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Rush - Snakes & Arrows CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.57 | 1072 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars Well it has been over a month since Snakes and Arrows was released, and as a believer that music (or any art really) requires a certain amount of time to sink and register before a fair evaluation can be made, I now feel confident in my familiarity with the album's nuances -- both musically and lyrically -- and how they add up as a cohesive whole. Hasty judgments can often lead to inaccurate reviews, but after a month and many listens, I now feel safe to review the album. One word comes to mind with every listen of Snakes and Arrows: sublime. Rush has definitely evolved indeed; no, they are not writing ten to twenty minute epics any more, song length is afterall merely an arbitrary formalism. Rather it is the quality of Rush's music that has changed. This is not to say that they have abandoned virtuosity altogether, they just approach their music with more restraint and patience, attitudes gained with age and wisdom. With this album, both in terms of music and lyrics, the band has reached a new level of maturity, a certain depth that Neil Peart described as "spiritual" upon his first listening of Alex and Geddy's demos; spiritual in the most secular sense of course. A fellow reviewer on this site described the album as having a Western (American southwest) atmosphere, and I definitely hear this myself.

There is a great depth of sound in these songs, evocative of the vast echoing landscapes of the West. Syme's artwork in the liner notes booklet echoes this sense of open space with his sublime interpretation of the desert night sky set to the lyrics of 'Faithless' and also his depiction of the tall scraggly pines clinging perilously to the "bare wind-blasted shore" in his artwork for 'The Way the Wind Blows'. A common theme here is the experience of the sublime, that feeling of vulnerability in the face of sweeping, overwhelming landscapes, a complexity of simultaneous fear and awe (again, I refer specifically to a secular sense of the sublime, not the religious sublime which sees fear and awe in the presence of God). Peart's lyrics deal with the oppressive landscapes and equally oppressive religious ideologies that pervade the current world scene; in this sense there is definitely a sense of fear, but the album also finds a sense of awe, not necessarily in the ideologies themselves, but in humanity's stubborn will to move on despite what often seems to be a futile and doomed effort. I think this feeling is best exemplified (ironically) in the song 'Faithless' (one of Rush's most inspired songs of their career). 'Faithless' is an up-tempo song and generally awe-inspiring despite the negativity implied by the song's title, the reason being in Peart's lyrics which detail the author's resolve to "quietly resist" the "preaching voices" of the modern day evangelical resurgence. 'Faithless', with its sweeping, epic chorus is truly sublime -- the vast landscape of music and atmosphere created by Ben Mink's haunting cello, Lifeson's acoustic and electric textural flourishes, Lee's subtle use of the Mellotron and Neil's sweeping yet relaxed groove, all contribute to a sense of musical grandeur; a sublime soundscape. The sound team is to be credited no less, to create that sublime sense of open space effectively, to allow all the instruments to be heard fully and still allow for a sense of depth without distorting the mix is no small feat (Vapor Trails unfortunately failed in this respect, oftentimes creating a dense, flat wall of sound). Also, Lifeson's solo on Faithless ranks as one of the best of his career, it's great to hear him play like this again, with his unique combination of beautiful tone bending and quick bursts of picking.

I could go on and on about the beautiful moments on the album, but I will refrain from overindulging (if I have not already done so!) Briefly, other highlights are the songs 'Armor and Sword', 'Spindrft', 'The Way the Wind Blows', 'Bravest Face', 'Hope' ... it's all good really. This album is teeming with moments of sublimity, whether in a solo, a chorus, a pre-chorus or a verse, they shine throughout, perhaps characterizing a new Rush sound for a more mature and wise band.

Bt-Tor | 5/5 |


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