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Rush - Clockwork Angels CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.95 | 1036 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A personal journey.

Rush's potentially final album is a magnum opus that solidifies everything they have set to achieve in their almost 40 year career. It is musically fascinating, technically impressive (even for artists of Rush's caliber), emotional, story driven and still new territory for the band. The TL;DR of this article is that if you have ever enjoyed the music of Rush this album will not only whet your appetite for more but also satisfy your craving for an incredible musical experience. This album is worthy of 5 shining stars.

That is my review of the album. This is my experience of the album.

Clockwork Angels was released in 2012 and I had been an avid fan of the band since the release of Feedback. The longest that my tragically short amount of time spent on this beautiful planet would allow me. When Snakes & Arrows was released I waited outside of the record store in eager anticipation with my CD player which I had dusted off and put my iPod aside so that I could hear the album as soon as my abilities would allow me. I had given the album over 50 spins by the time we week was over. I loved it.

I fell in love with Rush when I heard them on the radio. To hear a group play music like Rush plays - heavy and intellectual, technical and experimental - with the masterful lyrics and storytelling abilities that came along with the ride, this youngster was hooked.

Time changes us all and in 2012 I missed the release of Clockwork Angels.

I had been a member of Progarchives since 2006, those who have longevity on this site will know that I joined the site as "King By-Tor". I felt that it was time that Prince By-Tor was forgiven of this quest to ruin our world after he had slain the Necromancer to mercifully set free the lost souls trapped in his labyrinth. After a number of reviews on the site I applied to become more active and the site's volunteer staff granted me promotion. Eventually I was writing reviews and articles, conducting interviews with prog artists and socializing on the forum. It became a major hobby for me while I was a student and in the early days of my career.

Life sped up and I tried to keep up with it. Eventually I became overwhelmed and started to wonder the point of what I was doing. I just wasn't happy. The life I had built, my career and everything I had written. I had become miserable while trying to keep up with the Smith's and build and bigger and bigger life for myself. I stopped being active on the site and my reputation became tarnished after several unnecessary arguments on the forum and zero contribution to the site. I had forgotten what brought me here. I had forgotten the Rush review that led me to the site and inspired me to write about the music I loved for the first time. I became ashamed of the very name I identified with. I became "SharkZ" on the site, feeling my own name was better than something taken from a song.

Back in real life the balls I was juggling were becoming too much and they were starting to fall. I descended into drug use while being egged on by the wrong crowd, hoping the feeling could make me happy and make everything better again. My work slipped, my relationships were shattered, I had forgotten everything that used to mean so much to me. Eventually clients stopped calling. They were fed up with my lack of results and respect. My friends stopped calling. They did not like the person I had become. I sat my luxurious apartment alone and fumed at the world for not knowing my greatness.

One day I came across the video for Headlong Flight on youtube. Listening to it I thought such trivial and overcritical things as, "oh, I guess Fly By Night wasn't enough, Rush has to start recycling. They're out of ideas." I decided I would buy the album. I couldn't wait to tear it apart. Maybe if people saw that I could give a Rush album a bad review they would finally see my greatness - obviously it was my love for something so trivial and bias holding me back. I bought it and sat down with it, ready to attack the band that had given me so much over the years.

My first listen of the album was indescribable. It was so close to my own story that in my drug addled haze I was actually convinced that Rush had written the album about me. With the final notes of The Garden I burst into tears.

And still, I wanted to dislike it.

I was convinced that there was something I didn't like about it. That it couldn't be MY story, they must have just found a formula so general that it would appeal to anyone. Besides, Rush never used an orchestra - maybe they just couldn't do enough with their instruments anymore and they had to lean on the skills of someone else to sound as good as they used to.

Friends excitedly asked me what I thought of the album. Maybe a new Rush album should show a shred of my humanity return to me.

I told them I had to think on it. I put the album aside for a year.

During that year my life as I knew it ended. I experienced a mental breakdown after finding that I could not look at myself in the mirror and tried to remember back to a time when things were more simple. I had to find something that was worth going on for. I dug into the darkest realms of my fears to find out what it was I had to conquer so that I wouldn't be so afraid of everything. Maybe if I wasn't so afraid of everything I wouldn't want to destroy it like I did.

I remembered the times I was truly afraid. I remembered when I had first moved in with my high-school sweet heart and the awkward confessions to her that I wanted to try on her clothing. I remember her support and when we first moved in together I remember living all our home lives with me dressed in her wardrobe. What was scary was it felt so right. But I couldn't imagine what other people would say if they saw me. Still, it wasn't just the clothes, it was more than that - but that was a good place to start.

