Scale the Summit, for the first two albums, made a bit of a name for themselves playing some mildly technical instrumental progressive metal. Even after gaining recognition through tours with Dream Theater and BTBAM, they spent a lot of time in the same basic territory. Monument and Carving Desert Canyons, while showcasing immense talent, also unfortunately showed off a band that couldn't really put a lot of variation into what they composed.
For those who weren't sure what they felt about the first two, The Collective may change all of that. It shows a complete different side to Scale the Summit, with atmosphere all over the place and the band incorporating an enormous amount of jazz into their sound. And for those who have read my reviews where I wonder why they don't put their wonderful tapping sections into more of their songs, yes, they put more tapping into their music. Some of the compositions almost reinvent what one what one can expect from a metal band, the tones are just magical, and some parts you can hardly describe without simply saying that they "Just sound so cool".
The Collective shows an immense overhaul of Scale the Summit's sound. Everything is beefed up considerably: The Technique is a bit stronger, the compositions have more variety, and just like the production boost from the first to the second album, the Collective gains another level of production. The result is the listener being immersed in waves of sound that create a wonderful atmosphere, often accompanied energetic musicianship amd a metal backbone.
The first thing fans listening since the first two will notice is the new variety of songs on the album. The band's Cynic influence is all-too apparent with the atmospheric "Whales" which just oozes the dark prog metal found in Paul Masdival's guitar style. "The Levitated" has some very tasteful and musically proficient tapping that brings out some of the most beautiful imagery. And "Secret Earth" may be the best track on the album, where the slow, emotional lead guitar is otherworldly and the rest of the instruments simply back it up perfectly with unusual chord choices and perfect groove.
While it's still clearly Scale the Summit playing, even the more energetic songs don't really match their earlier style at all. Even the "heaviest" song (not necessarily that heavy) on the album, "Gallows" starts off with a lead that may be found on either of their first two, but instead of remaining in the same groove for the rest of the piece, the band goes into completely different sections. "Origin of Species" opens with a rather heavy-ish and epic intro, and again the band creates variations upon it. However, Scale the Summit seems to revel mostly in the newer style they have gone into, and being awash in melody and magic is part of this album's strength.
In summation, The Collective shows Scale the Summit at their best, immersed in a completely new musical world of melody and emotion. There are really very few flaws to be found on the album, there are so many soundscapes that evoke so much beautiful imagery, that it stand's thus far as Scale the Summit's best Opus yet. It will be incredibly hard for them to top themselves after this, as it is by far a highlight in their career already, and a highlight of 2011. Absolutely recommended.