By the release of their fourth LP, The Migration, it was pretty safe to say that Houston’s instru-metal maestros Scale the Summit had fully solidified a sound that was now almost instantly recognizable among their more flamboyantly-shreddy peers. Whether it’s the string-skipping, major key leads or the band’s increasingly-heavy affinity for long, looped tapping sections paired with mathematical chugging, the band’s style has certainly become one of the most exciting voices to emerge from the seemingly-endless amount of recycled prog metal. Now with their fifth release, the aptly-titled V doesn’t spend much time treading on unfamiliar ground, but rather shows a band understanding what made audiences come around to begin with, while churning out some of their most consistent songs to date.
Those who are already familiar with Scale the Summit won’t have any trouble instantly gravitating towards “The Winged Bull,” the album’s excellent opener which almost perfectly encapsulates everything that you’re about to delve into over the next 51 minutes. The riffs that pay homage to the likes of Between the Buried and Me, Dream Theater, and Cynic are still present and in full effect, and they’ll still be the primary focus for the duration of the album. Scale the Summit still feel like they’re the most comfortable in tracks like “The Isle of Mull” and “The Golden Bird,” where the band finds themselves once again cranking out massive, lush, and melodic stacks of guitars. V unquestionably has moments of terrific contrast in tracks like “Oort Cloud” and “Soria Moria,” but the majority of the record is still heavily rooted in a mid-tempo and often bouncy groove while guitarists Chris Letchford and Travis Levrier take turns competing for ultimate lead supremacy.
Make no mistake, this is first and foremost an album for guitar geeks everywhere, but it’s as about as listenable as this type of metal can really get without getting too out of hand and self-indulgent. The end of “Pontus Euxinus,” for example, seamlessly manages to weave in and out of incredibly-mellow, counterpoint melodies with the equally anthemic and slamming hard rock riffs that would do Rush proud, and that’s all within the span of about one minute. “Oort Cloud” is probably V’s most truly progressive song of them all, which showcases the band’s best tap-centric material ever as well as an unexpected country-twang interlude with bassist Mike Michell’s most impressive solo thus far. Michell’s presence on this entire album is pretty undeniable, as he frequently commands as much attention as either guitarist, or even while they’re soloing on top of him. His diversity in playing styles (showcased brilliantly in “Blue Sun”) as well as knowing when to play out and sit in the pocket really helps give this album a tremendous foundation with which to build the countless other layers upon. Hell, his performance is also the most entertaining part about the entire album.
While it may seem a bit disappointing that a band with such a progressive slant isn’t exactly making a lot of major changes to their sound, V is still definitely a pleasure to listen to. While the overall vibe and presentation of the record is eerily similar to The Migration and The Collective still reigns supreme as their finest record, this is still a pleasantly satisfying release. What the album lacks in innovation and extremity, it more than makes up for in confidence, excellent mixing and more guitar solos than you’ll know what to deal with for the upcoming months.
Scale The Summit’s V gets…