Reviews Scale The Summit The Collective

Scale The Summit

The Collective

I don't know about you, but a band with a name like 'Scale the Summit' evokes some pretty specific musical imagery for me--huge guitar lines, tons of stylistic shifts, and a definite sense of grandeur all come to mind. What's cool is that's exactly what the Texan instrumental progressive metal quartet sounds like. If you're not following me here, try imagining Canvas Solaris playing with a minor case of sleep deprivation, or a queer combination of Atheist and Fates Warning. You'll get a good idea of what their new album The Collective sounds like.

Scale the Summit's sound is absolutely defined by the word 'triumphant:' all of their releases produce this euphoric sense of accomplishment not uncommon to bands in post-rock like Explosions in the Sky. It's designed to leave the listener feeling drained, or in some state of emotional release. Seemingly at odds with this, a lot of the pieces on their first two albums sounded unnaturally mechanical. Their music to often felt like it should be a lot better than it actually sounded, due in a large part to how soulless the recording seemed to be. This was most noticeable with the lead guitar lines, which seemed to exist in this uncomfortable uncanny valley-esque region on the musical spectrum, flirting with being compellingly sweet and lifelessly mechanical at the same time. While, thankfully, the presence of that issue is more subdued on this album, it still becomes apparent at some times. To get an idea of what I'm talking about, try listening to "Secret Earth" or "Emersion"--either these pieces will pull at your heartstrings with how beautiful they are, or you'll get a very distinct feeling that something inhuman was trying its best to approximate sublimity with only a disturbing degree of success. For the most part, however, The Collective seems to have cleaned up that issue almost entirely. Though their music is every bit as cathartic as it has been in previous releases, their pieces don't rely as heavily on creating that sense of emotional achievement anymore, and the times when it does are done much better than before. In addition, the recording sounds much, much better; the music sounds much more like it was performed by humans and not robots in a lab, and the album is that much more relatable as a result. Pieces like "Colossal," "Black Hills" and "Balkan," which on previous albums would have felt extremely empty, all feel gratifying and rewarding without feeling like they are strained or forced, exactly as they were meant to be.

Another well-executed facet of Scale the Summit's music is that they never stay in one musical place for too long. While they certainly want you to enjoy each of their melodic constructions, each piece is packed to the brim with varying melodies and lines, ensuring that no one part is overplayed so much as to be beaten into the ground. In fact, some of the most interesting riffs on the entire album only show up once or twice, playing for a few seconds in total before disappearing forever. That's not to say that they're so brief that you cannot enjoy their presence; rather, that their presence is exactly as long as it needs to be to be properly enjoyed. Take the excellent track "Whales" as an example--it goes from breezy strumming to thrashing metal, and then goes right back to Cynic-esque jazz-inspired doodling, all over the course of the six-and-a-half minute piece. Not only that, but it also manages to feature one of the better guitar solos of the year--it's really quite an amazing piece. "Gallows" also starts out with some absolutely fantastic metal before proceeding to alternate intensity at the drop of a hat throughout the rest of the piece. When they need to, the band use a lot of their shorter pieces to revel in specific parts of their arsenal of moods without trying to cram them all in the same place. For example, "The Levitated" sketches on some of their lighter melodies for a bit, and "Origin of Species" focuses on their heavier metal riffing.

My favourite part about Scale the Summit, however, has to be their rhythm section. In particular, the drumming on this album is incredibly tight. Though most of the time he keeps to the background doing no more than he needs to, drummer Pat Skeffington's metered use of fills and another embellishments strikes that perfect balance; he's not playing so much that he is overwhelming, and he's not playing so little that he is uninteresting. The man busts out rhythms with machine-like precision--check out "Black Hills" or "Drifting Figures" to get a sense of exactly how tight this man can play. That's not to downplay bassist Jordan Eberhardt's performance, mind you. I absolutely love his presence on the album--he's audible and often brought to the front without being overwhelming or the complete centre of attention, and the music is much better off for it. You can definitely hear his lead bass contributions on "Colossal," and "Alpenglow" has some brief moments of euphoric bass clarity.

The Collective is a much more mature release for Scale the Summit. It's nice to hear that many of the issues that plagued their first couple of albums have been addressed and dealt with. While they've yet to release a truly classic record, it's pleasant to hear that they're doing strongly and only getting better. I'd definitely recommend this album over any of their others if you're looking for something new to try. Any fans of instrumental rock or progressive metal in general should give this album a listen.

7.5 / 10Sarah
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