In the five years since their formation, Black Sites have managed to create quite the reputation for themselves. Their 2019 release Exile received rave reviews and ended up on a number of year-end lists. The hype was well deserved, earned by their fresh blend of metal traditionalism and progressive experimentation.
Untrue doesn’t divert too far from the building blocks that brought them success—and good thing, too, because this record rips.
The riffs are rooted in classic acts like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, complete with massive palm muted gallops, fill-happy drums, and harmonized guitar solos. Similarly, the vocal melodies are soaring and anthemic, even at their most ominous. However, these tried-and-true elements are injected with a healthy dose of ambitious exploration. The songs are structured more like prog rock epics than a typical verse-chorus arrangement. There are recurring motifs in each track, but they mostly shift from one passage to the next without much regard for refrains. In a way, it feels like the intersection of the way Baroness uses classic heavy metal tropes and the way Elder composes their songs.
While the entire album is a blistering sonic barrage, the standout track is “Nocturne/Everything Went Black,” which is ironically one of the few songs with a defined chorus. It opens with a hushed clean guitar arpeggio accompanying an emotive vocal performance from Mark Sugar. A bluesy lead joins in for a few bars, then the song bursts with a heavy reinterpretation of the opening section. Two and a half minutes in, the pace quickens to a gallop as if they’re at the front of the cavalry. The song shifts from vocal passages to fiery solos, ending with a climax that would make Ronnie James Dio proud.
All in all, it’s a fantastic record. Part of me was convinced that no one made metal records like this anymore. There’s no shortage of bands trying to recapture the magic of classic metal, but it’s difficult to find one that does so without a generous helping of corniness or tongue-in-cheek irony. But on Untrue, Black Sites plays with devout conviction. This is their native language, and they are bellowing from the mountain tops.