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Scale the Summit
Carving Desert Canyons

Company: Prosthetic Records
Release: 2009
Genre: Heavy
Reviewer: Etiam

  • More a clinic than an adventure



  • If one thing can be said about Scale the Summit, let it be that they are exceptionally focused. After self-releasing a debut album in 2007, they signed to the launch-pad label Prosthetic Records, delivered a sophomore record entitled 'Carving Desert Canyons' in '09, and are poised to unleash a third. On this second record, across eight instrumental tracks their adherence to the script is relentless: triple-meter arpeggiations in the ballpark of 160 bpm; an immeasurable array of succinct riffs that (appropriately) scale upwards and repeat constantly; enough legato and sweep patterns to fill a textbook; riffs of a chugging 7th (or 8th) strings punctuated by a single treble note; and an overwhelming predilection for the major modes.

    In theory this is all very good, and substantial passages on 'Carving Desert Canyons' are really quite compelling. The single 'The Great Plains' has a stirring, slippery theme (perhaps the album's epoch), though the finale of 'Age of the Tide' is stiff competition, and the coda to 'Sargossa Sea' hits a powerful, brooding stride. But where are the songs? With few exceptions, these forty minutes pass so seamlessly along that a wholesale flip-flop of the track listing would be practically unnoticeable. Unfortunately, those memorable passages are bracketed by, "sound and fury. Signifying nothing," and are more the exceptions in Scale the Summit's style than the rule. The rest of the time, Scale the Summit are too busy playing variations on their themes and reveling in polyphany.

    Though the production is crisp, the bass guitar lacks punch and the mix overall is too compressed. This robs it of momentum and dynamics (which were supposed to be this album's major improvement over the debut 'Monument'). This imbalance is made particularly clear when the bass does poke out, mostly in its upper register while noodling along with the guitars. A more driving, fundamental presence would have helped give these songs more direction.

    The band, or perhaps their press corps, is also too aggressive in selling their independence from the rest of the metal scene. It's true that their style is unusual, but not unique. 'Carving Desert Canyons' is constantly reminiscent of Cynic, Between the Buried and Me (during their happy denouements, in tone as well as composition), Intronaut, Animals as Leaders, and even genre outliers Guthrie Govan and Don Caballero. The list is a long one, and is growing longer as music colleges continue to churn out virtuosic young theorists.

    Scale the Summit would still not struggle to distinguish themselves from the masses if they simply had more to say with all their chops. As matters stand, 'Carving Desert Canyons' is more a clinic than the "adventure" cited by the band. They were searching to invoke the mountainous plateaus of the Southwest, yet ultimately fall into the tedium of a trek across flat Nebraska's I-80. The members of this quartet have an enviable wealth of talent in their fingers and at a young age have proven themselves to be committed. But no amount of woodshedding can be substituted for inspired writing. Sometimes, we just have to wait for it.


    Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
    5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
    4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
    3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
    3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
    2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
    1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
    0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

    Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

    Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

    The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



    ALL FULL REVIEWS FOR: SCALE THE SUMMIT
    CD
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    Carving Desert CanyonsScale The Summit
    2009
    Etiam3/14/2012
    Carving Desert CanyonsScale The Summit
    2009
    Chris Kincaid4/12/2011


    ALL SUMMARY REVIEWS FOR: SCALE THE SUMMIT
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    The MigrationScale the Summit
    2013
    Vinaya Saksena10/22/2013


    ALL INTERVIEWS FOR: SCALE THE SUMMIT
    INTERVIEW BAND INTERVIEWER DATE


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