In A World Of Fear review by Scale the Summit

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  • Released: May 19, 2017
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.3 (15 votes)
Scale the Summit: In A World Of Fear

Sound — 9
Since their debut album "Monument", Scale The Summit's has maintained a rather prominent position among the elite of the current crop of modern progressive instrumental music. Their sound has remained fairly constant through the whole of their career, choosing a path of slow evolution over drastic changes. Over the course of several albums, their music has become less exercise-like, more dynamic, and more progressive.

Last year presented the band a fairly major shake-up with the departures of all members besides guitarist Chris Letchford (guitarist Travis Levrier is now playing in Entheos, while bassist Mark Michell and drummer JC Bryant left the band citing money issues). Rather than disbanding Scale The Summit, Letchford decided to carry on as the sole guitarist, bringing in drummer Charlie Engen and bassist Kilian Duarte.

For the first time on a Scale The Summit album, a number of guest performers bring a number of solos and riffs to "In a World of Fear", each imparting their own style to the already immense pool of talent that's usually in the STS camp. Yvette Young (Covet) performs acoustic guitars on the dynamic opener "Mass", marking probably the first time acoustic guitars have made an appearance on a STS album. Jeff Loomis (Nevermore, Jag Panzer, Arch Enemy) and solo guitarist James Ivanyi appear on "Cosmic Crown", a thumpy performance that is reminiscent of Tosin Abasi's work in Animals As Leaders. "Witch House" features the immense talent and charisma of Angel Vivaldi, and also starts with one of the album's heaviest riffs. Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry, Kaipa) and Nick Johnston bring the terror on the slinky "Goddess Gate", though Chris Letchford is no slouch himself, performing a rather inventive riff with lots of extended slides. Finally, album closer "The Warden" features three guest performances, from John Browne (Monuments), Scott Carstairs (Fallujah) and bassist Nathan Navarro.

Though, as is the case with all Scale The Summit albums, the band's own performances are to be applauded throughout the record, guest performers aside. While the compositions on the album are basically what one would expect from STS, with no real major changes to the band's style, the slow evolution of their sound has meant that each passing record has sounded better and better. Chris Letchford's playing has gotten looser and more dynamic, the song structures and time signatures have become more progressive, and the diversity on their records has increased. While the album is mostly cut from the same kind of progressive metal cloth, you can hear shades of different genres pop in from time to time, like an almost "pop" influence on "Cosmic Crown", djent on "Witch House", some loose, almost reggae-esque rhythms on "Royal Orphan", a track which also features the closest thing to the Tosin "thumping" technique you'll hear in Chris Letchford's discography.

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Despite the album being more focused on Chris, at least in terms of the guitar playing seeing as he is now the band's sole guitarist, the performances of the two new members cannot be understated. Kilian's bass playing is a bit more understated than JC Bryant's and Jordan Eberhardt's, but glues the drums and guitars together in a very complementary way, and he does get chances throughout the record to flex his skills, such as on the harmonics in the bass line for "Cosmic Crown". Charlie Engen's drumming is also perfectly complementary to Letchford's guitar playing, and quite dynamic, with his ability to lay back when needed, but also bring in some very alive-sounding chaos during heavier parts.

The production is pretty much spot-on throughout the release, though personally, some of the guitar tones are not quite as pleasing to my ears, but that's more of a personal preference issue than something scientific or tangible. And as far as writing goes, the loss of the band's second most credited songwriter, Travis Levrier, has done little to diminish the band's writing capabilities. Though some (myself included) may miss some of the particular idiosyncrasies of his guitar playing, Chris is a more than capable enough writer to handle all of the writing duties himself and still turn out a very diverse record.

Lyrics — 9
Scale The Summit has always maintained that they wish to remain an instrumental band, and has never had any plans on incorporating vocals into their style. For those who wonder what Chris Letchford's guitar style would sound like with vocals, Volumes' "Serenity" features him on a solo and has some chord progressions that are similar enough to Scale The Summit's to pass. His work with the band islnds, a more ambient and electronic project, also features vocal contributions from Ashe O'Hara (ex-TesseracT) and Joseph Secchiaroli (The Reign of Kindo).

As for Scale The Summit, as the point of their music has always been to remain instrumental (emphasized by one of their tag lines: "Our Strings Are Voices"), the lack of inclusion of lyrics or vocals is of no bother to me. The closest thing we get to lyrics on this record, of course, are song titles, and most of them seem to do a decent job of encapsulating the moods of the record, though "Dream12" seems a bit strange and may require a bit of explanation.

