SCALE THE SUMMIT Or stand around.

YOU KNOW HOW whenever you go into a music shop, there's at least one bro shredding way too loudly? It's always a dude. He was shredding that way long before you got there, and he'll keep going after you leave. He probably won't buy anything. He probably digs Scale the Summit. Hell, he's probably in Scale the Summit.

The Houston prog-metal instrumental group is a Guitar World band through and through. Guitarist Chris Letchford and bassist Mark Michell have both written instructional guitar books, including the one Letchford wrote that's completely dedicated to finger-tapping techniques. They're the type of band whose merch table includes guitar tablature books of their albums. If by this point you're thinking Dream Theater, Yes, Yngwie Malmsteen, and maybe Joe Satriani, you're not far off.

In a lot of interviews, Letchford—who also just released a solo jazz record—stresses that the band is more interested in songcraft than cobbling together a shred showcase. (We would've asked him about this, but our own interview was canceled at the last minute.) Most of the band's first three albums—2007's Monument, 2009's Carving Desert Canyons, and 2011's The Collective—made a virtue of restraint. They somehow found a way to sound like a laidback metal band. That's not often a useful trait in metal, and for a long time Scale the Summit were kinda boring.

By comparison, last year's The Migration is extra busy, extra proggy, and extra shreddy, and it's the best thing they've done. Opener "Odyssey" is appropriately epic, 20-sided-die metal, while "The Traveler" rips even as it's maybe the heaviest songs in the Scale the Summit catalog. And it's not just guitars—the rhythm section is all over the map, with Mitchell high up on the bass neck as often as he's riding the low end, and drummer Pat Skeffington navigating knotty turns.

While Portland's metal scene offers plenty of the crusty, ugly, grimy stuff, The Migration is the flipside of that: precise, articulated, and glossy. It's a prog-metal clinic with licks that you could literally hear at a guitar clinic. Or, at least, coming from the ever-present shred bro at your local Guitar Center.