There are two kinds of instrumental bands — those who can’t find a singer and those who don’t need one. Houston’s Scale the Summit is firmly in the latter group, managing to weave together melodies and rhythms with unique precision while keeping the listener’s interest piqued. But now, with the release of their third album, they might want to consider changing it up.
The band made a name for itself with 2009’s “Carving Desert Canyons,” which it supported by touring with progressive metal legends Dream Theater, further exposing its name in the world of progressive rock. Its style was unique — the songs were short and managed to remain interesting and unpretentious — a remarkable feat in this genre. But with “The Collective,” the band seems to have adopted the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy that tends to drag down otherwise creative groups.
Despite the album’s well-structured songs that feature pleasant melodies and flawless instrumental execution, the band doesn’t really change it up from previous albums. The standout, “Gallows,” starts with a sound influenced strongly by modern metal, creating a dark, brooding atmosphere that contrasts with Scale the Summit’s usually upbeat tracks. This sound appears on the songs “Origin of Species” and “Alpenglow” but meanders off towards the end of the album. Otherwise, the remaining tracks are more of the same.
There is, strictly speaking, nothing wrong with this album — it is a great listen for fans of the band or progressive rock in general. However, “Carving Desert Canyons” provides a much more interesting and enjoyable experience for people new to the group. My fingers remain crossed that they will explore their sound further and make an album no one could expect.