The Migration review by Scale the Summit

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  • Released: Jun 11, 2013
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.7 Good
  • Users' score: 8.6 (62 votes)
Scale the Summit: The Migration

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."

41 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Absolutely amazing album. Been listening to this the most out of all the other new releases lately. Such a cool, down to earth, band.
    This album sounds awesome, the heaviest and darkest stuff they've ever did, so powerful, love it! It's my fav with Carving Desert Canyons, 8/10 for me
    so far im loving this cd. scale the summit just takes you to a magical place when they play. they dont need to shred at 100mph just to make good instrumental guitar driven music. STS>animals as leaders
    Except a good deal of AAL's best stuff isnt fast, but atmospheric, On Impulse being the best example
    i never said AAL was fast shred but i can see how you thought i was implying. i was referring more to the yngwie malmsteens, and the michael angelos batios. animals is leaders is a fantastic band but i did not enjoy weightless nearly as much as their debut. scale the summit with this album has taken the top spot for me. my fav instrumental guitarist is and will always be joe satriani tho.
    If I had to choose, Id choose SCS too, but Tosin is a beast of a guitarist for me to put down.
    Silver Blues
    You people might need a head check. What I've heard of this album is awesome. The Collective is definitely my favorite STS album but this one's great too. Additionally their new bassist is a good fit. I thought Eberhardt was great but this guy is really holding his own.
    Wow, didn't expect to see this album get such an average rating. Personally, I think they delivered to their standards and put out another great album. Though I definitely agree with Odyssey being a tad disjointed, especially that ending.
    5 is average. 6.7 is more than a point and a half above average. UG seems to have been duped into believing that only 9-10 are considered good ratings.
    Yeah, I'm not in the "every album I like deserves a 10" camp, and I certainly wouldn't give the album a 10 personally. But in my opinion I think it's more of an 8 than a 6.7.
    Was this reviewer not getting laid when he wrote this?! Give credit where deserved! Most bands with a vocalist would kill to write songs like this and you make light of the fact they can pull it off without a vocalist! Also it seems like the reviewer only listened to "the collective" to make judge of their music.thats why it's called new material! If they wanted it to sound like "the collective" the album would've been titled "the collective pt.2"
    The review said the Collective was better. No further comparisons were made apart from that this one was occasionally as good. Hell, it even makes a passing reference to the debut. Also, the review spends an entire paragraph giving them credit for doing so well without a vocalist. The review overall was very positive about everything apart from the opening and closing. Did you even read it?
    Not every person wants to hear vocals in music all the time, and STS is one of my favorite bands to listen to when i get the stagnant earfull of yet another ego driven singer, and STS is that nice escape from that. I prefer instrumental music over the rest, yes this is my personal opinion, but unless the vocalist is a true poet and talented singer i just cant buy into it. I'd say STS is quite noble and genuine to their craft and doing it for their passion of music and knowing that if they threw some shoddy vocalist in there it would screw up their whole formula, music without a vocalist can lead one to IMAGINE their own ideas and interpretations of the song. i feel this review just nit picked the album and had no real critique other than his or her own personal OPINION. STS PLEASE dont get a vocalist i like you guys the way you are!!!!! Thanks STS
    "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." That's weird, it seems the author agrees with you.
    The review never told them to get a vocalist. The review was very positive. Go read it.
    Did you write the review or something lol?? You are getting more worked up about people commenting then anyone taking offense to the review. Since I can only assume you (or someone you know) wrote this then listen closely..Its a SHITTY review. Get over it.
    I guarantee that if it was 2 points higher, without changing a word of the review itself, it would have been more well-received. ITT: butthurt fanboys
    Update: the review is now one point higher and considerably more well-received. I rest my case.
    Update: You essentially just made my point. The review didnt justify the low rating the album was given. N
    I proved my own point: no one cared about the review, and UG only looks at ratings. You didn't make a point to prove.
    For the average listener (to whom this review was written), lack of vocals is a pretty blatant deviation from the typical music experience. However, noting that difference doesn't make it a bad review; straight instrumental music is hard to swallow for nearly everyone. You're looking at this review as a fan when you should be looking at it objectively, you filthy hypocrite. I think the rating itself is pretty fair; for what the band specializes in, this reviewer gave credit where it was due.
    ...but the review never says it's bad that they don't have a vocalist. That would be ignorant. Quoting the above quote, "STS overcomes the "need" for a vocalist just as a classical piece overcomes the "need" to be operatic or otherwise assisted with vocal work." In other words, even if one assumes the "default" is to have vocals, STS pulls off interesting instrumental prog really well.
    wow i gotta say this album deserves a much higher rating IMO. as far as instrumental bands go, these guys are far and away my favorite. they have an amazing blend of melody and technicality that few bands have, and most of the time i forget that there's no vocals. although i think "carving desert canyons" is their strongest release with the most memorable moments, this is a very solid album. i would really like to see a live dvd from them.
    There's a few problems I had with this review. First off, did you even check out their discography?
    Totally agree. It's not badly written, but it seems like the reviewer didn't pay much attention at all to neither the album or the band to write a proper opinion. For me, the album is brilliant and a logical evolution from what they started with The Collective, and definitely just as good.
    I think it's totally fine if a reviewer doesn't glorify the band with his jizz for a whole few paragraphs. A review based solely on an album and it's sound, and nothing else is a totally fair review to me. It wouldn't be wrong to compare any songs or anything to anything else, but I think we should all assume when someone deals with all of these sub-genre progressive bands is that they kinda know what they're talking about for the most part, and that they're not really gonna miss any heavy details for not knowing the bands complete bio.
    6.7 is pretty fair for an album with no beginning and no ending. The Collective was stellar; this one was alright.
    That's just your personal perception. I think both Odyssey and The Traveler are great. Personally, The Traveler stands out as one of the best on the album to me. I'm enjoying it as much as I did with The Collective, and that's saying a lot. Their best is still Carving Desert Canyons for me though, but these two aren't that far behind.
    The Traveler could have been placed anywhere on the album. It's not an ending. Nothing about its musical construction says "ending" other than the lame radio filter at the opening/coda. The Odyssey is weak and stops abruptly, rather than flowing into the rest of the album. It's not a good beginning. The Collective > Carving Desert Canyons > The Migration > Monument
    Personally, I enjoyed this one as a whole moreso than The Collective, though it's not without its share of "issues". I didn't care much for the little mellow bit at the end of "Odyssey", but I found it flows better than "Narrow Salient". That intro riff is awesome, but as the song progresses, it sort of loses me. It seems too fragmented between transitions for me. I really do enjoy "The Traveler", but it probably could use a better ending. It's just a bit too abrupt. I saw them play it live as a closer and the ending sort of threw me off. Maybe if the ending were a bit more predictable, it would work better. IMHO, "The Olive Tree " would be a nice choice as a closer.
    I agree about Odyssey ending a bit abruptly, but that's pretty much my only complaint about the album. If for me that's one of the few low points of an album, it makes total sense to disagree with both the review and the rating. And I totally disagree about The Traveler, I think it fits perfectly as an ending and wouldn't be have the same effect halfway through the album. For me, Carving Desert Canyons > The Collective = The Migration > Monument
    Based on what? It isn't climactic. It's just another track in the same style as the rest with a radio book-ending it. That doesn't qualify it for an effective ending. Can't throw something out there and not be able to justify.
    Does an ending track have to be climatic? I think it does if the album is a flowing story or concept, but i never got that feeling from STS. I think this is my favourite album so far. The collective and carving desert canyons are also really really good though.
    I'm liking it so far, even the abrupt ending of "The Odyssey", but I still think 6.7 is a fair rating.