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Scale The Summit - Carving Desert Canyons CD (album) cover

CARVING DESERT CANYONS

Scale The Summit

Progressive Metal


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4 stars WOW.....what else can really be said?

For the most part, instrumental albums tend to be on more of the Hey look at me, I can do a guitar solo for 40 minutes straight without stopping and you cant side of life. There a few excpetions such as Karl Sander's 'Saurian Meditations' which focuses more on building a story with sound. But Scale the Summit present something all on their own.

This is an album that is purely about the songwriting. Peaks and Valleys weave their way through bombastic sections and moments of pure guitar genius. If only I could play like these kids do. Which is another great thing about this band and album. They are just kids, with a whole career ahead of them.

With 'Carving Desert Canyons' the future is looking bright for these four young virtuosos.

Report this review (#203449)
Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars 4.5 Stars

This is a very tasty album. But I wouldn't call this Extreme Tech Metal. Maybe Prog Metal Fusion.

The songs on this album are extremely well written, and the virtuosity of the players is never in doubt. I would place the tone of the guitars somewhere between Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson, with the composistion reminiscent of The Dixie Dregs, minus the bluegrass influence, and adding a hefty dollop of metal.

There are no songs that stand out over the others, as each piece draws the listener in, and hosts a wild ride through a mutitude of ever-changing musical ideas, all fitting together perfectly.

Report this review (#203599)
Posted Wednesday, February 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hey everyone! I'm back! This is my second review here on PA. In case you haven't noticed, I tend to support the little guys.

I was curious about these guys because they were on an e-mail that I received from PA since I am on their mailing list. Gives me updates about what's new and stuff, and I like that kinda stuff. So, I heard about these guys in a forum, something about releasing a new album. I decided to check them out.

I found out that they are a quartet, that are about my age, and are making instrumental albums. Seeing as how I make music of my own and intend to do something similar to what these guys are doing, I decided to check them out. Like I said, I like to support the little guys, so I wanted to see what they were up to.

Well, pretty good stuff is what I have to say. There is a lot crazy drumming going on with a lot of control, but also can be very soft at times and subdued. The guitar is the exact same, along with their riffs. They also change beats and rhythms a lot in each song, but it is all positive. In other words, they have a lot of breadth of material and are varied in what they do. To me they have their own style, and it is wonderful. I am listening to the third track on the album as I write this, to tell you the truth.

If there is anything that they can be similar to at times, I would say it is Stemage. They (I can't remember if it is just one person or not) does remixes of music from the game series Metroid. (By the way, if you happen to be into games, give those games a look over. They are incredible!!) You can find the music at www.metroidmetal.com. It can be hard edged and brutal at times, but it can also be very soft and serene. What I find most similar are the drumming time signatures and choices of symbols and occasional drum throws that are different from any bands I've ever heard before. Also, the guitars share a lot of similarities, especially when there is a lot of distortion applied.

The reason why I like this album is because the entire time I feel like I am on an adventure. It takes me places, and that's awesome. It's short, compact, tight, and feels light. Albums that are longer feel like they are a bit heavier because of the amount of music in them, which is never a bad thing at all to me. I like this because it is different from that. It's short, but it is not short because it's lacking. That makes it a gem to me.

This is a 4 star album to me. It's wonderful. It's not a masterpiece, but it certainly can't be called good. For guys this age, this is so cool, especially with the kind of music they are producing. It's so different from what I would expect.

More power to them and I hope they do exceedingly well! Hell yeah!

Take it easy everyone and watch out for me later when I decide to do my next review!

Flames Burning Eternal,

Shadow

Report this review (#213711)
Posted Sunday, May 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a great to see: a modern day devoted to nothing but the music. Not the gimmicks or the unnecessary flashiness. This band is made of technical virtuosity! But better yet, the music does not get so entangled by technicality to such a degree that the music becomes formulaic and, although impressive, difficult for an audience to keep up with (as is the case in most tech/extreme prog metal groups). This band weaves emotion and dynamics into their music so that they're not just pretentiously rocking out the whole time. The variety off sounds and syncopations presented on this album will keep you involved. This is a band that sounds like nothing else I've ever heard before. I am excited to see real progressive rock gaining momentum like this. Music that takes you a journey and entices the intellect, not only the body. I expect to see great things from this band. Pick up this album today and see exactly what I mean.
Report this review (#216110)
Posted Friday, May 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars On a technical level, this is a decent exhibition of musicianship and tightness, but while that measure of excellence is present throughout, Scale the Summit's sophomore album remains just that, severely lacking in melodies, charm, ideas, or anything else that would compel me to make it a frequently-played album. The trouble is that most of the tracks suffer from repetitiveness- somehow I think a competent vocalist on board, turning these decent instrumentals into proper songs, might have been a good move. There isn't really a whole lot to say about each piece- this is recommended to fans of instrumental guitar rock, to those impressed with the display of chops (but even then there's much better out there). For those seeking melody and brilliant arrangements, look elsewhere- that's just not what this album is about.

