Scale the Summit was formed in 2004 by guitarist Chris Letchford and some classmates from the Los Angeles Musicians Institute. Their debut album, Monument, was self-funded and self-released, but the group signed to Prosthetic Records in time to release their second album, Carving Desert Canyons.
After the release of The Collective, the group's third record and last to feature their original lineup, the band finally headlined their own tour in 2012, having been a supporting act on all tours up to that point. The following year, the band released The Migration, the first to feature a new member in place of an original member, and two years later another original member left before the release of their fifth album V.
Monument, the band's debut album, was self-released on July 10, 2007 and funded by the band members themselves. Letchford described the songs as "a lot more up tempo and in my opinion less organized, due to the lack of writing experience", and the production process as being sub-par in comparison to the band's standards owing to being self-funded.
Carving Desert Canyons was released on February 17, 2009, and was the band's first album to be released on a record label, Prosthetic Records. The cover art of this album is taken from The Wave, a sandstone rock formation in Arizona, USA.
By contrast to their first album, Letchford described Carving Desert Canyons as "a lot more organized" than their debut, in addition to being better produced as it was funded by an actual record label. The album's cover art was taken by a local Houston photographer, who sent them his portfolio of pictures to choose from; the eventual cover art was the first photograph Letchford saw in the portfolio.
Critical reaction was mixed, but usually positive. Eduardo Rivadavia of Allmusic assigned a rating of 3.5 stars out of 5, and said that the group were inventive but that the album's lack of "the convenient handholds normally afforded by lyrics and vocals" would eventually bore listeners not accustomed to their style. Also giving the album 3.5 stars out of 5, Ray Van Horn, Jr. wrote for About.com that the album's only drawback was "occasional repetition between songs", but praised the group's technical proficiency and their focus on creating an atmosphere for the listener.Sputnikmusic gave the album an "excellent" 4.0 out of 5, and remarked that Carving Desert Canyons demonstrated a maturation and refinement of the band's musical style compared to the overly-technical Monument, their debut.Exclaim! writer Chris Ayers compared the material to artists such as Rush, Yes and Cynic, saying that the album would "ensure the band a high position on this year's best-of lists." The PRP rated the album 3 stars out of 5 and criticized the songs for belying the band members' true technical abilities, saying the songs sounded little better than customers playing at Guitar Center, and the production for being dynamically flat.
The Collective, the band's third studio album, was released on March 1, 2011, by Prosthetic Records. The title for this album was chosen to reflect the philosophy that guided the writing of the material - of many parts coming together to form a greater whole. The album cover features a phyllotaxis spiral, a natural formation occurring in some plants, which Letchford described as a multitude of elements forming their own collective - and the inspiration for the album's title, as the band very often take inspiration from nature.
This is the last release to feature original bassist Jordan Eberhardt, who left the band in early 2012 citing his reluctance to continue touring full-time; he was replaced by Mark Michell. A vinyl edition containing the bonus track "Redwoods" and limited to 250 copies was released in February 2012; the song was also released as a single.
Phil Freeman wrote for Allmusic to compliment the group for opting to write songs with actual expression and not merely showing their technical talent off; he described The Collective as "a cohesive aesthetic experience, meant to be heard from beginning to end", and rated it 4 stars out of 5. Chad Bowar wrote for About.com that although he did not usually enjoy instrumental albums, those of Scale the Summit were an exception, and the only flaw he found with The Collective (which he rated 4 stars out of 5) was that "a lot of the songs fade out, which I don't personally care for, but that's a minor quibble". At Ultimate Guitar, the staff praised the album, describing the group as part of "the next generation of Vais and Satrianis", and noting that the group often use "mellower" material on the album instead of instrumental heavy metal at all times.Sputnikmusicemeritus Eli Kleman rated The Collective an "excellent" 4.0 out of 5, and said that despite the lack of musical evolution between this album and the previous one, it was still their best yet.Blabbermouth.net applauded The Collective as what reviewer Scott Alisoglu described as "an instrumental album every bit as musically engrossing and melodically enchanting as one with vocals", as he stated that Scale the Summit's "performances are [not] over the top in a technical sense" because the members of the group come together to "[create] a whole that is greater than the sum of those four parts". He closed his review by saying that although the band had not "reinvented the instrumental form", they have made an album thereof with greater coherency than is typical of the genre.
The Migration was released on June 11, 2013, by Prosthetic Records. The album artwork for The Migration was created by Duncan Storr. Letchford stated the band wanted artwork that fit the usual "organic/nature theme that we are costumed [sic] to using" with more of the color green, adding that he also admired the album covers of progressive rock band Yes. The album's sound was intended to be "organic and natural", and Letchford praised producer Jamie King for being in complete agreement with and understanding the group's goals. Guitars were recorded to a click track first, followed by drums and then bass guitar. The mixing process was accomplished via email; King would send the group one entire mix of the album and the group would send him feedback in response. This was done five times before the album was considered finished.
This is the band's first album with Mark Michell on bass guitar. Michell wrote the ending of "Oracle" and all of "Evergreen", which is a bass solo (Letchford noted that the higher-pitched sounds mistaken for regular guitars are actually all notes performed on the bass guitar). It is their last album with original drummer Pat Skeffington, who was replaced by J.C. Bryant after this album was released. At the time it was written, the band considered "The Traveler" to be their most difficult song yet.
Based on 6 reviews, Metacritic gave the album 84 out of 100. Reviewing for Allmusic, Gregory Heaney praised the album, writing that the band's instrumental metal style was "fantastic" as opposed to intimidating (for listeners who felt that the genre was too "academic").Sputnikmusic reviewer Jacob Royal also enjoyed the record, and specifically cited the composition of the track "The Olive Tree" as evidence that the band "knows exactly what it's doing" on this album. Scoring the record 8 points out of 10, Exclaim!'s Trystan MacDonald praised the group for being able to "balance technical shredding and melodic atmospheric pieces", and thus create well-written songs that also display their instrumental prowess.About.com rated the album 4 stars out of 5, as writer Natalie Zed remarked that the band's music lacks pretension, is engaging and has narrative qualities despite lacking vocals, and remaining true to their musical identity without being unable to innovate. She noted that "Odyssey" and "The Traveler" respectfully encouraged the listener to go on a journey of their own and reflected pensively on having completed one and been changed by it, and were thus dynamically-opposite tracks. At Ultimate Guitar, the staff felt that the band's best performances on the album were not their "fast-paced guitar-driven moments", citing "Atlas Novus" and "Olive Tree" as examples, but wrote that The Collective was a superior album and rated this one 7.7 out of 10.
Bravewords reported that the album's opening sales were four times those of The Collective.
In their early days the band recorded a demo that was self-released in a quantity of about 3,000 copies. In 2012, live recordings of "The Levitated" and "Whales" were included in the Scion Label Showcase series, available as free downloads.