I'm gonna start this off by saying I'm incredibly biased, as Carving Desert Canyons is one of my favorite albums of all time. STS managed to brand instrumental music with a perfect conglomeration of prog riffs, headbanging groove, catchy melody and beautiful soft passages. I've been waiting a while to see where they could improve from CDC, and by God, I wasn't expecting this.
I preordered this album and got it in the mail this morning, autographed by all the band members!
It came with a pretty awesome shirt with the amazing cover art:
I've listened to it twice all the way through, and am working on my 3rd. Without a doubt, this album is much, MUCH darker than Carving Desert Canyons. CDC was beautiful with lots of major keys and a pretty bright album cover. When I listened to it, I felt like I was flying through the sunny blue sky, over sunlight canyons and vast expanses of plains. This time around, I feel like flying through dark forests and lakes, even the vastness of an ocean, all at nighttime or around dusk. Its got a much more mysterious
feel to it, with lots of minor tonalities and guitars, bass and drums bleeding in and out of each other.
I feel like overall, this album reminds me a lot
of Blackwater Park. That's when Opeth hit their stride, combining all their amazing techniques into a musical masterpiece. On the other hand, it reminds me of Crack the Skye, when Mastodon ditched their sludgy prog sound that was noodling all over the place for Blood Mountain and had a much more psychedelic, swirling, cleaner tone to it. Overall, STS has managed to reach their prime in songwriting abilities. There is literally no song- and I mean no song
- that didn't hold me captivated to listen from the opening note to final chord. This is an album I can't hear, but have to listen
to. I have to close my eyes and give it all my attention, every ounce in me to appreciate what is going through my head. Other than Opeth, no band has captivated me this much in terms of pure musicality. This album is just... beautiful.
I guess none of the songs are truly metal as we know it, yet all of them are incredibly dark, to the point that its more "metal" than any of the black imagery black metal bands display.
We start off the album hearing four long, bleeding notes, surrounding our ears like a pool of water slowly rising around us. Then it turns to slowly strummed distorted notes in a prog time signature. Soon it escalates to calculated noise, not something normally heard from STS. Overall, the solos come in and out, blending flawlessly with the melody and riffs. They've truly mastered the art of having the song start in one place and end in another, without you ever noticing how the song changed to reach the end. And did I mention how dark it sounds?
This song has been on the internet for a while now, but hearing it in context with Colossal as an opener, its the next logical step for our audio journey. The darkness escalates to a pumping fast rhythm with palm muted notes underlying a flying solo, not too fast in technicality, but strung together so expertly that it ends up mind blowing in the way its told. Every note has emotion behind it- no mindless shredding here. I can't help but to pause and hold my breath at the beauty behind it. Then almost effortlessly we come to an ending soundscape like the beginning of Colossal. As I close my eyes, I see the whales swimming around me slowly, menacingly, yet gracefully, in a dark ocean where the depths are pure blackness. These song titles mean so much to the music. Not even Opeth takes my mind to such a distinct visual place upon listening.
A slightly faster paced opening solo riff goes over this song, playing over a rhythm track flowing effortlessly between soft and heavy passages. It ends up at a straight up metal riff, probably the heaviest STS has ever written. Again, I can't stress enough how amazing the songwriting is. These transitions are flawless. Before I know it, its over, yet it feels like I've been hearing it for hours.
Its strange: the darkest, most evil sounding song on the album is all done with clean guitars. 0 distortion. I can't get enough of this song; its so well put together that my head is going in circles. Its like the tapping at the end of The Great Plains, but 10 times darker, and lasting the entire song. It has this incredible dark beauty to it, something I can't necessarily put into words. If you want to hear real tapping- not Van Halen shit or shred noodling- this is what you need to hear. Its just amazing. I can't say it any clearer. Despite being at a moderate tempo, without shredding, there is more emotion and technicality to this than any 80's shredder I've heard.
Another beautiful clean opener that pans back and forth. I feel like I'm descending into the earth, through dark chasms, into a dark place, like a forest or some sort of Eden, hidden deep within the dark chasms. The guitar noodling between the solo and rhythm track is flawless, Travis did just as much amazing work as Chris when it came to guitar playing this time around. The rhythm guitar is just plain beautiful. It slowly fades out, leaving me in a trance.