When the longest night of my life had finally ended I stepped into the morning sunlight feeling like a new person. I had stepped out the door for the first time in my life as a woman. I felt so liberated that I never wanted to go back. I felt like I could take on anything and suddenly I felt like I wanted to - but this time I would take it on with love instead of scorn. With an open heart and respect instead of a close-minded ego.

"Going where I want / Instead of where I should." Caravan This heavy rocker sees someone setting off on an adventure. The chorus of "in a world where I feel so small/ I can't stop thinking big" rings in my heart. I have never been the type to be content and this is an anthem that I could sing at the top of my lungs every time I hear it.

I had never questioned what was dealt to me for a lot of reasons, but when I never did I became more and more angry. Not having spent a lot of time in the real world I felt I was alone in my sorrow and that there was nothing I could do. BU2B tugs at those places in my heart and its nearly metal approach can still make me bang my head to this day. It reminds me that I am not alone - that we are all together and we can face anything if we work together. This time, this world is all we have. "We are only human / It's not ours to understand"

We have all met people in our lives that we thought were perfect. I had always tried to get close to these people and learn their secrets. I was very often betrayed or hurt, and often thought it was my fault. "Clockwork Angels spread their arms and sing / synchronized and graceful they move like living things," - a firm reminder that some only appear to be what they are and are actually dangerous from the way they have designed their own mechanizations.

Early in my life I was betrayed for the first time. I moved with my family to an island when I was 6 years old and left my life behind. I only had a few friends that I kept close and the first one I had ever really related to was a girl that had joined our class after moving from another town. The idea of leaving my best friend behind was heartbreaking so I kept in touch over letter correspondence. We exchanged a few letters back and forth which I loved because I was having a very hard time making friends in my new school. One letter I had sent was never responded to. She had vanished from my life. "The lenses inside of me that paint the world black," goes The Anarchist, "The pools of poison, the scarlet mist / that spilled over into rage". I had always wondered what would have happened if I had not left. I could not accept that life goes on. "The things I've always been denied / an early promise that somehow died." I loved being friends with her - I never really got along with boys very well. When I had arrived at the new school I was quickly befriended by a girl who was not the most popular in the school and a group of boys had gotten together to force us to kiss, convinced we were boyfriend/girlfriend. "Why is it not allowed for me to just be friends with who I want to?"

I often replayed the events of my early life over and over again in my head during my drug using days. Trying to find a way to break free by thinking that I could change the past by living in it. It was only when I was behind my camera that I could enjoy the present and in 2012 I had joined forces with a group of performers. Circus performers, in fact. "Under the gaze of the angels / A spectacle like he's / never seen / Spinning lights and faces / Demon music and gypsy queens". I decided that this was what my existence was missing, this was the life I had been seeking. I started to shed anything that I had loved before. Hobbies, friends, family and music.

And that was when I met... her.

I wasn't sure if it was the drugs I had taken at the party but when I saw this woman I thought she was the angel that I had been looking for all my life. She would save me. She looked a lot like what I would look like if I had been born a girl. Maybe I never wanted to be a woman, maybe I just wanted her. "Sometimes the angels punish us / by answering our prayers". I hunted her down and it was only a week later that we were living together. She fit every aspect of my new life that I wanted so badly. The spectacles - oh how she could dance. The music - everything she introduced me to seemed so new. She became my gypsy queen, "a Goddess with wings on her heels"

"All my illusions reflected on her," and we lived our bizarre life. We didn't really get along but I wanted to change and she wanted to change me so we developed a teacher-student relationship. "What did I care? Fool that I was," I was enamored by her Halo Effect. She was so perfect and I was so horrid, I considered myself lucky that she loved me. "My friends were dismayed / to see me betrayed / but they knew they could never tell me," and my relationships strained until many of them broke. I considered them lost causes - surely her love meant more.

"A man can lose his past, in a country like this / Wandering aimless / Parched and nameless" - I had come to the city to become an artist and in my attempts I had settled with being a technician for other artists - most of whom I looked at as inferior. If only I had what they had I would show them how great I was. "And the nights grow longer, the farther I go" and it almost felt like my sun would never rise in the Seven Cities of Gold, I chased anything that I thought would take me there and give me that revelation. More drugs, more parties, anything. "A splendid mirage in this desolation".

I was truly lost. After dosing too hard one night I tried to fight the friend who, through everything, never left my side. In my state I was paranoid and starting projecting everything that I knew about myself deep down but didn't want to admit onto him. I accused him of being a closet homosexual and a cross dresser. I told him he betrayed me and now we had to fight about it. I was trying to destroy myself. A skilled martial-artist, my friend knew when and when not to fight. That night he chose to leave my side, but he never once swung at me - and that hurt more than his punches ever would have. "All I know is that sometimes the truth is contrary / everything in life you thought you knew". Even for one so lost such an unprovoked attack on another and having my best friends finally give up on me I decided that the time for change was now. I decided to become The Wrecker and tear down this false life I had tried to build that had destroyed the person that I really was inside.

