Black Sites is a heavy/prog metal band active since 2015. Lucas Biela (LB) interviewed them for ISKC Radio Group.
1/ LB: Black Sites are quite new on the scene, but its members are not born yesterday. Could you tell us how the project was born?
MS [Mark Sugar, guitars & vocals in the band]: We were born a very long time ago! The short version of our origin story is that after playing in a ‘modern thrash’ band for years, I wanted to try something that was more influenced by classic metal and progressive rock, and see if I could do something original with it. I enlisted some friends, including Ryan Bruchert (guitar) and eventually our current drummer Garry Naples, and that brings us to the current lineup of Black Sites.
2/ LB: Curious minds will click on the bands associated with each member of the band on Metal Archives website. And oh, surprise, background is mostly in extreme metal. You are far from being just another average prog metal band with all the derogatory traits associated, you seem to keep the dark side of extreme metal in your music, without overusing the technique of prog metal. That makes things deeper and more interesting. What made you choose this musical direction with this project?
MS: Our direction, initially, was just combining elements from bands and records that I liked. I wanted the memorable songwriting of classic metal, the twists and turns of prog rock, the tightness of thrash, and the dark worldview of extreme metal. It’s pretty obvious who our main influences are, although I think it’s melded into a sound that belongs to only us at this point.
Our sound was not really “chosen” or thought about in-depth. As the guy writing the songs, this is simply what felt right to me at the time, and still does.
3/ LB: All your albums (3 so far) garnered favourable opinions. Did you expect such enthusiasm or were you anxious at the idea of playing a style that was somewhat new for you?
MS: I never know what to expect. The albums have gotten increasingly good responses, especially “Untrue,” and that’s awesome to hear. However, I think we’d still keep making records even if everyone hated them, because we’re stubborn that way.
I didn’t personally feel any anxiety about this band or the directions we’ve gone in. I knew I needed to become a better singer and writer in order to make it work, but that’s been a challenge that I am enjoying very much.
4/ LB: On your second album, there is a song ‘Dream Long Dead’ with strong gothic rock overtones. Another one, ‘Focused Totality’ brings to mind Voivod. Besides, you covered Queensrÿche’s «En Force», while your sound is as muddy as that of Melvins. This gives a clue on your influences, or at least part of your influences. What are other influences (bands, styles)?
MS: Voivod and Queensrÿche are both major ingredients. The gothic thing also plays a part, although a lot of that is just that we play dark music and I have a lower voice than most metal singers. Speaking for myself, I’d say the other major influences are Hammers of Misfortune, Black Sabbath, King’s X, Trouble, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, and late ‘80s thrash. There’s a million other bands in that mix as well, but that’s the foundation.
5/ LB: Given the context during which your last album, ‘Untrue’, was written, did you manage to meet to share ideas or did you work all remotely? On a general note, how do you compose?
MS: It might be easier to answer the 2nd part first. Usually I’ll write songs/parts on my own, and present them to the other guys in the band, at which point they’ll do their own arrangements and put their signature on things.
We’ve been working remotely to some extent even before Covid, just due to scheduling and the fact that some of us live farther apart than we used to. Things were a bit more distant on “Untrue” than on “Exile,” but I don’t think it affected the quality of the record or is even really noticeable. I was able to meet up with Ryan (guitars) in person to record a tiny bit of acoustic guitar that appears on the record, but otherwise the entire thing was done without us seeing each other at all. It’s not my preferred way to make an album, but we did what we had to do.
6/ LB: Again, with the sanitary context, are there any plans to tour to promote your new album?
MS: “Tour” is a strong word, but we are currently breaking in our new bassist, and there is intent to play some shows perhaps in the spring.
7/ LB: As I said you get rave reviews of your albums…in hard rock and metal webzines and magazines. As your music is labelled « progressive », I was wondering if you get any feedback from prog magazines or prog-oriented websites? I for one don’t see your name often (let’s say never) pop up in prog groups on social networks. Their loss, you will say 🙂
MS: I don’t think most of them consider us a true prog band, and to be honest, I’m not sure that I do either. There are a few prog-oriented sites that have taken a liking to us, and we are grateful for them. Black Sites is not an easy band to put a label on, apparently.
8/ LB: What do you think of the current prog metal scene, especially the djent-oriented one?
MS: I’m not a huge djent fan personally. The whole subgenre seems very derivative of Meshuggah, although there’s a couple bands/projects that have managed to make slight innovations. Beyond that, I’m not really sure what to make of the scene overall. A lot of modern prog seems fixated on technique and fancy gear, which has never interested me. But there are also some bands that are writing incredible songs, and I’ll always be here for that.
9/ Anything else you want to add?
MS: I’d just like to say ‘thanks’ for having us. And if anyone’s read this far, check out our new album “Untrue.” You never know, you might enjoy it!
Full ‘Untrue’ album on youtube: