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Rush - Snakes & Arrows CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.58 | 907 ratings

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4 stars With Vapor Trails Rush proved that they weren't going soft in the new millennium. However, it would take the crisp production of Snakes & Arrows to show just how good they still are. Sure, by this point Rush have long drifted away from the 10 minute epics. Deal with it. Those days are gone, and they have been since Moving Pictures. Instead, you get an album that crams all of the prowess and songwriting ability into easy to digest songs. Geddy's voice has aged rather well in my opinion and the shrieks that sometimes grated have matured to let Geddy have a nice range but without the tight-pants screams of yesteryear. His bass playing has also evolved into a great groove machine. He displays as much talent as he ever did, but he does it with less notes. Alex shines despite not swamping the songs with solos; he shows off his kill without showing off. He also uses much more acoustic guitars this time, yet he never loses the rock feel. Neil as always blends technicality with groove. Lyrically, this is one of the band's best albums. The only album of theirs I consider better is Vapor Trails, and maybe Permanent Waves.

The album kicks off with "Far Cry," a great look into how the world and society have failed to live up to everyone's expectations. Alex proves he's still the riff-master of prog rock, and Geddy's bassline is great. "Armor and Sword" warns against using beliefs as weapons. "Working Them Angels" reflects Neil's fear of testing his luck with his constant motorcycle riding. "The Larger Bowl" is my least favorite song, with Peart using some weird lyrical idea (Melomaniac says it's pantoum). Still, this song grew on me after hearing it live. Plus, Alex has a great solo on it. "Spindrift" has an almost Metallica-like opening that culminates into some truly dark sounds and vocals. Songs like this one are why Rush are often labelled metal. "The Main Monkey Business" is the first of three instrumentals, and it is by far the best on this disc. It has Porcupine Tree and Tool influences, but you can tell that it is a Rush song. The band plays off each other so well it can make fusion groups green with envy. Everyone gets to display his talent, but no one person dominates the sound. It manages to be technically dazzling yet seem so simple because it never loses it's beat. Rush can do in 6 minutes what so many prog metal bands cannot in 20. Utterly sublime. "The Way the Wind Blows" follows with bleak lyrics that provide a stark contrast to the upbeat material found on their last album. "Hope" is the next instrumental, and it's a lovely solo from Alex and his 12 string acoustic. It's short, but it's a great piece. Live, this came after Neil's drum solo and served to bring the crowd back to Earth. "Faithless" has some more dark lyrics about Neil's disillusionment with organized religion. "Bravest Face" has some of the best lyrics of the album, which is saying something. Musically, however, it's mediocre. "Good News First" deals with the sad state of the media. The final instrumental, "Malignant Narcissism," is a fun piece that has a funky bass part anchored by guitar fills and a groovy performance from Peart. The album ends with "We Hold On," a terrific closer that counterpoints the bleakness of the album with a positive message that would not have sounded out of place on Vapor Trails.

This album puts Rush on top of the 70s prog bands still plugging away. Whereas so many of their contemporaries have either disbanded or have stayed only to release poor material, Rush prove that a trio of middle-aged Canadians can rock harder than any snot-nosed punk who plays MTV-approved crap. The choruses here are reminiscent of the bombastic choruses of classics like Freewill. People often criticize how Lifeson had no input in the modern era of Rush, that he had no solos. While he solos less than he did in the 70s,he's never truly faded into the background, and this album should quiet quite a number of complainers. Lee's multi-layered vocals have never sounded better, and the band as a whole bring restraint to their instruments.

The beautiful thing about Rush's music is how they can change moods, tempos, styles, and every other proggy change on a dime, yet you can never tell until they've already done it. In other words, they move seamlessly within their songs, always changing but never losing the groove and feel. That is why every band in the sub-genre they all but single-handedly inspired (prog metal) can never hope to match their influence. Even the godly Dream Theater cannot match these guys. Snakes & Arrows may not seem so progressive upon the first listen, but that's because it's so genius it's takes a few spins to understand the true complexity behind their simplistic sound. Ultimately, it isn't quite a masterpiece, but I think it will go down as a solid four star Rush classic alongisde Signals, Permanent Waves and A Farewell to Kings.

Grade: B+

1800iareyay | 4/5 |


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