Review Summary: With this album, Rush is still evolving from their synth-dominated eighties sound, but they are finding some trouble making a definitive statement. While not a terrible album, this is by no means great, either.
Sometimes it can be hard to put a band like Rush into the proper perspective. How can one reasonably quantify the contributions of a band that is twice as old as them and continues to release strong material thirty-eight years after they formed? Their influences are far and wide amongst today's music. Les Claypool wouldn't be Les Claypool if it weren't for Geddy Lee's way of making the bass more than a background instrument. Neal Peart and the underappreciated Alex Lifeson have inspired legions of musicians, and they all remain some of the best players of their respective instruments today.
Most legendary groups don't last nearly as long as Rush has. Test For Echo
is the 1996 release from Canadian prog-rockers, which is almost a full thirty years after the band first started making music. And the band has come a long way over this time. Starting as a Led-Zeppelin clone, then becoming the kings of progressive rock in the seventies, Rush saw a turn towards synthesizer-dominated music in the eighties. Following contemporary musical trends with their previous release Counterparts
, Rush was starting to break away from the synth-dominated sound of much of their albums from the 1980's, and they changed their sound with an excellent effort. After hearing Counterparts
, I was excited to hear how the band progressed from there.
Test For Echo
continues with this more guitar-oriented sound, but for some reason it doesn't quite have the same feeling, the "bang" that Counterparts
had. There are times where the album almost seems confused with its identity. Test for Echo
are all very heavy, very strong prog-rock tracks. However, these are juxtaposed next to airy songs such as Resist
that kill the vibe. While they are all good songs in their own right, Rush accomplishes what Radiohead did with Amnesiac
-- Instead of creating an album that is easy to listen to from beginning to end, they made an album that cries to be listened to one song at a time (at least for me). Yes, Rush was evolving at this point, but it seems to me that they seemed to have trouble deciding exactly what direction they were aiming for here.
That's not to say that Echo
is a bad album at all. In no way, shape, or form have any of the members become lax with their duties. There are still songs in odd time signatures such as Time and Motion
. Geddy Lee's voice has matured nicely (no more Fly by Night
shreiking), and his bass cuts through the mix in his signature way of smoothly playing meandering lines under Alex Lifeson's liquid guitar. Alex still proves he can solo on (unfortunately only) a few moments on the album. And it goes without saying that Neal Peart's drumming and lyrics are top-notch. The three members have that chemistry that can only come after playing together for three decades. And they still manage to write good songs and sound fresh doing it.
My final verdict is this: If you are already a Rush fan and don't have this album, you will probably still want to purchase it. If you aren't sure about Rush, though, this is admittedly an awful place to start. They have much better material from around the same time that represents the new Rush stage. However, if you are a fan of the band or prog in general, the good songs on here are worth the price. Due to some obvious problems with the album, I have to rate it only a 3/5
Rush is starting to sound better with their overall style shift
Band members are still killer musicians
There are numerous great songs here
Album is very disjointed
Band cannot seem to decide on a sound
Few guitar solos
Many tracks can get long and very repetitive
Test for Echo
Time and Motion
Final Score: 3/5
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