If the music of SCALE THE SUMMIT is what we can expect from graduates of Los Angeles' Musicians Institute, then some of us better start paying a lot more attention to the talent coming out of there. After the overachieved, underappreciated, and self-released "Monument" debut, the Houston-based quartet of Chris Letchford (eight-string guitar), Travis Levrier (seven-string guitar), Jordan Eberhardt (six-string bass), and Pat Skeffington (drums) wowed critics and fans across the globe with their finely crafted, hook-ridden rock/metal compositions that put songs first and individual showmanship second, even though the latter is most worthy of high praise as well. Oh yeah, and the band's new album is entirely instrumental, just like the previous two releases, as you may have determined from the conspicuous absence of a vocal credit.
That SCALE THE SUMMIT can make an instrumental album every bit as musically engrossing and melodically enchanting as one with vocals is the true genius of this act. The average fan can usually appreciate an instrumental album for the moods created and the musical chops on display. It is with infrequency though that such an album is adored for its catchy songwriting too. SCALE THE SUMMIT's "The Collective" is one of those rare instrumental albums that anyone that appreciates great melodies and superb musicianship can enjoy.
The playing of Letchford, Levrier, Jordan, and Skeffington is awe-inspiring, especially the way their individual performances complement each other. Some of the guitar interplay going on between Levrier and Letchford — as Eberhardt plays over, under, and through like a Sean Malone or a Steve DiGiorgio — is rapturous. Yet it is not so much that the performances are over the top in a technical sense. Rather, it is in the fluidness of the playing and the creation of a whole that is greater than sum of those four parts, which is another way of saying that on "The Collective" the song comes first…always! Balancing mellower, dreamy material that stops well short of sleep inducement with more aggressive, meaty songs, the group composes in a way that allows the listener to paint images that can only be seen by the mind's eye. SCALE THE SUMMIT's self-described "adventure metal" is most fitting since each of these tracks is a journey that never meanders without end or travel distances far removed from the central basis of the cut. That is much easier said than done when the typical audience to whom you are playing often associates lyrics/vocals exclusively with melody. Put simply, this is an album that hooks, captivates, chills out, and rocks without pretense, sometimes all in the same song.
SCALE THE SUMMIT has not reinvented the instrumental form, so don't interpret any of the above as a grand introduction to the new messiahs. They have however given it a measure of concision and song-based focus that is often missing from albums of this sort. As such, the potential for broader appeal is much greater. Show SCALE THE SUMMIT some love and get your instrumental groove on with "The Collective". This one's a keeper.