front every track. There isn’t a hint of anything harsh or even signs of falsettos, keeping the singing focused. Naturally, this allows room for softer tunes like “Coal City” with a delivery so smooth that it’s emotional.
But even songs like that cram in proggy solos and fun drum beats ensuring that the whole release remains consistent within the variety. Thanks to the cleanliness you can hear the bass passages very clearly, adding another layer of vibrancy and the overall ability to feel the energy rather just hear it. The previously mentioned “Feral Child” does this while also implementing steady chugs built on some of the tightest rhythm writing with the way it teams with the guitars to create such a chilling atmosphere.
Speaking of teaming up, the dual guitar passages creating transitions in attitude by bouncing off of each other is unbelievable. Since most of the songs are on the upper end of five minutes (or more), there is plenty of space for innovation, and the outro of “Dream Long Dead” is easily the best lead/rhythm combo emulated from the entire disc. What’s also neat is the complete one-eighty in writing with the way it breaks into the next track “Focused Totality / The Psychic Knife.” This number incorporates speed metal riffs with sudden shifts into start/stop strumming territory and a harmony littered outro.
Such a vast horizon of ideas staying so consistent is what the true magic of Exile boils down to. It has absolutely everything; deep songwriting, layers, emotion, speed, good production, melody, memorability, and complexity. Having this much to work with can cause experimentation that leads to disaster, but Black Sites have truly gotten it pinned down, and the planets have aligned. It’s fragile in the sense that one small thing going wrong would ruin it, but that’s not a problem here. I know that it’s pretty early in the year, but this album is easily my favorite of the year so far, reaching my idea of perfection.