Rush
Grace Under Pressure


4.5
superb

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
May 7th, 2014 | 120 replies | 5,178 views


Release Date: 1984 | Tracklist


Chapter X: A Farewell to Terry Brown

Looking back at the band's entire discography, Signals was probably the biggest risk Rush had ever taken musically. Even with a warmer reception in recent times, many fans remain divided on the album's foray into 80s synth rock and Alex Lifeson's increasingly subdued guitar role; even Rush themselves didn't enjoy the record, which led to them dismissing producer Terry Brown in favor of someone new. Many clamored for a return to the band's more hard rock-oriented take on progressive rock music, while others were becoming curious about Rush's continued experimentation and odd progression. And what did everyone get? Pretty much both and neither of those at the same time.

Let me explain what I mean. Yes, there's still a pretty large amount of synthesizers being used here. And yes, there's also a larger emphasis on Lifeson's heavy guitar work. But the way they're both used is drastically different from Signals or any previous Rush album; much of this comes from the atmosphere, which is easily Rush's darkest and most fascinating yet. True to the album's title, Grace Under Pressure tackles the theme of pressure and its varying effects on different people. There's a constant contrast musically between a richness and coldness, with Alex's resonant guitar chords and Geddy Lee's dark synth arrangements working off each other beautifully. But beyond the music, the "pressure" theme and the darker lyricism really give off a more human feel than in previous albums by the band. With 1981's Moving Pictures, Rush largely ditched their fantasy themes for more realistic subjects, and Grace Under Pressure essentially reveals the pinnacle of this lyrical style. The songs are usually incredibly bleak but never in an overly dramatic way, as revealed in "Red Sector A"'s gritty portrayal of concentration camps during the Holocaust; other dark stories include a loved one's death in "Afterimage" and one's internal fear and struggles with "The Enemy Within."

The music, of course, mirrors the lyrical content perfectly. The biggest reason this record surpasses Signals in terms of composition is that the synthesizers actually have more of a purpose here. Not only are they a bit scaled back to let the guitar playing shine, but they're also necessary to bring out the album's atmosphere. Most of these songs wouldn't be nearly as effective without the keyboards creating some bleakness or tension in the backdrop. "Between the Wheels" is one of the best examples, its intro combining an incredibly heavy Drop-D guitar riff with dissonant synth jabs so two moods collide brilliantly into one tense hard rock track. The initial atmosphere of "The Body Electric" actually introduces a slightly hopeful mood with it being in the key of A-Major and having slightly more calm vocals from Geddy, until the famous "1001" chorus brings back the feeling of fear and anxiety to the table. Of course, Neil Peart's drumming helps in numerous ways too. Not only is his technical skill still nearly unmatched, but his simultaneously more mechanical and yet refined style here makes for some mesmerizing work when combined with the other instruments. Whether it's the fast-paced hard rock of "Afterimage," the more progressive and tempo-shifting opener "Distant Early Warning," or the more new wave and reggae-influenced "The Enemy Within," Peart's work on the kit always fits each mood perfectly.

When discussing the most unusual or inventive Rush albums, Grace Under Pressure should be one of the first albums mentioned. While not sounding much like its predecessors, the record is a fascinating trip into the band's darker side and a more realistic approach to both their lyricism and their music. It's cold, yes, but that's what makes it so interesting and fresh. When it comes to progressive rock albums that are equal parts emotional and compositionally compelling, this is one of the finest ones of the bunch. If you're willing to take this journey, get ready for the most underrated album Rush have ever released.



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user ratings (615)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2014



9687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Since the Lil Wayne album has been delayed, have this instead :]

Irving
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2014



7144 Comments


Wait what

FiveLeavesLeft
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2014



9687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That's what I was initially going to review

NeroCorleone80
May 7th 2014



28408 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. I still prefer Signals to this but only just. Looking forward to the Power Windows one next

ultimatethrasher
May 7th 2014



112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah man great review, I'm not a huge fan of 80's Rush, but I enjoy this album a lot

ultimatethrasher
May 7th 2014



112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've been waiting for you to put this review up for quite a while Brendan

Gyromania
May 7th 2014



15200 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

one of their best for sure

ultimatethrasher
May 7th 2014



112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Definitely

Ozly
May 7th 2014



51 Comments


One of the more overlooked Rush albums for sure

Sabrutin
May 7th 2014



521 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

First four tracks are teh seks.

These Rush reviews are like a tv show to look forward to.

Digging: DragonForce - Maximum Overload

demigod!
May 7th 2014



43889 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this is in my top 5 rush albums definitely, every song is so damn good

nice review

Digging: Black Flag - My War

ultimatethrasher
May 7th 2014



112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

More people need to listen to this, it's such a good album

CaptainDooRight
May 7th 2014



28353 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm not a huge fan of 80's Rush

reported

Digging: Tukaaria - Raw to the Rapine

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
May 7th 2014



15800 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great album, enjoyed reading a lot.
wish theyd stuck with terry brown tho im not a great fan of the production on this.

Digging: Synaesthesia (UK) - Synaesthesia

KILL
May 7th 2014



70599 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

love the production on both this and power windows, hold your fire is where it started to go south

Digging: Gal Costa - Gal Costa

elcrawfodor
May 7th 2014



122 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This > Signals

pragpro
May 7th 2014



45 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I love this record. Between the Wheels....The Regatta Blanca that Rush do so well on enemy within and other albums from this era starting with Vital Signs...afterimage is brilliant, red sector a. I really like the live album that they put out from this tour.

The Synth era is totally under-rated.

pragpro
May 7th 2014



45 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

...and the recent remixing (aka remastering) of Rush's catalog really soften any production flaws for the records that need them and make those that don't shine....

Salvidian
May 7th 2014



696 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

70s Rush is the only Rush I like, save for this. Great album.

BMDrummer
May 7th 2014



4250 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Rating is correct, I need to bump this up. I saw them two years ago and they actually played Red Sector A, it was so awesome.

Digging: Svffer - Lies We Live



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