Scale The Summit: V

Dynamics aplenty from Houston instrumentalists.

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Skimming through Scale The Summit’s biography, it’s pretty clear the US instrumentalists aren’t shy to big up their support slot achievements, and you can see why – they’ve previously shared bills with the likes of Dream Theater, Periphery and Devin Townsend. However, on the strength of their fifth album – cunningly titled V – Scale The Summit should be looking beyond simply backing up prog’s leading lights. It’s high time they grabbed the spotlight for themselves.

Before recording they lost long-time drummer Pat Skeffington and drafted in Tetrafusion’s J.C. Bryant, but that hasn’t stunted Scale The Summit. They’re still managing to pump out fresh, enthralling instrumental music after numerous LPs.

Indeed, since forming in 2004, they’ve always come up with the goods, but V is their best-sounding album yet (it was recorded by Between The Buried And Me tech Jamie King), and it seems to be their most concise but expansive offering, too. It’s jam-packed full of the dynamics that vocal-free music needs to thrive.

A new instrumental prog precedent has just been set…

Take opener The Winged Bull for instance, which juggles prog metal, djent and virtuoso lead guitar chops in less than five minutes as it dips and peaks like a trawler riding a tumultuous North Sea wave. And it only gets better. Pontus Euxinus pivots on emotive guitar work, while Trapped In Ice borrows the melodic intensity of Protest The Hero, spinning it in a tumble drier to boiling point before slipping off into a lush, ambient outro.

The age-old idea that instrumental music lacks emotion seems increasingly redundant when albums such as V continue to be made. While some listeners may be put off by the big technique on show, there’s enough in these ten tracks to take you on a journey just as powerful as a concept record or a tear-jerking prog ballad. More than that, there’s a tone seeping from Chris Letchford and band’s guitars that stirs something inside you; the leads draw from the luminosity of axe gods like Joe Satriani and they get under your skin, flowing in the pulsing bloodstream.

Most prog fans know all about this Houston-based band, but it seems with their new record there’s every chance the mainstream metal and rock listener will catch the bug, too. By the time multi-headed beast The Golden Bird closes the record, you’re left pondering first, where the hell all the time has gone and, second, just how this foursome will top this album. But for now, it seems a new instrumental prog precedent has just been set.

Chris Cope

A writer for Prog magazine since 2014, armed with a particular taste for the darker side of rock. The dayjob is local news, so writing about the music on the side keeps things exciting - especially when Chris is based in the wild norths of Scotland. Previous bylines include national newspapers and magazines.