Okay, Scale the Summit wrote a straight up metal opening. From the first notes, the beat is pounding, turning into a fast double bass, headbanging guitar situation. For me, I picture myself being led up to the gallows, and the mayhem going through my head as the rope is put around my neck. My mind is moving at 1000 miles an hour, then- the rope drops. Suddenly, time almost stops as I see my life flash before me. The music slowly reflects this, building slowly back up in an epoch. I'm almost at tears when the solo finally cuts in; I won't lie. This music is just insane. Then it cuts, and I can feel the rope finally snap. As I feel the life leave my body, the solo continues and fades out. Just... wow.
Origin of Species:
A dark feedback loop opening turns into a pummeling progressive 7/4 signature, thats just metal enough to have me band my head, but prog enough to keep my mind completely focused on the guitar interplay, and the bass. And before I know it, its over. It was so good; yet I didn't notice ever reaching the end. STS... you're fucking with my head again... it hurts so good
Another amazing soft opening, with incredible drumwork that keeps my mind at constant attention. As the title suggests, I feel like I'm surrounded by a vast mountainscape, gigantic in scale beyond imagination, as the sun is setting at my back. As the song progresses to be heavier and heavier, the light is getting darker and darker, and the reflection off of the mountain sides gets even more beautiful. Shit, halfway through there are some dark metal riffs they sneaked in. Again, the transitions from riff to riff are flawless and seamless, yet catchy enough to stay in my mind. As the song ends in a pummeling metal barrage, night fully descends, and blackness engulfs me. Holy shit, what a journey. I think I'll take it again, right now.
And now for the swan song of The Collective. From a pounding building-up riff and solo, the song goes quiet, and we hear a low drone, a single note played on the bottom open string of the 8-string guitar (its acutally the same as a low 7th string, since STS uses a higher 8th string instead of a second lower a la Meshuggah). This is the first time on the album that note has been played, and it creates a shrowd- a whole new level of darkness- that didn't exist before. Its straight up evil, ominous, and scary. Black Hills is a very appropriate title. We get transported to an amazing 5/4 guitar noodledry which seamlessly is integrated with the existing rhythm beats. The song then fades a third of the way through to another guitar sondscape, slowly building up at the perfect fucking pace
, to more amazing headbanging riffs which beautifully meld with clean parts and flying solos. I'm flying through the sky in this song like Carving Desert Canyons, but the sky is dark and foreboding this time around. I feel small and desolate, worthless compared to the awesome beauty and majesty the earth surrounds me in. At the 2/3 point of the song, it slowly builds back up with a great pounding bass leading the charge. The guitars are played slowly and deliberately, permeating the awesomeness that pure feedback can create. Then it fades out with the sounds of soft rain and a slowly played clean guitar. Its just beautiful, and probably the best Scale the Summit song I've heard yet.
Picking up right where Black Hills left off, Balkan builds up slowly with almost no drums and another great flying solo. They instruments are blending together as one, almost. There's no guitar playing this, bass playing this, and drums playing that. Its one sound, the Scale the Summit instrument. Halfway through it turns incredibly dark (as if this album wasn't dark enough) and stops for a split second, making my heart jump a beat. The song continues on a downward spiral of guitarwork until the end.
Some more great clean tapping parts with a ghostly solo over the top begin the final song on The Collective. Its another slow, beautiful one (in a dark way), rising and falling with the distortion like waves in an ocean, or leaves on the wind. Slowly, effortlessly, the guitars drift away in perfect progressive style, then-
It stops. My heart stops. The world seems to stop. And just when I've reached my max amount of tension, a single, clean chord is strummed, and like a giant exhale, all the tension leaves my body. Its therapeutic, like yoga. I feel completely at ease, aware of my physical surroundings like never before.
(this is the most peaceful emoticon I could find)
In case you haven't guessed by this point, I'm giving this album a perfect 10/10. By god, it deserves it. Its the greatest instrumental album I've ever heard. Bar none. STS managed to take the amazing job done on Carving Desert Canyons, and evolve to a new stage as players, songwriters, and a band as a whole. I love how the album is so goddamn dark
, so ominous and brooding and amazing. From the swirling beginning to the giant exhale of an ending, The Collective held my attention for every second. It transported me mentally to far off places and vast landscapes unable to be described with words. Its almost Fantasia-esque in nature.
If you've read this whole review, thank you so much.
This album is completely amazing, and has shot up right next to Blackwater Park and Ghost Reveries as the albums I'll be able to listen to over and over again. It is dark and metal, much more than STS have dared to venture in the past. Its beautiful and passionate, technical in structure yet bursting with emotion. I'm truly can't put it into words how I feel about this. Unless Opeth somehow creates a complete masterpiece, this is album of the year. By far.