Where'd the adventure go?
Carving Desert Canyons, this band's sophomore album and a great favorite of mine from 2009, had me dying for more of this tasty band. The licks, soloing, and overall "adventurous" atmosphere of the music was purely infectious. This year, when they announced the release of "The Collective," I was ecstatic. To hear more was going to be purely sublime! The studio updates, little snipets of news from the bands, and anything else I could get just fed my desire for this new album. However, when they released "Whales" a few weeks before the release of the album, I was puzzled: where'd the adventure go? The band had turned to a bit more riff based, more "metal" album. However, with more and more listens, the track began to grow on me: the new style fused the bands already great uniue style with their influences of Cynic and Dream Theater into a jazzy and dynamic debut for the band. When the album came out, again I was not greatly impressed, but soon the album began to grow on me. Sections where at first cringed began to turn into boughs of joy, and the album took a turn for the better for me.
The album opens with an ambient soundscape the leads into the "colossal" track Colossal. Breaking off from the ambiance with a smashing riff and some sweeping riffing, the track starts the album off on a great foot. As we've known since the beginning these guys are no musical amateurs- they can rip out a kickin' solo any day of the week without a sweat- which is seen plenty of times on this song, and on this album.
Whales, as I mentioned in the intro, is certainly a grower. Opening with a more mellow lick, the song takes a slow entry. It takes a little while for the jazzy progressions to really get on their feet, but once they start to move, they certainly move. A very strong Cynic influence is heard throughout the song, giving a tasty dose of jazzy metal influence to spice things up a bit. Once the solo section kicks in, that's where the true power of Scale the Summit's composition can be heard. Complementing harmonies with spot on melodies with spot on rhythms with spot on low ends and high ends and everything in between, the band sure knows how to rip open a song and fill it with only the good song. Certainly a favorite of mine from this album.
Emersion drags the album down a bit. The opening is one of the most awkward musical pieces I've heard in a while, with the band trying to utilize chromatic jazz- and it doesn't work out very well. However, once the song starts to get started, it matures into a great and adventurous piece of music- even though it is only 2 minutes long.
The main purpose of Emersion in my opinion has to be as a great intro to the next track: The Leviated. One of the more jazzy tracks on the album, we hear more two hand tapping, just like the landmark track Great Plain on the last album. The song is very chill and laid back, building and receding, emerging and returning, throughout the whole thing. Overall, this is another one of my favorites for the album, displaying the bands more emotional and heartfelt side of composition.
Secret Earth is another very mellow and jazz-based track. Instituting a great dynamic between melodic noodling and heavier riffs behind it, the song starts off immediately on a great foot. The solos are heavily melody based and take you off on an adventure to secret earth. Another fantastic track, for sure.
Gallows is certainly the heaviest track on the album, kicking off with a rotary style drum solo and some fast riffing from the guitar department. An obvious departure from the bands usual style, the song serves a dual purpose of giving the album a nice dynamic and broadening the band's musical portfolio. The solo tapping section is a great solo also, utilizing some sublime harmony skills. Overall, although different from much of the band's usual show, the song shows the band that they can do pretty much whatever they want and get away with it.
Origin of the Species, although again being only 2 minutes, is another fast and fierce track. Fusing the adventure and riffing that have made this album more dynamic than usual, we can see a great trend here. Although it does not seem as original as some of the other track, it still proffers some great new sounds to their discography.
Alepnglow is another jazzy and melodic track. The song starts with a mellow lick, and breaks into a nice solo with a bit of a harder edge. Although the solos in this song can get a bit repetitive, they still can give a great case for musical dominance. Years spent at the Musicians Institute seem to have served these fine gentlemen well. Overall, this track is another great one, even if some transitions seem a bit sudden and soloing can be a bit repetitive.
Black Hills, the longest track in their discography as of yet (just about 8 minutes), understandably contains a lot of great material. The song has some fantastic dynamics, transitioning flawlessly from sweeping riff sections to mellow and ambient sections. The solos again are near flawless, showcasing this bands awesome musical prowess.
Balkan sees the winding down of the album. It opens slowly, and although the licking gets a little heavier, it still retains that mellow tempo at which the song with sustain through the first section of the track. Soon the track with transition into a sweeping force that quickly traverses through fields of sonic mastery, giving way to even more great output from the band.
Drifting Figures, the closing track, is a great closer. Maintaining a mellow tapping rhythm for most of the track, the song acts as a relaxing piece of music, great for letting the listener slip into a post-Collective trance to contemplate the beauty of the music they just experienced. Overall a great closer to a great album.
ALBUM OVERALL: The Collective is certainly a grower. If you are not impressed by your first listen (I wasn’t), listen again. And again. The album’s natural ability to wow will kick in sooner or later. Now I’m in a quandary on how this racks up against Carving Desert Canyons, seeing as the albums are so drastically different, but I think I will go for yes, this beats the great CDC, for its superb compositions and ambiances, it’s great atmosphere and musical virtuosity: yes, The Collective is a very near masterpiece, and certainly the best this band has to offer us yet! 4 stars.