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TRACK LIST: 1. Shaping the Clouds 4:55 2. Wolves 4:49 3. Crossing the Ocean 5:10 4. Omni 5:12 5. Rode in on Horseback 3:17 6. Roof of the World 5:02 7. Penguins in Flight 3:11 8. Holding Thunder 6:50 LINEUP: Chris Letchford – guitar Travis Levrier – guitar Jordan Eberhardt – bass Pat Skeffington – drums
Prolusion. SCALE THE SUMMIT (STS hereinafter) is a young American quartet from Texas, presenting their debut effort, “Monument”, only two years after they gathered together to hold their first rehearsal.
Analysis. Just like Accordo Dei Contrari’s “Kinesis” from my yesterday’s agenda, here is the first offering from musicians whose maturity is almost unbelievable, considering their age as well as creative experience, though if I were to lay my cards on the table from the outset :-), I would certainly note that it hasn’t managed without a fly in the ointment in this particular case. STS is a guitar quartet whose sound, while not containing any sorts of vocals or any direct influences either, reminds me in many ways of a crossover between Toxik, Tourniquet, Testament, Iron Maiden, Sieges Even and Watchtower. I realize that instead of these I could have named a number of modern and genuinely instrumental bands with no keyboards in their arsenal either (quite a few of which, from the Sensory Records roster in particular, have been reviewed on this resource as well), but I didn’t, simply because the ones above are much more widely known than they are, and so can better serve as reference points. The CD begins with an explosive mixture of technical Prog-Metal, Thrash and NWBHM on the opener, Shaping the Clouds, and continues practically in the same vein down to its very end: a kind of endlessly galloping music (though, thankfully, twisting too) with only two intermissions along its way – to be touched on in due time. Rarely can a recording be met with whose compositionally-stylistic uniformity is as near-monolithic as here, six of the disc’s eight pieces, the opening one included, having more than a lot in common between them in this respect. Technically, all the musicians are wizards regarding their respective instruments, and are a truly tight ensemble-quartet, as is evinced on literally every lick of the disc. Dual guitar leads, tirelessly crossing each other (by seemingly inconceivable parabolas, though more often in the shape of double riffs than as riffs paralleling solos), acrobatic bass and at once powerful and pounding drums – along with frequent, at times kaleidoscopic, shifts in direction – create quite an intricate musical puzzle that demands a few listens to bring all its inlays together. The complexity of fast and fervent arrangements makes an exciting listening experience; I was really spellbound with the eventfulness of this recording during its first half, but when it becomes near-endless it’s too much even for this relatively short CD, which is below the 40-minute mark in length. I will explain: the music is never brutal, besides which it always has a certain elegant quality to it, retaining a sense of melodiousness even at its edgiest, but since it’s heavy, intense and speedy almost throughout, it lacks in both dynamic and textural contrasts, despite the numerous transitions. Okay, there are a lot of other bands on the prog-metal scene playing this kind of uncompromising music also, most of those cited above included, but none of their recordings come across as too unvaried in approach as this one does, partly because there are vocals – one more, and such a specific instrument that it in itself can add plenty of varied colorations to any material. The only breaks, so to say, STS take are only in the intro to Crossing the Ocean and in the outro of Rode in on Horseback – in the form of refined fusion-flavored guitar Art-Rock in both cases.
Conclusion. I’ve always considered that adrenalin’s better than hell, but as to this particular album, with no vocals, I’d like to put a question to its creators: Why didn’t you guys resort to the approach you used on those two pieces more widely in general and on each of the tracks in particular? Nonetheless “Monument” is, well, a monolithic collection of compositions that is highly impressive as regards the music’s complexity and its makers’ technical skill as well. It’s a very promising debut from the musicians who potentially possess everything necessary to make their next effort impress on the right listener like a supernova.
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