Sound — 8
With "The Migration," Houston's prog-metal sons Scale The Summit braves yet another three-quarter hour of lone instrumentation. As former tour mates of Dream Theater, Scale The Summit has never strayed far from the genre's formula, with the glaring exception of its lack of vocalist. Though not altogether unheard of, the preference to leave the singer at home can certainly present challenges. Though STS has only occasionally stumbled since debuting ("Monument" was, at times, slow), there has often been less to digest in the speakers at home than those onstage. If this is the only problem Scale The Summit continues to have, it may well live up to the name.
"The Migration" traces some of the same steps as its predecessor, though sporting a rather shaky opening this time around. "Odyssey" is as big an opening as they come, but with the alternating fast and mellow segments lacks cohesion. It ends in an abrupt key change fade-out segment, playing the same riff progressively slower until the song cuts. Taken in context, the entire segment feels more like a lazy excuse to end than a natural progression. The ending feels equally disjointed, with a static effect layered on top of its opening before ditching the radio sound for the band's traditional sonic core. Moments like those tease at creativity only a couple of times throughout, but to do so at the tail end leaves a needy listener hanging.
When Scale The Summit do break from the fast-paced guitar-driven moments, they are truly at their best. Depth of instrumentation is a particular skill (one would hope so, given the lack of vocalist), with "Atlas Novus" getting things moving and "Olive Tree," while alluding to Pink Floyd's "Animals" in some moments, is as sweeping and melodic as the band gets. Mercifully adding purpose to the 5 + minute length per song at this point, the latter cut dreamy and atmospheric - also feels deliberately and very nicely put together. While STS knows how to construct an epic, they also know when to cut things short: "Narrow Salient" is prime-time raging guitar work and bright solos. As the record winds down, it does take a bit of a step backward: "Oracle" comes and goes with most of "Olive Tree"'s tricks, "The Dark Horse" is... well... dark, and as mentioned before, "The Traveler" is a pretty weak ending.
Like a good comedian, Scale The Summit's strengths are in timing and transition: they tell one joke and segue into the next. STS know how to use the accelerator and really have a fun time with the brakes, but more importantly as shown in "Evergreen," "Narrow"'s opening, and "Sabrosa" have a sense of moving from one cut to the next. Indeed, some of the transitions are better than the full-length tracks. Unfortunately, "The Migration" is book-ended with some pretty clumsy material, much of which simply feels silly and purposeless. With the limits the band has placed on itself, one would think care would be taken to avoid some of the typical pitfalls. Regardless, "The Migration" takes a few confident leaps in the right direction, reaching many of "The Collective"'s highs.
Lyrics — 8
Having saved some material typically appropriate for the "Sound" section, there is much to be said of Scale The Summit in terms of lyrics and singing. Of course, there is none of either, but what can be said of stripping away prog-rock/prog-metal (they've been classified as both; take your pick) imagery is that it allows the band to truly hone in on instrumentation. Taking advantage of the genre's love of intricate guitar work, Scale The Summit is a band that truly sets aside any doubt of the technical skill and creativity required to play the genre. Not to presume that there is any doubt over prog-metal (etc) or its place among the various types and sub-types, but as great of an opportunity as it is to hear one's favorite rock band without a vocalist, it can be rather dull. STS overcomes the "need" for a vocalist just as a classical piece overcomes the "need" to be operatic or otherwise assisted with vocal work. There are weaknesses and slow moments, but any band trudging through album after album with nothing but melody and a guitar, drum set, (new) bassist, and so on deserves commendation for the attempt alone. Scale The Summit earns it either way.
Overall Impression — 7
"The Migration" is, while a powerful piece of Scale The Summit's discography and a credit to the progressive sub-genres, a bit flawed and a bit uneven. Compared to the incredible rewarding "The Collective," it has a few kinks in the armor. However, it carries the STS name with pride and boasts moments of striking beauty and power, from "Olive Tree" to "Evergreen" and even moments of "The Dark Horse." Less thrilling are the opening and closing cuts, the former of which being especially crippling the record's potential to hook the newcomers. Casual listeners will certainly appreciate the music by its own merit, but a trained ear may less warmly receive the abrupt changes in style and bizarre creative choices in each track. Apart from that, "The Migration" is a small thrill of instrumental prog-metal and worth taking the time out for, if only after "The Collective."