Review Summary: While it's not one of their classic albums, it's a new style and I like the new direction that Rush is heading towards.
I doubt Rush will never go back to their 'golden era', featuring albums such as Hemispheres, A Farewell to Kings, Permenant Waves and Moving Pictures, but this is getting really close.
With the release of Vapour Trails after taking a break, Rush seemed to not be in their element and be producing great albums like they usually do, and produced, in my opinion, a half-hearted effort, which I am willing to forgive considering the circumstances.
I see Vapour Trails as a transiton period; a period of getting heavier and changing styles, and the album had a very raw sound. But with Snakes & Arrows, we now see where Rush is heading, and I have to say that I like their new heading. It's a great new sound that they're developing, and you can tell that it has definately progressed and become both more defined and more refined since Vapour Trails.
We see some familiar things on this album that other Rush albums also share - the development of the heavy bass and guitar work with layering vocals is consistent with albums dating back at least as far as Counterparts, and possably even eariler. Also, that distinctive syncopating rythm that Peart plays in a lot of songs on the ryde bell is still there - this is a feature that is present on possibly every album that Peart has been present on.
While there are some familiar styles and techniques on Snakes & Arrows, there are two distinctive 'new' things they do, and I have to say that I think it's great, but still a bit different and will take a while to get used to:
1) there are three instrumentals on the album, and two quite close together. Rush don't do many instrumentals, and none notable since YYZ. Of course you have Leave That Thing Alone off Counterparts, but although that is a good track, it doesn't stand out and it's a bit forgettable. I like their occasional instrumentals and think it's great that they're doing some more
2)There is more accustice work on this album than has been previously. In fact, the album that comes closest to Snakes & Arrows' level of accusit work would have to be Test for Echo, and although there was more accustic work than usual, it wasn't nearly on the level as Snakes & Arrows. But I think this is a good thing, but I wouldn't want this to become too regular, as it seems to differ too much from the Rush I've come to grow up and love.
So, all-in-all it's a great album, but for some reason something's holding me back from giving it a 4. Not sure what it is, I guess it's just a differnt Rush, and a higher rating may come in time.
But it's a great album, and I like the heading that Rush has set it's course on. :)