Scale the Summit is one of the leading instrumental bands in America today along with Canvas Solaris and Animals As Leaders. While their music doesn’t relate to ASL’s ‘djent’ or Solaris’technical metal’, their 7 and 8 string guitars, 6 string bass melodic layering and innovative drum work have created a graceful fusion of prog, metal and an overall jazz feel.
With albums such as “Carving Desert Canyons”, the band quickly rose to fame after extensive touring that lead to an appearance on the Progression Nation Tour 2009 with Dream Theater, Zappa Plays Zappa and more (check a review of the event from the LebMetal.com archive here).
Praised by world press as fresh and adventurous, the band seemingly labeled themselves as ‘adventure metal’ rather than the somehow inaccurate ‘progressive metal’. Set aside unnecessary tags, Scale the Summit has literately reached the summit with its evolving sound ever since they formed back in 2004. If you’re a fan of real musicianship, you ought to give this band a shot.
Travis Levrier – Guitars
Chris Letchford – Guitars
Pat Skeffington – Drums/Percussion
Jordan Eberhardt – Bass
Album info, feedback and overview
On March 1st 2011, Scale the Summit released their 3rd full length entitled “The Collective” on Prosthetic Records. With their most balanced album to date, the four talented musicians soared into more authoritative grounds with their jazz take on song composition and structure.
Backed by great production from Mark Lewis (recently worked on DevilDriver’s “Beast” and Deicide’s “To Hell with God”), this album turned out to be a true adventure by all means. When previous albums had the technical expertise which drew influences from Billy Sheehan and Eric Johnson, “The Collective” sustained a more ‘follow the leader’ approach as each instrument was allowed to breathe, expand ideas and lead, whether it’s lead guitars, bass or even drums.
This approach gives the band more authority over the songs’ direction and definitely makes streaming the album in its entirety a must, if not inescapably necessary. When Metal is usually associated with ‘raw’, ‘heavy’ and ‘crushing’, Scale the Summit’s fusion music is all about melody flow, atmosphere and envisaging past adventures/experiences.
Although the album runs at 45 mins long, I believe that some songs should have been further expanded: “The Levitated”, one my personal favorites here, sadly clocks at only 3:02. Its jazzy feel weirdly inspires calm although its odd-time signatures and brilliant guitar synchronization/melody suggest something more sinister and eventually pulls the plug way too soon.
Set aside song lengths, the rhythm section on this album is spectacular from first to last. Songs like “Whales” and “Alpenglow” are good examples of the bassist / drummer’s creativity and musicianship. Their contribution to the album’s flow is essential and most enjoyable as they make those tricky time signatures seem so easy and natural to play. Have a listen to “Alpenglow” below.
There are also some minor aggressive parts on songs like “Gallows” and “Origin of Species”, which are the least recommended tracks on the album. It’s not that these songs are bad; it’s simply because their repetitiveness recalls ‘jam songs’, which Scale the Summit are way ahead in terms of direction and flow of ideas. Avoid these if you’re a first time listener.
Another recommended track would be “Emersion” (2:33 mins), a brilliant song that summarizes Scale the Summit’s genuine musical flow. Sadly for us, that summary was too short, again! A must listen-to nevertheless (includes a nice treat for drummers).
With numerous feedback stating that “Colossal”, the first song on this release, is the ‘weakest’ one of all, Scale the Summit should have thought more about proper song ordering in order to create a positive first impression for listeners. A good example of that would have been starting the album with “Balkan”, a catchy and well structured song that surely fits as impressive opener for this album.
Although not a masterpiece, “The Collective” is yet another great effort by a leading group in the growing world of instrumental bands. With noticeable evolution from their first album “Monument” (2007) to “Carving Desert Canyons” (2009) and now “The Collective” (2011), Scale the Summit are two years away from releasing their masterpiece. This humble music listener suggests an orchestral collaboration and more experimentation with instruments that will surely enhance the adventure experience.