I looked deep into my own eyes in the mirror and faced the longest night of my life. For the first time ever I looked inside for an answer and faced my fear. When I finally stepped outside the next day was when my Headlong Flight began. I finally felt like I was okay - that I wasn't being someone I wasn't, that I could just be me and I would make sense to people, that I could be friends with whoever I wanted and no one would have the right to judge my decision. My life had officially restarted. From there my experiences became positive. "All the journeys of this great adventure / It didn't always feel that way / I wouldn't trade them because I made them / The best I could, and that's enough to say." Eventually the dark days became easier to accept with all the love I was able to give and gather, "All the treasures, the gold & glory / It didn't always feel that way / I don't regret it - I'll never forget it". They were simply the experiences that made me the happy person that I had become.

Challenges became easier to face. I thanked myself for making the revelations when I did because even though I had changed my mindset and started my happy life that also meant I had to face the consequences of everything I had given up in reckless abandon. "Life goes from bad to worse / I still choose to live / Find a measure of love and laughter / And another measure to give." I thanked everyone in my life that had gotten me through the hard times. "Though the balance tilts against me / I was Brought Up 2 Believe" (2).

"Spirits turned bitter by the poison of envy / Always angry and dissatisfied". A lot of people in my life turned on me when I finally came out with who I really was. People left my life and I would like to think it was for the better if they could not handle someone being true to themselves. Others came to fill their place and left a bigger and better mark in my journey than the ones that left ever could. Others still came to try to take advantage of the newly happy an naive person they saw in front of them. "Thank your stars you're not that way / Turn your back and walk away," it became easier and easier to spot the bad ones from the crowd as I learned from the mistakes I made for the first time in my life. For the first time I didn't want to beat myself up for my mistakes, I wanted to feel the pain they brought and make sure that I found a way to not feel that pain again. It became easier to see others that could not love me the way I could love them, they were in the same cycle I was in before - for various reasons. I learned that sometimes it's not worth the drama to bring people into my life. Sometimes, "all that you can do is Wish Them Well".

There was a time that I respected none and wondered why none respected me. Sure, some feared me and for a time that was enough. Eventually the lack of love around me became too much to bare. I could not even so much as bring myself to do the things I loved. I felt I did not deserve them. But I fought my own fears and I pressed on. The Garden of my life has finally started to blossom and though even to this day there is a lot of weeding and upkeep to do I can be proud to look on the flowers of the friendships and love I have nurtured along the way. Like a fragile and beautiful flower the friendship between two people needs to be cared for and looked after or else it will wither and die. The blossoms of passion need to be watered and looked after regularly or they will be there for you no more. These are the things I have taught myself when I have remembered that "the measure of a life is a measure of love and respect". It would be fabulous if I died a rich old woman but who would be there to share my treasures in my last days? I have found I would rather have a life rich with meaningful relationships and plentiful passions.

Not long ago I returned to the site that once fueled me with joy and inspiration. I didn't know why I did, I only knew I had to. Upon my return I dropped my "SharkZ" alter-ego, hoping to distance myself from the forum nuisance I had become. Like a traveler realizing that they had found what they were looking for no further than home I have realized that I was on the right path before it was a path of destruction. It has been neglected and there are a lot of brambles to cut down before it is a path again, to carry on the foliage metaphor, but the reignited flame of my heart can not be extinguished this time. Not when I have put so much effort into lighting it again - because I won't let it. I have found so much to love that it seems an easy task to not let myself become unhappy. With that out of the way I can focus on the actual challenges life presents - now that I have learned to conquer my greatest enemy: my own ego.

If I could I would thank Rush for their entire body of work and for every note of music they have ever played. I would tell them how much their music has meant to me over the years and how just the fact that it was there - a catalog of wisdom seemingly carved into the timeless rock of eternity - has pushed me to go on in some of my harder times. Like a friend that has seen every hardship I have encountered and stayed without passing a judgement, their music has been essential to this woman's survival and it will always play a large role in my life. I love Clockwork Angels and the above are my reasons. It may be an nontraditional reason to give an album a 5-star rating on this site - but as you can see, I have hardly had a traditional journey.

Thanks for reading! If you still are. This essay has been almost as healing to write as it was to listen to Clockwork Angels again for the first time through the non-judgmental ears of my happy self. I may never be able to thank Dirk, Lerxt and Pratt for their therapy through musical mastery but I can write give 5 glowing stars to their material.

Queen By-Tor | 5/5 |


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