Overall Impression — 9
Overall, Scale The Summit has done quite well to weather the changes of the past year, and while certainly there will be opinions one way or another on the lineup changes, the main thing we can take from "In a World of Fear" is that as far as the band's music goes, they're still more than capable of putting out some of the best quality instrumental progressive metal out there. For me, the key to this band's success has always been that they've stuck to playing to their strengths, and experimented only where they needed to. Perhaps an odd thing for a prog-metal band to do, but comparing this record to their first two, "Monument" and "Carving Desert Canyons", there does seem to be a lot of fat trimmed from the music, yet seemingly something added. The variety of sounds on this record is something the band hasn't played with on this level yet, and this is definitely a good thing.

It really does seem as every subsequent Scale The Summit record is always "their best", and this one is no exception. So far, this is their best record. The fact that this is their first self-released record, independent of a record label, only heightens this, and I'm certain we can expect more exciting things from the band in the future.

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12 comments sorted by best / new / date

    As an avid fan since The Migration, StS have such a unique sound and style.  To me, it was truly moving  and refreshing when i was in a stagnant point in my music tastes.  Whether it be from the loss of Travis, or more likely Mark, this album has lost all of its uniqueness that the others brought.  Chris is undeniably and amazingly talented fellow and I love his solo work, but this is not Scale the Summit.
    An excellent album as always. P.S. Kilian's bass playing is a bit more understated than JC Bryant's and Jordan Eberhardt's. It should be Mark Michell, not JC Bryant who is the former drummer of STS, LOL~
    I've been kind of surprised reading all the comments on facebook about this album, since all of them seem to be something along the lines of "this is the best sts ever, i love it" etc. I dont mind evolutions in bands' sounds, but most of these songs just seem badly written. There are a lot of parts that sound cool on their own, but there are so many "dramatic" full band stops and complete mood changes that dont go together, that it becomes hard to enjoy the parts themselves (and I say that as a huge fan of progressive music that changes a lot). The bass tone is way too subdued, everything sounds overcompressed and like its trying to sort of slap you in the ears, and I didn't really think it was any more complex or "progressive" than the last 2 albums, which are 2 of my favorites of all time from any band. But with all that said, cosmic crown, royal orphan, and mass are pretty sweet songs
    I completely agree with you. As a long-time Scale the Summit and prog fan in general, the songwriting and the pace on this album is, sadly, just crap 80% of the time. There are several cool riffs and ideas all over the album, but they're terribly disjointed and make no sense in the context of the song. The biggest examples of this are Royal Orphan or Goddess Gate, where most parts are great on their own but when put together just make for an absolute mess of a song in both cases (and even worse for Goddess Gate, it's almost offensive how badly structured that song is considering Nick Johnston's solo is the best thing on the whole album IMO). Apart from the guest appearances there's almost nothing that stands out to me. Add to that the highly questionable production and mixing choices and the loss of pretty much all the character that made StS great, and this results in a terribly bland and disappointing experience.
    From what I've read this album does seem promising, but I'll admit it's been difficult for me to get into these guys, especially considering the accusations surrounding Chris' character. Hopefully the music speaks it's own merit though.
    I've heard all the accusations too, and frankly, I'm reviewing an album, not a person. I'm Travis Lausch, not Brian Storm.
    As someone who knows almost nothing about the band, do you mind explaining what you mean about Chris' character?
    He's been accused of not paying his band members anywhere near enough money (hence all the departures) while his best-selling author girlfriend is buying fancy modern houses. I think that's the long and short. 
    Essentially all the money the band made from touring/sales/merch etc. would go straight to Chris without the others ever knowing how much they made. They had no way of knowing if how much they were given was a fair split or if Chris was just hoarding it all away for himself, esp since he lives a rather luxurious lifestyle, which he would then say is purely because of his best selling author gf (again, the band had no way of knowing if he was using the band's money for himself or not). Chris would then just ask for them to just give the money back so he could "put it back into StS" even though Chris has more than enough expendable income (be it from his GF or his own income) to fuel his band. The band got tired of being broke while all their money kept suspiciously disappearing the second it went to Chris, and they left. Since the departure Chris has also played the victim card a fair bit and made it seem like the band put pressure on Chris to get his girlfriend to pay the band's expenses. TL;DR it's Ghost, only Chris is a bigger dick. 
    Yeah pretty much the dodgy pay system. If all this is true I would love to see him, Michael Keene from The Faceless and Al Mu'min from The Haarp Machine form a band together just to see the ego war. 
    Haha that would be great, but I'm sure Keene would cancel the shows and not tell anyone.