Scale The Summit
Carving Desert Canyons
23 March 2009
by Hazel Robinson
Vocals aren’t necessary to a song, any more than guitar or bass or Peruvian nose flute or cowbell are. Unless something’s being used effectively then it’s probably detracting from the rest of the music. God knows, enough songs have been ruined by idiots deciding against all apparent logic to wail some banal rubbish over the top of an otherwise perfectly serviceable instrumental.
As far as instrumentalism’s concerned, if you can’t think of any lyrics, for fuck’s sake don’t force some out just to have a singer because you think that’s what bands do. If you can’t think of any screamy noises, even, then leave that out as well. There are plenty of bands – from This Will Destroy You and their emotionally-paced epics to 5ive and their demented (and awesome) recent attempts at recreating the sound of a storm at sea- who aren’t splitting their wages with an interview-hogging frontperson and are probably all the better bands for it. There’s no need for vocals on their records, the songs are complete and finished without.
On the other hand, there are a few songs out there that’d be better if they had a bit of tambourine or a bit more bass or a guitar solo or, well, some vocals. It’s actually reasonably to Scale The Summit’s credit that they manage to fall into this category, since it’s because they’re clearly not only brilliant musicians but excellent songcrafts.
Each of the tracks on Carving Desert Canyons follows what’s basically a standard song structure, with obvious verses and choruses (give or take a few minor spag-outs) and is brilliantly paced. There are some astonishing, finger-wanking guitar solos and some exciting riffs and it’s extremely catchy. They’re the perfect melodic metal songs, if someone hadn’t forgotten to mix the vocal on.
Listening to it on its own, it sounds fine and complete and it’s not until slightly after the song’s ended that you find yourself wondering whether that was, in fact, it or whether something’s going to come in again in a minute and finish that all off.
Watch Scale The Summit perform ‘Bloom’ and ‘Sargasso Sea’ live at the Carving Desert Canyons release show
Listening to the whole album, you might not realise you’re missing something until you get to about twenty minutes in, think, “This first track’s quite long,” and realise four songs have already been and gone. It’s not that it has to have coherent words or that it even necessarily needs vocals but it’s definitely missing something. Try as they have, Scale The Summit just can’t pack enough in to five minutes to make the songs feel complete here.
It’s very, very brilliant and there are some almost heart-stoppingly amazing riffs on it (namely, the one that comes in about twenty seconds into ‘The Great Plains’ and the riff one minute into ‘Age Of The Tide’) and some of the wankiest, most awesome solos yet this year but by the end, it just leaves you wanting more in the bad sense of, “This demo’s great – can’t wait for the… oh.”
Half marks on a review normally means ‘well this is shit but I’d feel a bit mean coming right out and saying that for one reason or another.’ In this case, it just means this is half of a good album.
Sounds Like: Coheed and Cambria without the scary sheep vocals, Mastodon without the screaming, Prog Metal Karaoke vol. 5
Top Tracks: Sargasso Sea, Giants
Scale The Summit – Carving Desert Canyons tracklisting
The Great Plains
Age Of The Tide
City In The Sky