Scale The Summit
posted on 4/2011 By:
Instrumental progressive metal will likely never become a truly “hot” item in the metal and rock scenes, but Scale the Summit has certainly had a large part in bringing this relatively demanding style to a wider and younger audience in the past couple of years. Their high-profile 2009 release, Carving Desert Canyons, was a brilliant example of technical, complex instrumental metal that remained accessible and highly listenable, thanks to the band’s fondness for uplifting melody and the memorable song structures they implemented with their deft musicianship.
The Collective shows Scale the Summit’s efforts to move beyond the direction they honed so well on their first two albums while remaining true to the hallmarks of the sound of these releases. The bulk of The Collective is primarily an extension of the outfit’s bread and butter: complex and highly melodic progressive metal with a healthy dose of jazzy instrumental interplay. But, as the non-landscape cover-art would suggest, there are a number of subtle developments at play here that make this album a refreshing step forward for Scale the Summit without venturing near the dreaded fan-alienation zone.
Many will notice immediately that The Collective is a somewhat darker, moodier animal when compared with the primarily bright and energetic tone of Monument and Carving Desert Canyons. No, there aren’t any grim tremolo riffs or haunting keyboards, but many of the melodic compositions conjure a more morose, melancholy vibe, and the greater emphasis on quiet atmospherics throughout the record adds to this undercurrent. The emotional element (a key facet of the band’s music) feels more conflicted this time around; the uplifting tones are still dutifully represented, but now they’re delivered in the context of some downbeat, pensive songwriting as well. The contrast is refreshing in that it allows the band more leeway to branch out of their established framework, giving their amazing instrumental abilities greater freedom to explore a new kind of musical narrative.
Of course, these instrumental abilities are an important part of Scale the Summit’s sound, and to this end, The Collective doesn’t disappoint. The intricacy shown in the two guitar tracks is still something to be marveled at, the drumming strikes an ideal balance between solid support and confident showmanship, and the nimble and melodic bass playing of Jordan Eberhardt is given even more room to shine thanks to the prominence of the instrument in the mix. But more so than the outfit’s previous two albums, The Collective emphasizes the “collective” harmony of the sounds of the instruments more than highlighting one over the others. While much of the material on Carving Desert Canyons and Monument saw each individual instrument competing for time in the spotlight, the music here is more diplomatic in its construction. This makes for a more cohesive listening experience, but it also means that jaw-dropping, instantly memorable moments like the finger-tapping solo in “The Great Plains” are a rarer occurrence, and some of the tension is sacrificed when everything seems to be operating on a more cooperative level.
Overall, The Collective feels like a more challenging record than what many of the band’s fans may be expecting or even hoping for. There’s less focus on stellar individual progressions and infectious riffs in favor of a broader, more diverse, and ultimately more daunting listening experience. It feels like Scale the Summit has made a greater effort to have The Collective serve more as a long narrative composition broken down into parts rather than the song-based nature of the first two discs, and the longer running time and increased focus on quiet buildups and darker atmosphere bolsters this notion. While I can’t say that this album will amaze those of you already familiar with the band’s previous releases, The Collective is still a fresh continuation of Scale the Summit’s past work, and remains a rewarding listening experience for those willing to work through its less accessible nature.
Register to post comments.