Scale the Summit at the Spitfire Lounge

It’s been said that music is the universal language, transcending the spoken word and communication not just on an audible level but conveying emotion, unspoken thoughts, messages and conjuring images and pictures without a single utterance. Saturday night September 15th  at The Spitfire in Vandalia Winding Hollow Productions presented four bands that played the stage to an appreciative crowd with nary a word spoken and all performances were instrumental to the nights supreme musicianship.

Dayton’s very unique bass and drums two man band Shadows In The Hour Glass started the evening proving a great band doesn’t need shredding guitars or vocals to create a powerful sound. Illusions of Serenity opened with its creepy, eerie ambiance making you feel like your walking down a long dark tunnel and you suddenly feel like something’s behind you. Four string finger player Zack Ryan and skins striker Travis Abling display intricate knowledge and proficiency creating dark, deep malevolent musical stories with Ryan’s bass as the main character and Ablings beats as the surrounding plot. The frantic playing gives chase to images of feeling lost or being chased in trippy movie sequences. He creates suspense, melancholy, apprehension, fear and caution playing the strings at walking, running, sprinting speed with Chuck Schuldiner technical prowess. He can also make it gurgle as the atmospheric fog rolls in. When someone hears the term ‘band’ its widely assumed there are at least three instruments involved but Shadows prove that so much can be done with only a duo of sound. The hourglass of time runs waiting for no one while the shadows of people slowly start to fade as time runs away. Shadows was originally a side project by Covered in Scars bassist Ryan and C.I.S. drummer Abling but has become its own identity with elements of technical death metal, jazz and classical with a darker more sinister edge.

Dayton’s next experimentation into noise and sound I Died Trying was ironically the only group that did ‘have something to say’. Between the screaming hidden yells from the darkness of drummer Bret Newland and the frantic yelling/auctioneer-esque lyrics spitting of guitarist Tony Goff  I’m not sure what all was said but the music and pure performance of the show did all the talking. I.D.T. is a uniquely distinguished select taste of heavy music, constant tempo changes, audio samples and any and all types of guitar shredding, chopping, hammering, tweaking techniques. Kind of like watching a multiple car wreck in slow motion. Think Dillinger Escape Plan meets Cattle Decapitation with some Slipknot turn table effects. Imagine hearing all emotions and thoughts from the mind of a schizophrenic at P.A.volume. They attack your brain like a drug. Even though Goff took to the floor to sing a few number it’s not all in your face pandemonium.There’s tastes of Opeth and Godflesh to keep the variety factor interesting. The music is tough, angry, artistic and violent which is good considering Goff has a passing resemblance to MMA fighter Keith Jardine. I Died Trying is a musical hangover that keeps the ears ringing but keeps you out of the bathroom.

It’s a pretty universally regarded given that everyone likes great sax. Well Greensboro North Carolina’s Trioscapes are no different. In fact Walter Fancourt excels at it. Playing in the three man bass, drums, saxophone ‘trio’ they bring an incredibly different, catchy ‘rock’ feel to instruments usually regarded as in the background or more ‘laid back’. They Blast Off and for those who think of the slow, moody, sexy sound ,made popular in numerous mob movies Fancourt’s sound includes that, for a collective minute or two anyway. For the rest of the performance he treats the sleek brass piece like a lead guitar shredding the keys/pedals taking the instrument to its very physical limits. When Adophe Sax invented it in 1846 he wanted to create the most powerful single reed playing instrument there was. Fancourt has taken that vision to the literal pipe blowing edge with his own furious heavy style. With neck muscles bulging he summoned the air from the Woodwind Gods above and played a speed metal version of The Pink Panther theme…. for 30 minutes. Fancourts lip piercing pursuits speeds up, slows down, breathes out some sexy seduction, solos, bends notes, and makes it shriek, scream, wail, caress and cuss. This is classy ballroom/ smokey cocktail lounge music brought into the rock arena. He takes you on a mile a minute saxy conversation then puts you on a rainy street round midnight filled with smog and broken dreams. I’m pretty sure sax’s don’t have toggle switches but he’s found a way to create one. Bassist Dan Briggs thumped his way through the set creating deep Opeth on the Moore imagery. Drummer Matt Lynch kept the pace with perfect time and precession. Not every drummer has the challenge to ‘keep up’ with the sax player. Of the four songs played they closed with ‘their’ version of an Mahavishnu Orchestra song called Celestial Terrestria Commuters.

For those that remember the PBS show The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross know that with each painting it was just him, the paint and the story of what he creates. Houston’s Scale The Summit draw similar comparison. Their unique brand of instrumental rock leaves no room or need for words and they let the music tell the story and take us along for the ride. They deliver strong driving songs weaving long intricate stories. Chris Letchford and Travis Levrier play cascading chords creating lush, vast musical landscapes with scenic soloing. Bassist Mark Michell gives the moody depth and weight holding down the structure while Pat Skeffington pounds out the backbone keeping the story going. Many influences can be heard when it’s just the music. The prog sound of Opeth, unique catch of Tool, wizardry of Steve Vai with the technical style of Death all mixed in weaving and intertwined into their own musical novel style. They create atmosphere, space and time with narrative and hundreds of notes but each is part of the whole plot.

Tonight proved without a doubt that music is indeed the universal language no matter how light, heavy, complex or simple. When you have people in Iced Earth/Tool shirts rocking out to a guy playing saxophone you know you have an audience that’s open minded and appreciates great musicianship and delivery.     

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