Label: Anthem/Roadrunner Records
Release date: June 12, 2012
After being teased and tormented for over two years, Canadian power trio Rush will finally release their 20th studio album, Clockwork Angels this week. Two years ago, this very week, Rush released two tracks from the album to whet the collective appetite of their fans. At the time, Rush had declared an April 2011 release date. However, the band’s Time Machine tour just kept going and going much like the beloved Energizer bunny.
So here at last we have the long-awaited and much-anticipated follow-up to 2007’s studio effort, Snakes & Arrows. Once again the band turned to Grammy winning producer Neil Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Deftones, Trivium) to help the band out as he did on their 2007 release.
The band can lay claim to performing in parts of six separate decades. However, at this point in their history, the only place that age shows in their music is through the maturation of their songwriting process, and the sophistication of their performances. It is clear, listening to Clockwork Angels that the trio is comfortable in their skin at this stage in their career.
The record kicks off with the tracks “Caravan” and “BU2B”, the two singles that were released in June 2010. Both exceptional songs in the classic Rush mold, but with a modern imprint, showcasing the trio’s ability to continue growing as artists after four decades.
The seven-and-a-half minute title track defines the term “epic”. Rush are among the godfathers of progressive rock, and their prowess and diversity shines through on this song. Like so many of the band’s best works, this is an aural journey that must be experienced to be understood.
“The Anarchist” is comparatively more stripped back then “Clockwork Angels”, though no less inspired. Frontman Geddy Lee’s bass work simply shines: Taking nothing away from guitarist Alex Lifeson or drummer Neil Peart, who remain as brilliant as always throughout this entire album. The three soar and swoop, graceful in flight, but it is Lee who leads the way.
Lifeson gets into his metal groove on in “Carnies”. Perhaps his grittiest guitar sound to date. He jump starts this song with an inspired, modernistic MC5 distorted riff. Lee’s sonorous vocals then propel the track into a melodic frenzy. A defiantly glorious solo by Lifeson crowns this track.
“Halo Effect” sweeps us up in a swale of moody nuance. Acoustic guitars take our hand and lead us into Lee’s emotive overture to a relationship in the rearview mirror. One of the album’s quietest moments strikes with one of its most impactful messages.
Rush‘s stock in trade has long been the progressive jams upon which the trio’s foundation was built so long ago. “Seven Cities of Gold” is a prime example of how the three stellar musicians feed off one another to create something greater than the sum of their individual talents. Peart, who has one of the most extensive drum kits known to man, proves that he understands the importance of understated grace, and instinctively knows when to add the flourishing touches.
“Headlong Flight” is the album’s third single, a crafty tune that harks back in style to the Rush classic “Bastille Day”, from the band’s tragically overlooked 1975 record Caress of Steel. Oddly, this represents some of Peart’s more simplistic lyrics—a departure from his typical cerebral narrative divinations. This is an enthralling jam that holds onto you for over seven minutes.
Bringing it all to close is the bucolic poignancy of “The Garden”. The sonic tapestry which began with “Caravan” winds to a melancholy ticking of the clock; an end to which we all must face. The piano movements flow lazily through the song’s valley before we are taken up in flight to look down and back the life we have lived. A bird’s eye view of our garden, “the measure of a life.”
Over the course of 20 studio albums and 40 plus years, Rush have remained ageless and timeless with regard to their music. With the exception of the band’s debut self-titled album in 1974, the trio of Lee, Peart, and Lifeson, have remained a singular steadfast unit, devoted to their craft. Clockwork Angels is a manifestation of their life’s work, and arguably their most complete record since 1981’s seminal, Moving Pictures album. Because any Rush album is a living, breathing, complex work, it takes time to digest before the full relevance and import of the album can be ascertained. Still, it is not too early to put this among 2012’s list of rock top albums.