Scale the Summit – V
Release Date: September 18, 2015
Scale the Summit is an epic progressive metal act hailing from the great state of Texas. The quartet has been raising eyebrows on the scene since 2007 with their self-released debut, Monument. They gained considerable attention from participating in the Progressive Nation tour in 2009 with Zappa meets Zappa, Dream Theater, and Bigelf. The latest installment on the band’s sonic journey, mark’s their fifth studio effort; appropriately titled, V.
Unlike other progressive rock acts that have influenced Scale the Summit, such as Cynic and Dream Theater, this group does not use, and have stated that they will never use, guest or lead vocalists. Instead, the group prefers to convey their messages through the mastery of their respective instruments. The current lineup consists of dual guitarists Chris Letchford and Travis Levrier who play 7 and 8-string guitars to full effect. Mark Michell on 6-string bass, and J.C. Bryant on the drums. Letchford is the mastermind behind the band, and as expected by listening to this album, he has considerable knowledge of music theory, which adds to the group’s almost mind-bending instrumental pieces. The album was produced by Jamie King, who has extensive credits including; Between the Buried and Me, Native Construct, and Trioscapes.
Getting down to the meat and potatoes of the record, V starts off quietly and atmospherically with a track called “The Winged Bull”, which builds into an epic, mid-tempo, guitar-driven jam. More than likely, and throughout this album, there is music theory going on here that is beyond the scope of this reviewer’s knowledge. However, the sonic results are evident, with the interplay between the bass and crunchy rhythm and lead guitars, setting a beautiful, sonic landscape for the wizardry ahead.
Another of V’s highlights includes what starts off as a bombastic shredder of a piece called “Trapped in Ice”. The first four minutes of this song are nothing more than breakneck riffing and soloing, but the track abruptly puts the brakes on and morphs into a minimalistic and atmospheric coda. Letchford and company also manage to somehow keep the instrument wizardry modest. You can tell these guys are not trying to show off, just getting the message across the best way they know how.
Second to last is a favorite track called “Oort Cloud”. Starting off with complex bass guitar driven finger-tapping that almost sounds like a Chapman Stick, this song is a perfect example of woven interplay between instruments that blend together perfectly – these guys make it sound easy. Even with no lyrics, and like almost all the songs on this album, this is one of those pieces that beautifully conveys a clear emotional message. The musicians are so skilled that they do not need voices to convey their message. Simply put, this song, and the others on the album make the listener feel. There is emotional resonance, and it is great to find that in metal today.
Scale the Summit have created another breathtaking example of auditory wizardry with V. Just like the albums before it, the band has proven once again that modesty can have just as much of an impact in technical, progressive music as three hours of unadulterated guitar wankery. There is not a single track on this album below the four-minute mark, and each track on the record simultaneously rips your face off, and refreshingly forces you to use your brain. V is definitely thinking man’s metal, and if you enjoy acts such as Animals as Leaders and other progressive acts in that vain, this is definitely a must have; along with the band’s entire catalog. As their name suggests, Scale the Summit continue to climb the ranks of the progressive music elite, and V continues to elevate the respect they have earned. Prepare for intelligent metal folks, because Scale the Summit have returned.