Progressive metal was originally an attempt to push metal forward, augmenting the genre's straightforward aggression with refreshing elements borrowed from classical, jazz, or whatever the hell else. Too many progressive metal bands nowadays, though, have borrowed from nowhere but the same tired grandfathers of the subgenre (Dream Theater, Symphony X, et al). There's no doubt that the astonishing technical ability on Scale the Summit's third release, The Collective, make for some show-stopping moments, but as a whole, the instrumental Houston quartet's latest is a prime example of prog metal gone boring.
In particular, Scale the Summit suffer more from their lack of vocals on this album than earlier material. In instrumental metal, details like guitar tone become that much more essential; seven- and eight-string guitarists Chris Letchford and Travis Levrier dial up a tone a little too reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog, making the music sound cheesy.
That said, there are definitely scattered moments that would make any prog dork cream. The rhythmic variations and flowing guitar phrases in "The Levitated" sound somewhere between a more polished Isis and a less technical Protest the Hero. While the guitars might not be as virtuosic as prog contemporaries like Animals as Leaders or Between the Buried and Me, the rhythm section's performance would bring shivers to any bassist or drummer. "Origin of Species" and "Alpenglow" feature some of the fanciest tapped bass lines and syncopated drum work in recent memory.
In the end, though, most of the songs on The Collective suffer from the same problems as "Black Hills," a typical eight-minute trip to noodly nowhere—full of all-too-familiar prog flash and flourish with little meaning. CODY THOMAS