Review Summary: The boys back at the top of their game after 30 years.
Can anyone even imagine a world of music without Rush? Just even try to fathom how different it’d be if Rush never was. One could argue that another band would have taken their place and filled their role, but even still, how utterly different it would be. In modern music Rush has arguably had more influence than any other band that has existed. Yes, there is The Beatles, Led Zeppelin - who heavily influenced Rush in their early years –, Metallica and Black Sabbath, etc. But none of those bands have had as much staying power as Rush. They have been doing music professionally since 1974, and still going strong in 2012 and for years to come. They have had more longevity than any other band I can think of, and has garnered more success and a more loyal fan base (for proof look to Albert Humperdinck aka KILL) than any other band. In 2012, they released Clockwork Angels
, perhaps their most professional and most refined release yet. Rush is still:
Geddy Lee – Bass, Vocals, and Synthesizer
Alex Lifeson – Guitar
Neil Peart – Drums, Percussion and Lyrics
starts out with "Caravan" the hard hitting, near metal, opener that we all heard in 2010 along with the next track "BU2B". It starts out with a bell ringing and some synths before plunging into a start-stop rhythm with a meaty bassline. Then skip ahead to halfway through the song and you get a nice long instrumental section that is almost 2 minutes long and really shows impressive musicianship and creativity from the trio. As one of the heavier tracks on the album it most certainly does its job by engulfing the listener and immersing them into the 66 minute long gauntlet of an album. A place that Clockwork Angels
differs from its predecessor, Snakes & Arrows
, is that it is much better thought out. Therefore, making it more progressive. While Snakes & Arrows
was a great release in its own respect Clockwork Angels
is a better album in every way. It tells a story and seemingly has more purpose and demand than any previous Rush album.
The title track of Clockwork Angels
is the longest and perhaps most complex song on the album, it begins in a typical Rush fashion before slipping into a short clean section the going back to a hard rock persona with some excellent drum work from Neil and great, controlled yet theatrical singing from Geddy. "Clockwork Angels" also holds a very interesting, and impressive guitar solo from Alex, impressive in the fact that the solo has no rhythm guitar beneath it and instead his solo takes all the weight and forces the listener to listen to him and nothing else. His solo is very interesting in the fact that it is from the demo take and Alex recorded it himself in his bedroom. From previous Rush releases, it can reasonably that Alex is the most improved from past efforts. His solos are free and meaningful, his riffs are thick, heavy and memorable, and his acoustic parts are tear-jerking and beautiful. No longer is Alex the guy cast in the back, hidden and forgotten. He is back and better than ever.
Halfway through the record you will find a track entitled "Halo Effect", a building acoustic ballad that is very pretty and features strings. Rush actually hired an orchestra for this album and none of the strings are fake/computer processed and Alex also wrote some of the string pieces. Conversely to most other Rush albums, Clockwork Angels
is very emotional, not to say that they are becoming a emo band or anything of the sort, but the songs really do move you emotionally which is something new for Rush. The whole album is just so genuine and so real that one cannot deny Rush’s absolute talent.
Right after the acoustic ballad, comes another hard-hitter, "Seven Cities of Gold". It begins with one of Geddy’s grooviest basslines before Alex and Neil join in on the fun. Alex again presents the listener with a great riff. Percussion-wise this may be Neil’s most impressive song on the album and he really gets groovy and all the boys are truly playing together, each playing the same part on their respective instruments. Another very impressive feat for Neil is that for this album, he did not have his drum parts pre-written/thought out before he went to track them. He would simply sit down and play, sometimes with a conductor in front of his kit waving with his baton and Neil would react to his motions and did whatever felt right for the certain piece. Neil’s lyrical content on Clockwork Angels
is about a young man path to follow his dreams and his trials and tribulations along the way. It’s told through a sort of story, with different characters, settings and tones. Geddy is the master narrator, guiding us through Neil’s story and doing an impeccable job. The way Geddy uses his voice on Clockwork Angels
is similar to Rush’s more recent albums, most of the time he is in mid-register where he has the most control over his voice and really paints the picture well. But fear not veteran Rush fans, he can still hit the high notes and has a nice wail going on too. For one of Geddy’s best vocal performances be sure to check the 2nd single, "Headlong Flight".
The album closes with the track named "The Garden", an incredibly beautiful piece featuring strings and acoustic guitar work as Geddy gently sings over top it all. The lyrics describe the end of a journey, how life is and what is truly meaningful. Musically, it is a ballad-type piece and with many different parts and instruments throughout. The song eventually builds up to gain Geddy’s bass playing and a gentle solo from Alex. It is the ideal closer in many ways; it leaves the listener feeling complete as the album is. From a lyrical standpoint this track could go no other place as it finishes off the grand story and encompasses Rush’s message within.
As for Nick Raskulinecz, he does a splendid job producing this album. The production value is extremely high and everything is perfectly balanced. Alex’s rhythm work sounds dirty and thick while not being overbearing. Geddy’s bass is low and chunky and sounds raw but yet clean. Then Neil’s enormous drum kit all sounds great and everything is clear and pristine from the kick drum to the hi-hats. Overall, Clockwork Angels
is a different beast from earlier Rush, while keeping the same sounds from some of the more recent albums, it has more of the feel of greatness as a late 70’s era Rush album. It just exudes perfectness. Rush has really outdone themselves here, it’s just a perfect progressive rock album, it isn’t overly progressive or technical and it has emotion and isn’t sterile in that aspect. The boys have found the perfect balance between musical composition and ease of listen. It’s not to say that this album would be radio friendly, but they aren’t that obscure prog band anymore. And nor are they 90’s version of themselves trying to figure out what to do while they try to get albums out quickly like they did back in the day. You can tell that the three of them are completely confident in everything they do in Clockwork Angels
, and no longer seem to be confused as what to do or how to do it. This is the trio at the top of their game, in their early 60’s at that. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rush.