02. Atlas Novus
03. The Olive Tree
04. Narrow Salient
07. The Dark Horse
10. The Traveler
The Migration, the fourth full-length release from US-based prog-rockers Scale The Summit, continues on where the band left off with 2011’s critically acclaimed The Collective as they further develop and refine their sound. Scale the Summit blend elaborate shredding, hard-hitting riffs, and atmospheric soundscapes into a complex and engaging instrumental mix and, at the times that this concoction works, The Migration is a fantastic success.
As with any lengthy piece of instrumental music, the cohesion and progression in a band’s writing is relied upon heavily to maintain focus throughout each track and pull the listener along. For the most part The Migration succeeds in this regard, with the transitions between heavier riffing, elaborate soloing, and atmospheric breaks planned and executed well and tracks like “Atlus Novus” do not suffer at all for their absence of vocals. On certain tracks however, the composition seems to lack for direction focus and the meandering feel this creates hinders how engaging the music can be. Slower instrumental music in the vein of post-rock/metal can often afford to rest upon repetition and atmosphere to support what might seem on the surface aimless pieces, but with their more metallic bent it is more obvious and disruptive when the group fail to produce music which is sufficient engaging. On The Migration, Scale the Summit have a tendency to fall back on predictable staccato riffing in heavier sections and, even as the chords change, the persistent feel can become tedious.
Scale The Summit’s decision to work with Between the Buried and Me’s Jaime King is one that pays off well, and the production quality on this record is fantastic. In a whirl of complex and variable instrumentation, every element of the band’s sound comes through clear and precise and the slower and more ambient sections on tracks like “Atlas Novus” shine through as especially well implemented. Throughout the album Chris Letchford’s lead guitar work, emboldened by its suitably prominent placement in the mix, is a guiding force and central element of the band’s sound, but at no point is his incredible playing let down, or overpowered, by the other instrumentation. Several tracks, including aggressive album highlight “Dark Horse” include short lead sections from bassist Mark Michell and his playing adds considerable depth to the band’s sound, drawing a different element into the forefront.
The Migration has its weak spots, but when taken as a whole is still consistent enough in its quality, and varied enough in its style, to be a rewarding and valuable addition to the band’s back catalogue. The decision to omit vocals from their music entirely has forced Scale The Summit to really make the most of their obvious technical skill and it is this technical prowess which make the highlights of The Migration so engaging. An average track length of around 6 minutes is lower than expected for music of a progressive bent and is another factor which helps to keep this album’s highlights as enjoyable and engaging as they are and, though certain tracks stumble through somewhat tedious periods of ill-executed heaviness, The Migration‘s strengths more than compensate for its weaker moments.