Scale The Summit
Carving Desert Canyons
posted on 7/2009 By:
Scale the Summit’s second album Carving Desert Canyons was one of those that just slipped through the cracks here at Metal Review. It sat unreserved in our queue for so long that I’m sure a few of you readers were wondering if these guys played some kind of alternative nu-grunge or any other assortment of styles that is generally unpopular with our staff here. Well, I for one would like to apologize to Scale the Summit for giving them the shaft before hearing them, because Carving Desert Canyons flat out blew me away right from the get-go and I consider myself extremely fortunate that I was the one to take a chance on these guys.
Scale the Summit play noodly, instrumental progressive metal that manages to lean towards the technical and complex end of the spectrum without straying into the boring clusterfuck territory occupied by so many like-minded projects. The band’s instrumental abilities are stunning, showcasing obvious jazz training and years of experience, but while the songs here are highly demanding of both mind and fingers, they are also extremely musical. The compositions never sound confused or lacking motivation, each following a logical (if somewhat head-spinning) narrative structure, peaking with intense bursts of engaging heaviness before easing back into relaxing periods of clean jazzy flow and inspiring lead guitar. The production renders every instrument with ideal depth and clarity, and the two guitarists weave in and out of each other’s playing like coiling snakes, occasionally following the same pattern but more often shifting it around until a harmony or polyrhythm you didn’t even think was there shows itself. The album’s reasonable length was a wise decision; eight tracks in just under forty minutes, with nary a second of filler to be found. But considering that all eight of these songs follow roughly the same compositional formula, it’s amazing how intricate and diverse Carving Desert Canyons feels. When its over, you want to turn right around and start it again, just because of the feast of assorted riffs and figures Scale the Summit have managed to cram into this disc.
Aside from their obvious compositional prowess, what really separates Carving Desert Canyons for me is the abundance of beautiful melodies these guys base their songs around. Scale the Summit take the uplifting riffwork of bands like Pelican and use their mastery of melodic scales to elevate the sound to entirely new heights. The warm opening of “Bloom,” the breathtaking finger-tapped riff in “The Great Plains,” and the gorgeous, soaring climax of “Age of the Tide” are just a couple of incredible individual moments that lend a distinctly human quality to this instrumental work. And while some segments will undoubtedly stand out more than others depending on the listener’s preference, the consistency of this album is remarkable. Plenty of instrumental prog releases have maybe four or five truly memorable parts, but Scale the Summit have written an album’s worth of excellent material, and the extra attention paid to hooks and melody is just as noteworthy on the first listen as it is on the twentieth. This album has an addictive quality to it that I just can’t shake, and not since Pelican’s The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw have I felt such an emotional connection to music without vocals.
Scale the Summit is a great example of a modern-day band that can be highly technical and progressive without sacrificing any of the spirit or catchiness that we love about great metal music. Above all the hyperbole I’ve heaped on throughout this review, this is simply incredibly enjoyable music to listen to, and I believe that just about any sort of metal or hard rock fan could appreciate this stuff if given the proper chance. Carving Desert Canyons is easily the most pleasant surprise I’ve experienced so far in 2009, and has convincingly solidified a spot on my year-end list. Don’t miss out.
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