Review Summary: One of the few big releases this year that has not disappointed whatsoever. A cracking release that needs to be listened to start to finish
To say that Rush's Clockwork Angels was one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2012 would be an understatement. In reality, it was a movement in its own right, ending the five year wait for the follow up to the decent enough although not quite stellar 2007 release Snakes And Arrows. The question that was on many people's minds was whether Rush could finally recapture the magic of greats such as A Farewell To Kings or the epic 2112, both released 35 years beforehand.
The obvious answer to this question is no. No matter how incredible Clockwork Angels was to be, it could never achieve the grandeature of those albums. Put simply, the band are no longer energetic youthful musicians with the whole world at their feet. Times have changed, and the band have since had their ups and downs, with the peaks being decent enough but the troughs being somewhat underwhelming. The band's name may carry weight for what it once stood for-the most incredible progressive rock band out there-but these days, they were considered washed up candidates to retire. But something changed for 2012's Clockwork Angels.
That something was that the band decided to quit screwing around and sit down and seriously write an emotionally charged concept record that is jam packed with fantastically crafted riffs and some of the most powerful vocal work put to record. Given that Geddy Lee is now almost sixty years of age, one would expect the band to be settling down a little and relax. Not Rush, for this release they put their foot on the accelerator and wrote the best collection of songs in over thirty years.
The themes at work across this release are as fitting for an album with as bombastic a nature as Clockwork Angels as can be, with the entire concept revolving around a man following his dreams, encountering both the light and dark nature of the people in his world along the way. Every song progresses the story brilliantly through some extremely powerful lyrics that pack a punch unlike any album in recent memory. The lyrics to this album truly do give it something to brag about, being incredibly well thought out, and carried perfectly through Geddy's voice.
To name everything good about this release would be to write for all eternity, so instead it would be better to understand the highlights. Album opener Caravan leads in with the sound of bells and then captivates the listener from the very first notes, somehow letting off an aura that this is going to be one epic album spanning so many different shifts in style, whilst never being any less mentally taxing to take in in one sitting. The riff work across this album is brilliantly written, with every single guitar line sticking out for its own reason, with BU2B being a great example of this. Rush are band that can play the most simplistic of guitar work if they so wished, and still be as impressing as hearing a shred fest such as the average Brain Drill song. The soloing is absolutely jaw dropping as well, with many of the songs showcasing a fast shredding style of soloing, but still retaining a large amount of melody to them. The vocal work from Geddy is breathtaking, as he does not once let his rapidly advancing years hold his voice back from being anything less than stunning. The use of keyboards across this album is done so tastefully and integrated seamlessly into the hard rock edge the band carries that it is something to marvel at.
The real weakness to this album is that it is just too grand in scale to be perfect throughout. Seven Cities Of Gold in particular has some rather redundant instrumentals that fail to do anything to blow the listener away. The riff at around four minutes into the opening song, Caravan, is another moment that feels shoehorned in to keep the album moving at a rapid pacing. Whilst this album is undeniably a huge success for the band and their best release since A Farewell To King's by a long way, it just has moments like this that detract from the flow of the album. However, if there is one 2012 release that is recommended above all others, Rush's Clockwork Angels is a prime candidate, and deserves checking out by all listeners.