"Bloom" An exciting way to begin the album, that opening lead is extremely inspiring.

"Sargasso Sea" Heavy, chugging chords begin this one and remain a constant feature.

"The Great Plains" Probably the best introduction on the album (allowing the music to breathe, as it were), this piece has palm-muted guitar and a fairly straightforward series of chord progressions with some really amazing riffs bridging it all together. Some elegant clean guitar makes for a beautiful middle section.

"Dunes" The heaviness resumes with two static riffs playing side-by-side.

"Age Of The Tide" The heavy drumming doesn't seem to work alongside the more graceful guitars on this one. Otherwise, it's a real peppy instrumental.

"Glacial Planet" The band tones things way down at first , laced with elegant, clean guitar and light drumming. Unfortunately, the introduction is extremely short-lived, as the heavy-handed guitar and rhythm section enter, backing up more lackluster guitar soloing.

"City In The Sky" Essentially more chugging guitars, thudding bass, heavy drums and lead guitar, this is another exercise in sameness, offering no desperately-needed variety. There is a pretty good bass solo, however.

"Giants" The lengthiest and last piece is, as expected, more dual guitar riffs and runs accompanied by over-the-top drumming and passable bass. Ultimately, it is more of the same- very little on this record stands out, but it's all right for what it is.

Report this review (#243587)
Posted Thursday, October 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I like what's happening in progressive metal. There appears to be a deep reservoir of musicians who refuse to be intimidated by the greatness that came before them or the jeers of listeners and critics who think the whole prog-metal thing ends with Tool or Dream Theater. This straightforward U.S. combo of twin guitars, bass & drums popped out one of the best-recorded releases in 2009 and though the material occasionally yearns for a vocal here or there just to break things up, Scale the Summit's Carving Desert Canyons (their second) is painfully professional, clean as a whistle, and contains greater compositional value than much of what passes for progmetal.

Technical certainly, Extreme not as much. At least not compared to the hardcore tech of BtA or Ron Jarzombek's various projects. Closer to a less dirtied Collapsar or F*cking Champs, or maybe if Eddie Van Halen in a moment of detached inspiration made the solo album of his dreams. Either way you slice it, these guys are strong, deliberate, and definitely have something to say with their scrubbed and spotless rhythms, surprising changes, richly layered crusades, and Travis Levrier & Chris Letchford's tight-as-a-sailor's-knot guitar lines. Complaints of this CD's 'repetitiveness' are fair I suppose and the eights tracks do sometimes blend into one long opus, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Not with these guys.

'Bloom' chimes brightly with laserbeam dualities from the guitars. Pat Skeffington, one of the most kick-ass skin-whackers this veteran has heard in a while, supports Letchford & Levrier's inventions with confident fury and turns in one of the best drum performances of '09. Almost unnoticed, 'Sargasso Sea' extends the progress nicely, and 'The Great Plains' regroups to shift the direction toward a more melodic landscape, some bubbly fingering on guitar, and the sensitive response from Skeffington and bassist Jordan Eberhardt. 'Dunes' demonstrates maddening mazes of circularity, the net-less acrobatics in 'Glacial Planet' is continued for 'City in the Sky' showing a mood for sci-fi, and 'Giants' is a thematic reprise.

A great-sounding album by a group brimming with talent, and worthy of some attention.

Report this review (#263732)
Posted Sunday, January 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Retired Admin
4 stars An adventure of massive proportions.

Scale The Summit are a relatively new progressive (or as they call it "adventure") metal band that have toured with prog metal giants Dream Theater and have gathered quite the cult following, especially amongst technique loving musicians. Carving Desert Canyons is their latest album, and it certainly delivers a tasty punch of adventurous instrumental metal that can easily leave you flying high above the clouds in the ecstasy of the band's great music.

Bloom is the killer opener that really does just that, bloom, into a wonderful little 2 minute opener. Sadly, it is only 2 minutes and does end leaving you hanging a little bit. The melody and rhythms all mesh spectacularly in one wonderful piece of music. Every member pulls their weight to start this freight train to keep on chugging throughout the album.

Sargasso Sea has a swift chugging opener that soon flows into some soaring solos from the guitars and some really epic synchronizations with the 8 and 7 string guitars, which break into some heavenly polyrhythms that are just right in every way. Oddly, this song's 5 minute length seems a little bit much for the song. The song has some great ideas, but to make it 5 minutes they needed to throw in a couple extra that make for some awkward transitions. Overall, a good track, but could have used a trim (and that excess could have gone to Bloom!!)

