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Scale The Summit - "Carving Desert Canyons" (CD)

Scale The Summit - "Carving Desert Canyons" CD cover image

"Carving Desert Canyons" track listing:

1. Bloom (2:10)
2. Sargasso Sea (5:15)
3. The Great Plains (5:11)
4. Dunes (4:28)
5. Age Of The Tide (5:35)
6. Glacial Planet (4:52)
7. City In The Sky (5:03)
8. Giants (7:21)

Reviewed by on February 16, 2009

"Not every song is a winner, but 'Carving Desert Canyons' is an energetic and progressive album that is guaranteed to find an audience amongst more open-minded music listeners."

Instrumental music can be a tough genre to digest. A lot of people can’t handle long periods without vocals, and some find the genre to be full of self-indulgent musicians, who play extended solos and go off on ten-minute jams with no pretense or build-up. Scale The Summit could have gone off in this direction, but instead, their sophomore album “Carving Desert Canyons” is as compact and straight-forward as instrumental music can get.

The eight tracks are mostly in the four-to-five minute category, with the exception of the short opener “Bloom” and the seven-minute closer “Giants.” This tight songwriting benefits the band, as it gives them just enough time to express an idea without creating any excess. Not every song is a winner, but “Carving Desert Canyons” is an energetic and progressive album that is guaranteed to find an audience amongst more open-minded music listeners.

A lot of bands that stick to instrumental music try their hand at different approaches; some use a keyboardist to build atmosphere or break up the proceedings with a masturbatory solo, and others bring in acoustic elements to add some variety to the core sound. Scale The Summit does none of the above, electing to utilize two guitars, one an eight-stringed monster ala Meshuggah, a bass, and drums. This stripped-down technique works in the band’s favor, as each member brings a high level of musicianship to their respected instruments. The band progresses naturally from a fast-paced, upbeat sound to a melodic, low-key section that is eerily similar to moments from Cynic’s latest masterpiece “Traced In Air.”

Guitarists Chris Letchford and Travis LeVrier are quite a formidable duo, playing off each other with a technical fluidity that is surprising for a band so young. One doesn’t stand out over the other; both guitarists get in an equal share of the masterful wizardry prevalent on “Carving Desert Canyons.” Harmonies and trade-off solos are the name of the game here. The most memorable section is on “Dunes,” where each guitarist does his own thing, soloing off into oblivion, before bringing it all together for an awesome ending.

Scale The Summit tends to be aggressive in their approach, making the melodic moments stand out further. “The Great Plains” is a phenomenal track, a bluesy jam session featuring a stellar bass performance from Jordan Eberhardt. It’s a light number, but one that displays the band’s knack for quality songwriting. “Glacial Planet” has a strong “The Space For This” vibe to it, which is a compliment of the highest order. While the heavier moments are strong, the melodic sections are even stronger; the only flaw is that there aren’t enough of these moments.

“Age Of The Tide” and “City In The Sky” are the highlights of the second half, with fantastic guitar interplay and noteworthy bass work. Drummer Pat Skeffington deserves a honorable mention for his precise and tasteful drum fills on these tracks, and on most of the album in general. The only track that falters near the end is the closer “Giants,” which goes on for way too long on the same idea. Instrumentally, Scale The Summit is at the top of their game throughout the track, but the song doesn’t flow as well as it should, and sounds contrived in places.

“Carving Desert Canyons” is not an easy album to immediately jump into and expect an instant reaction. Multiple listens are the name of the game here; for some, the album won’t resonate at all, while others will fall head over heels over it. “Carving Desert Canyons” clocks in just shy of 40 minutes, a perfect length for any instrumental album. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Scale The Summit. If the band can work on composing longer tracks with a purpose, and add in more melodic sections, the band could have a potential masterpiece on their hands. For now, “Carving Desert Canyons” is a solid first step towards domination of the instrumental metal genre.

Highs: Great musicianship, songwriting is top-notch, guitarists have fantastic interplay, strong rhythm section

Lows: "Giants" is too long, not enough melodic sections

Bottom line: "Carving Desert Canyons" is a worthwhile instrumental album that showcases the talents of a young quintet from Houston, Texas.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)