Instrumental progressive metal band Scale the Summit dropped their fourth album a couple weeks ago, on June 11th via Prosthetic records. The guys are continuing the evolution of their signature sound with this release. Scale the Summit’s unique brand of music has been often dubbed “Adventure Metal.” The sound is both emotional and technical, calm and energized all in the same song. Because of this, and the obvious lack of vocals, this album is a lot to properly digest, take in, analyze and review. So I’m a little behind on this one, but here we are, my review of Scale the Summit’s new album “The Migration.”
First off I want to talk a little about the album art that appears on the front cover of “The Migration.” It is beyond fantastic. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Prior to this release, I wasn’t much of a Scale the Summit fan. And with so much solid music out this year, including a release by The Black Dahlia Murder on the same day, I wasn’t too inclined to check this album out. This coupled with the fact that Scale the Summit releases are not available on Spotify, the streaming service I have a premium subscription to and constantly promote here. It wasn’t looking like “The Migration” would hit my ears anytime soon. Then I saw the album art. Wow it’s stunning. I don’t know quite why, but that topiary creature, as I’ve seen it called, is gorgeous. This is the perfect example of what album artwork can do. After seeing the fantastically done album art created by Duncan Storr, I wanted to like the album. The art made me want to enjoy the music. Remember this bands, because the album art is still important. So anyways, I then checked out the album preview for “The Migration.” Flash forward a couple months or so, and a physical copy of “The Migration” was in my hands.
The production on this album is also incredibly important. This is by far the best produced Scale the Summit album to date. By far and away. “The Migration” will most likely set industry standards for this genre and be oft imitated in the near future. The cleans are perfect. Shimmery and dirt free, just like I like ’em to be. The leads on this album soar and sing. The rhythm tone is both light and playful, and heavy and crushing depending on the play style. The guitars readily achieve the required light and heavy tones needed to pull off this type of music. These effective variety may very well be due to the new EMG 57 and 66 pickups that guitarist/songwriter Chris Letchford has been showcasing through multiple song playthroughs featuring new tunes from “The Migration.” These retro voiced yet high output active pickups combine with the signature Strandberg Letchford uses and the Fractal Axe FX system to give a very unique voice to the guitars. The bass is very present in the mix and has the smooth, buttery tone I expect from progressive metal music. The bass slots in with the drums, which also have a fantastic tone, to fill out the rhythm section. The bass sits perfectly in the mix. Obviously a part of the rhythm section, but not completely buried. I know the whole instrumental band thing helps the mix out greatly but metal mixers and producers should still take note.
On the whole topic of instrumental music, my opinion on this topic actually bolsters the praise of “The Migration.” I’ve really never been a big fan of instrumental music all that much. I didn’t really enjoy or connect with the previous Scale the Summit albums. I enjoy classical and jazz once in awhile, but not nearly to the extent I enjoy metal and these genres influence on metal. That being said, the same applies to instrumental music in today’s time. I definitely do love the post-rock band Explosions in the Sky. And I’ve really dug a couple of Steve Vai’s solo pieces, namely “Tender Surrender” and “For The Love Of God.” But I’ve honestly never made it through an Animals as Leaders album and can’t recall any of their material besides “CAFO” and some song about babies or something. The point is, even in modern music, I’ve strayed away from instrumental music for vocal affairs. The perfect example is The Ocean’s new album “Pelagial.” While I certainly enjoyed the instrumental version of the album, I found the vocal version highly superior. And Loic Rossetti is definitely not my favorite vocalist in the world. Well then you’re probably asking yourself why I am reviewing “The Migration” if I don’t really like instrumental bands. The answer is simple. Because I love this album. Also I do what I want, don’t tell me what to do.
This album really is fantastically written. The melodies and soundscapes are beautiful. The jazzy chords and slower, singing melodies create some of the most lush, calm music laid to tape this year. The calm and beautiful songs on this album feature incredible soulful and emotional leads that allow me to connect with “The Migration” on a level that other instrumental efforts completely fail to achieve. These guys aren’t lying when they say the strings are their voices. Songs like “Atlas Novus” (my personal favorite track), “Oracle”, “Evergreen” and “Willow” will take you to a land of clouds and heaven where you can spend your days resting in eternal comfort and happiness. Or something like that. On the other hand tracks like “Odyssey”, “Narrow Salient”, and album closer “The Traveler” will take you on very different journeys to very different places. These more frenetic paced tracks more aptly fit the Adventure Metal description. These sounds wind and speed through alleys and mountains, leading the listener on a fantastic chase. The energetic and technical powerful moments on this record have the perfect amounts of heavy, technicality, speed, and light hearted flavor to make this a perfect progressive metal release. This album is fun to listen to, it almost feels like a metal version of the Mario videogames or something. I dunno man listen yourself and come up with your own metaphors and comparisons if you don’t like mine. One song on this record really sticks out from the pack. “The Dark Horse” is a bit heavier and darker than everything else on “The Migration” and I love it. This song brings some more punishment to table and offsets the winding, heavily jazz influenced music quite well. Overall, this is definitely Scale the Summit’s best work compositionally. Every song is fantastic and there are plenty of “oh my god that was amazing” moments on this record. StS also keep it pretty diverse, making this album easy to get through in one sitting, I’ve made it straight through three playthroughs while I’ve been working on this review and some other stuff.
The bottum line is Scale the Summit really delivered with this one. All aspects of this album are absolutely fantastic. I have absolutely nothing to complain about in the least. Pick this one up and stay up to date with the band, links are provided below. Check out the videos provided if my glowing review hasn’t moved you enough to pick up this album without hearing any music. I am generally not a huge fan of instrumental music like I said earlier but Scale the Summit has joined the tiny group of exceptions with this release. It’s really simple. Buy this album if you want to hear some of the best and most beautiful instrumental metal out there. “The Migration” gets 9.5/10.