The Great Plains is the absolute best track on the album. A fan favorite, a band favorite, a critic favorite, the whole track is a tasty piece of music. Through the killer first section you can hear genius at work- from great harmonizations with the two guitars and the bass to the meshing of rhythm and melody. The whole thing is just great. However, the thing that really makes this track spectacular is that signature tapping section. Featured on virtually every guitar outlet around, it's obviously amazing. Every infectious note makes my body shake with excitement. The only bad part is the wait they put you through to reach the good stuff!

Dunes is a quick little riffing piece similar to the other songs, with some great harmonization, instrumentation, technical skill, and all that great stuff. Polyrhythms abound in this track also, making it even more infectious to a polyrhythm lover like myself!

Age of Tide is yet another adventurous riffing piece full of creative harmonizations and synchronization. The song has some great transitions between the band's ideas with where the music is going, from a soaring solo section to a low to the ground 7 string chugging section, and back again.

Glacial Planet is my second favorite track on the album. The song starts out slow, building in melodic steps of joy. Soon, the song breaks open into a bopping and infectious guitar riff. The solos are melodic and fun, reviving a slowly decaying system of riff-solo-riff with some more creative solos and riffs. The song is almost bipolar (in a good way), with song switching madly from soaring solo to chugging in the 8th string register, to melodic picking, back to solos and all of it again. The track is a great ride to go on, making that Glacial Planet an epic image indeed.

City in the Sky does continue the overbearing motif of adventurous riffing with adventurous soloing. Listening through the entire album, at this point the music begins to fade into a continuous stream of the same thing, but if you pick one song at a time, the music is incredibly inventive and fun. This song does feature some more interesting parts, such a much more prominent bass solo, breaking from the countless guitar solos. It also has another pseudo-tapping section, and some more creative harmonizations.

Giants is the "giant" track on the album, clocking in at over 7 minutes (gasp). The song is faster and more hard hitting that the rest of them, with a swifter rhythm and some quick and attacking rifffing. Some cool octave/harmony things are going on throughout the song that also make the song a nice treat and a fantastic ending to this great album.

ALBUM OVERALL: This album has extremely strong up sides and very few downsides. The best way to listen to this album is to listen to the first 3 tracks uninterrupted, then listen to all the other tracks individually, because over the sadly short 40 minute length of the album, the music can get somewhat repetitive and begins to seem boring. The music is insanely good, but many of the same ideas seem to be used more than once. Overall, musically the album is incredible, melodically, rhythmically, harmonizationally, and every other good aspect of music is in there in perfect quantity. However, as I said before, the music begins to taper into "been here before" territory. So, listen to the essential tracks individually or else you may ruin them for yourself. 4 stars.

Report this review (#285130)
Posted Saturday, June 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Pleasant Instrumental Tech Metal

For awhile it seemed like Scale the Summit were everywhere, opening multiple prog metal tours, and no one can fault their work ethic. I saw the tail end of their show on the Prog Nation tour in 2009, and their talent was clearly on display. The group is a gathering of young guys who clearly love what they're doing, and have really worked to achieve a high level of technical ability. They came out after their slot and were personable and easy to like. Unfortunately, I personally don't think this kind of music works terribly well live unless the sound is remarkably good, and this was the case for STS. The quality of tech metal depends on nuance and no opening band gets the definition necessary for that. Live metal is just too loud, boomy, and is rarely mixed for detail. Because I could tell that the band had some chops, but couldn't really get a good read based on their live show, I picked up CARVING DESERT CANYONS.

The album is clearly better than the live performance I saw. But it is simply begging for vocals. There's just not enough going on, not enough central lead element for the listener to cue in on. Unlike contemporary metal albums by Exivious and Animals as Leaders, these pieces come across as constructions rather than songs. There's plenty of great playing but not a real artistic point. I'm not expecting anything terribly deep. Often in technical metal, the point of a record is a "Wow" factor in terms of chops. The listener and the player share in the excitement of "Dayyummm boy, you killin that thang." But here there is no swagger or flash, though these guys probably have the chops to match up with some of the swashbucklers. For instance the track, "The Great Plains" features some of the clean tapping hand interplay, powerful harmony leads, and some slick drumwork. But there's just not enough emotion.

Occasionally the repetitive riffs slide into a post-rockish mode but that whole genre depends on dynamic ebbs and flows. This album has almost no dynamic variation. I'm being harsh, and I must admit that this is very good playing just for the sake of playing. But the young members of this band have yet to figure out the point of music, which is to make a connection between player and listener. Simply playing in a cool style with great prowess isn't enough, at least for me. Songs need a beginning, middle, and end. Setting the scene is not enough, you actually have to have an event. Luckily STS have plenty of time to learn, and I suspect that all the touring will leave a big impression on these guys before we get the next album.

This is a 2-3 star album which I'm giving a little nudge because they seem like good kids. But I'm expecting something a little better next time. Some danger, some bite, some fire.

Report this review (#358618)
Posted Monday, December 20, 2010 | Review Permalink

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