Review Summary: Monument - noun. An object, such as a post or stone, fixed in the ground so as to mark a boundary or position.
Scale the Summit are one of those special bands that appear just ever so rarely. True innovators of style, masters of their craft, and pioneers of musical fusion they exploded onto the musical stage with 2007's Monument
. Unfortunately, it wasn't until around 2009 when the band was announced alongside Bigelf as replacements for Pain of Salvation and Beardfish on the Progressive Nation tour that they gained much recognition. While part of this is simply due to publicity, Monument
really makes you wonder how Scale the Summit hadn't been recognized for their abilities in the two year gap between their first release and perhaps their biggest tour.
In all honesty, Monument
is an album that lives up to its name - both as an object built worthy of glorification and as a marker along the path of innovation. The album succeeds by drawing on the three primary musical sensibilities that Scale the Summit particularly excel at: metal, prog, and jazz
. Yes, that's right, jazz - that musical style so often referenced as an influence on everything from Technical Death Metal to R&B. You might even say it's bantered about far too loosely by most critics. But here, I think it's an extremely valid and authentic point of analysis.
You see, this is where Scale the Summit manage to stand out. Not only do all members of the band invoke thoughts of the jazz rhythms of the old masters in their sound, but they elaborate on that ideal of jazz improvisation to create what becomes the soul of their sound. Bassist Jordan Eberhardt and drummer Pat Skeffington call down the jazz spirits in their smooth, yet constantly evolving and thoughtful rhythms, while guitarists Chris Letchford and Travis LaVrier hold a musical conversation through their guitars with that jazz sensibility of letting the music flow naturally to establish not only a tone, but a mood (the end of "Rode In On Horseback" comes to mind in particular, here).
Of course, if jazz is the soul of Monument
, then progressive music is its heart and metal is its exterior. Grooves, odd time signatures, epic build-ups that culminate in aural satisfaction, and incredible solos tapped, swept, and picked are all signatures of the progressive element that weaves itself around that jazz core here. And, of course, that metal shell is not to be ignored either. The blistering speeds at which all of the musicians can move - be it Chris, Travis, and Jordan navigating the fretboard with incredible ease while managing all of the duties their right hands can think of or Pat's ability to fly through double bass rhythms while setting his kit on fire with his sticks - cannot be ignored. And the same is true for the distorted guitar tones and overall pacing of many of the songs.
While I wholly believe that metal is mostly an afterthought for Scale the Summit, it's worth noting that this offering is significantly heavier and faster paced than 2009's Carving Desert Canyons
. If metal is the skin the package is wrapped in, consider the layer here double of what's on Carving Desert Canyons
. The sound is far more raw, leaving the atmosphere less refined. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - it's great for a change of pace, as differences between the two albums give each their own identity, while maintaining a distinctly similar sense of style and direction.
main (and, for the most part, only) shortcoming is the tendency for some tracks to repeat themselves, or to get caught in a groove for a bit too long. While Scale the Summit show here that they have essentially always been an astounding group technically, musically, and functionally, this is also the shard of evidence that tells us that this is a band that is still evolving, leaving Monument
as the signpost in the ground that reads "If you think this is good, just look ahead."