Although we try to cover the metal scene pretty even-handedly here at Angry Metal Guy, some genres will always get short shrift. While our inbox gets swamped with retro-what have you, orthodox black metal, and your brutal/tech death band of the week, some genres that I like – slam, for instance – rarely make an appearance here. Another one of those genres is modern instrumental prog, a la Animals as Leaders and our band of interest, Scale the Summit. While I’ve enjoyed the group’s previous two outings, The Collective and The Migration, I’ve neglected to keep either album on rotation for very long, and thus their fifth album, V, is a welcome change of pace for AMG‘s “deathcore guy.”
V packs in good songs early on, with “Soria Moria” acting as the album’s anchor. After its very Tosin Abasi-ish intro, it begins to feel a lot more like The Migration. The band is in their comfort zone vamping on complex tapping patterns and slowly building songs up riff after riff, and though there are dud sections scattered throughout the disc, equally present are moments of subtle excellence. “Soria Moria” exemplifies this; an early heavier section falls flat, but the band quickly recover and make a clean and exciting exit, stopping the song suddenly at the top of a bright riff. Equally fun, “Kestral” explores more somber, atmospheric territory but does so very successfully, slotting nicely into the reticent ending of “The Isle of Mull.” Following the two is “Oort Cloud,” one of the album’s most interesting songs because of its comparatively dramatic shifts in tone, going from a sultry, reverb-drenched introduction into a nervous, sinking section that gets rehashed later on to include a bass solo with an almost bluegrass feel.
As is typical for instrumental acts, Scale the Summit‘s Achilles’ heel is their tendency to draw out riffs past their natural endpoint. While introducing new ideas every 16 bars or so works for a while, some extended vamps plow through a few ideas that maybe should have been cut. “Stolas” and “Blue Sun” (“I am a leaf on the wind…”) especially suffer from this, but it’s a better problem to have than the Between the Buried and Me-itis that a lot of prog bands suffer from, introducing completely unconnected sections to their songs that don’t really lead anywhere. All of the tracks on V are cohesive productions, drawn up from a few simple chord progressions or melodic tech riffs that are bright, fun, and often quite catchy.
Like The Migration, production of V was handled by Jamie King, and his mixing work is just as pitch-perfect as the band’s performances. Guitar leads have just the right amount of gleam and feel very distinct from the backing guitars, while leaving plenty of room for bassist and Draco Malfoy look-alike Mark Mitchell to pluck and slap along underneath. The guitars also retain enough grit to make metalheads happy and ensure that the record doesn’t suffer from Periphery-like sterility. New Drummer JC Bryant gets slightly shortchanged in the mix and suffers the most from the album’s unnecessarily loud mastering. Clocking in at DR6, it’s a standard loudness for metal, but for music that doesn’t rely as heavily on natural distortion as black or death metal, it’s far too compressed. In my admittedly low quality 192kbps promo copy, occasional clipping can be heard and the instruments do tend to be squashed together, which does quite a bit of damage to an album that relies so heavily on guitar and bass performances that intersect rather than parallel each other.
V is a great album to end your summer and a fun sidestep from the typical metal release schedule, but it fails to quite live up to its predecessors. It’s not as loud as The Migration, but also not as sharply written, concise, or quite as memorable, and its drum performance feels a bit wanting. I don’t dislike V, and it scratches a certain itch that’s hard to get to, so while Scale the Summit‘s previous output remains a step above, V is worth the few hours you’ll spend repeating its 50-minute runtime.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: scale-the-summit.bandcamp.com | scalethesummit.com | facebook.com/scalethesummit
Releases Worldwide: September 18th, 2015