I still remember the changes in my life when I entered high school at the age of twelve. First of all I found out that girls were a pleasant species to look at and not the hideous creatures they seemed to be earlier. The second change was the gigantic input of rock music. The most important was the discovery of a guitar hero by the name of Ritchie Blackmore, who is still responsible for my love for the guitar. And last but certainly not least the major impact that the eponymous album of the Canadian band Rush had on me. Initially Rush were slightly influenced by Led Zeppelin, but soon after the debut album they found a style of their own. As the years went by, the style of the band evolved and also the frequency of new albums came down to one album every five years.
Like millions of other fans I was excited when Rush announced their new album by introducing the first two songs of the new CD. Caravan and BU2B already found a place in my collection. The music can be seen as an extension to the previous album Snakes & Arrows (2007). Both tracks went through minor changes and also the mix is new. Caravan belongs to one of the heavier pieces Rush made over the last ten years and it proves that a band that have been around for such a long time are still able to change. BU2B is a more difficult song to listen to; the music shows the evolution of songwriting, but Geddy Lee's vocal lines provide that warm feeling while listening to this typical Rush song.
The album's title track Clockwork Angels really stands out. Thanks to Nick Raskulinecz both the mix and the production have improved with reference to the previous albums. What I basically mean is that Geddy's typical rumbling bass sounds are back and the majestic riffs of Alex Lifeson really sound sublime. Lee's voice has become deeper over the years; he doesn't use his high-pitched voice any longer which can be seen as part of Rush's evolution. Although his voice got deeper, the feeling remains the same and I don't think that real fans see this as a problem. On The Anarchist Neil Peart's drums take the lead together with the aforementioned bass and guitar sounds. This piece will take you back to Permanent Waves (1980): a perfect blend of old and new. Carnies starts really heavy; the guitar has a more metal sound in several passages and the song structure has a slightly electronic undertone, but it remains a typical Rush-song. The guitar solo takes you back in time once more.
Halo Effect contains an acoustic opening and then gradually gains power. Geddy's intense vocals fit in perfectly to this song, in which the addition of string arrangements works well. The rumbling bass I was referring to earlier, returns in Seven Cities Of Gold, where the music has some similarity with Primus, who opened for Rush several years ago. But this is only a musical comparison since Geddy Lee as a vocalist totally differs from Les Claypool. The result, however, is an outstanding song with a classic rock touch. The Wreckers makes you feel happy; this is Rush in a cheerful mood reflecting to Power Windows (1985). Headlong Flight was released as an early single; it's another powered song that slightly reminded me of 2112 (1976). Just listen to the bass and you'll recognize the resemblance with the earlier songs of this fine Canadian band. When the song slows down a bit, the intensity gets only more powerful; this is a true Rush-epic. The short BU2B2 is an extension to BU2B which seamlessly flows into Wish Them Well, a typical Rush song as well. The string arrangements in The Garden make this song an unforgettable experience. The combination of an acoustic guitar with the strings is very strong and that also applies to the intensity of Geddy's voice. This song might be the direction Rush is heading for in the future, who knows, but let's be happy with this jewel first.
Although the music has changed or better evolved over the years, I think the band members didn't forget their past. They incorporated the old stuff in the new compositions thus creating something special out of this mixture. Clockwork Angels is not only one of Rush's heaviest albums in a long time, but also one of their best with plenty to offer for both new and old school Rush fans. Many riffs are related to classic songs of the seventies with the same progressive and improvisational feel. This in combination with the modern sound of their last few albums obviously resulted in a brilliant album. Rush have once more proven to belong to the top of the progressive rock scene.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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