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Rush - Clockwork Angels CD (album) cover




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3.94 | 1198 ratings

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5 stars Very few bands have ever had what you could call a "second heyday." A popular groups hits a peak, and then either calls it quits or embarks on a downward spiral. But it seems as though Rush have subverted the trend of spiraling downward just by sheer virtue of making consistently good music throughout their entire career. No matter what changes they bring upon their established style (usually following or setting certain trends with each decade of their work), their music is unmistakably Rush and always guaranteed to have some level of excellence with each album. Of course, most people consider the trio's heyday to be their mid 70s-early 80s work. But, starting with Vapor Trails, it seemed as though a new Rush Renaissance had arrived as each successive album had been getting better and better. So now we approach 2012's Clockwork Angels... and if Hemispheres was the crown jewel of their first string of masterpieces, then this is the crown jewel of the bold new string of 21st century successes.

Clockwork Angels is not only technically impressive, stellar in its songwriting, or vocally sound. No, the reason this album is so good is because of the passion and effort clearly thrown into it. Rush sound more fired up and inspired than they have in years and it's hard not to get sucked into the energy these guys pour into the experience, an impressive feat given their ages. Just like the last two albums, Clockwork Angels kicks things off fittingly with a hard-hitting rock/metal number known as "Caravan." However, "BU2B" is where things really get kicked up a notch; the main riff is just brutal in its distortion and heaviness, the dynamics are varied between the verses and the choruses, and the whole thing just flows so smoothly. But that can be said of the entire album; the lack of significant filler here is just mindblowing as each and every song serves a distinct purpose. Some of my personal favorites here are the more ornate and layered tracks such as the title track and "Carnies." The former is especially outstanding, kicking off with an a cappella melody akin to the theme song of Halo before launching into a beautiful blend of Alex Lifeson's bright guitar chords and a driving rhythm section courtesy of Geddy Lee and Neil Peart. Also, some of Lifeson's best soloing occurs on this track; that's always a bonus.

But the presentation also matters a great deal here, as Rush meet these great songs in with some intriguing concepts by Peart. This is what he had to say regarding the album's story:

"In a young man's quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life."

It seems like a hell of a lot to cram into one record, but Rush pull it off with ease. Longer songs like the title track and "Headlong Flight" really make good use of their lengths to weave a ton of sections into the mix in a flowing manner, so each concept is free to transition into the next with little effort. The latter song even contains a nod to the band's 70s hit "Bastille Day" in its main riff! But where this album really shines is in its sentimental and quiet moments. There's more emotion and subtlety in this record than most of Rush's output (and regarding the former, that's definitely saying something), with many of the best songs being of the more melodic or subdued variety. In fact, "The Garden" may very well be one of the best closing numbers of all time. There's always both a sense of both finality and reflection in the piece, coupled with Lifeson's exquisite acoustic guitar work and some of the most dynamic and yet restrained (in the verses anyway) vocals Geddy Lee has ever performed. "Halo Effect" is also fantastic, although it mixes a similar quietness with a much higher level of intensity during each chorus; Lifeson's guitar playing definitely offers a lot of variety throughout.

I may appear to be gushing a bit too much, but Clockwork Angels really is that good. It perfects the sounds that its more immediate predecessors created while sounding so damn fresh on its own as well. There's no bad song on the record, and you'll often finish the experience feeling both satisfied and emotionally fulfilled. A lot of people got a bit irked by the album's sound production because of the compression and loudness war nonsense (something that also plagued Vapor Trails) but I feel as though the mix is quite stronger this time around. It may be a bit loud and somewhat muddy, but the blending of instruments is still consistently clear and the loudness tends to add to the intensity of the heavier songs. In any case, Clockwork Angels is truly one of Rush's great masterpieces. It's beautiful, it's heavy, it's emotional, it's layered, it's technical, it's Rush in top form.

Necrotica | 5/5 |


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