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Rush - Vapor Trails CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.43 | 798 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A graceful return from the masters of Heavy Prog.

After the 5 year hiatus following the very tragic events that plagued band member Neil PEART, the band decided to get back together again. Geddy LEE recounts that it was Peart's idea to begin with, that he called Geddy one day and asked if he was ready to reform the band. While it's terribly clear that the events had changed Peart's life and the way he wrote (he also hasn't appeared, to my knowledge, in any interviews since 1996) it's also clear that the man was again driven to play those drums. Neil is fierce on this outing, and many of the songs on the album revolve around his path to recovery as well as other more worldly issues that Peart is not unknown for writing.

While the production value of the album has been questioned, it's really a two way street. While the album is incredibly raw and heavy some may argue that the band wanted it that way to obtain a certain sound. Certainly, this does give the album an edge that the band hasn't seen since 1993's Counterparts, however it does have it's downsides as well. Unlike many a Rush album, this one can turn into the ''wall of sound'' that turns off many listeners. Indeed, it does have that effect on even the most hard-core fan, but with repeated listens one can eventually break through that wall to discover some truly classic Rush songs hidden amongst the Vapor Trails.

Starting off with the live favorite ONE LITTLE VICTORY the album is on it's way. Blistering drums and a deep, raw guitar riff the album starts off very heavily. When performed live this is the song that the band saves the pyrotechnics for, and it's clear as to why. This is the song that will more or less set the course of the rest of the album. Heavy, with a not-so-clearly-defined but still noticeable chorus and tight playing. CEILING UNLIMITED follows much on the same vein, jump starting with a fast riff from Alex LIFESON, this song is perhaps less catchy than it's predecessor, but there's just as much replay value to be had.

From here on the album starts to get more emotionally attached. The third track, GHOST RIDER, is the first track on the album penned by Neil about his trip to self-recovery. Pack up all those phantoms/shoulder that invisible load, sings Geddy over the mellow bass intro. While the song does later explode into motion the song is too emotionally involved to simply head bang along to it (in a good way of course). Following that is Peart's poetically scientific view on one major event that happened during Rush's absence -- the 9/11 attack. PEACEABLE KINGDOM is a lot less obvious of a song about this particular event than, say DT's ''Sacrificed Sons'', and it's a lot closer to the actual event time wise but it's still a topic that doesn't need much more attention regardless. However, this is a very good, (again) heavy track that's catchily-uncatchy as Rush does so well.

About halfway through the album there's a string of consistently good songs. While these are the songs that, unfortunately, suffer from the ''wall of sound'' effect the first couple listens through. THE STARS LOOK DOWN and HOW IT IS are fairly similar in sound at times, but are both excellent tracks. HOW IT IS in particular is a rather light-hearted track for the album and makes a nice contrast against the rest of the album. VAPOR TRAIL, with it's pleasant starting riff and nice mid-paced structure and dark undertones with pseudo-sci-fi lyrics make it a great standout. SECRET TOUCH, with its soft intro and heavy start is likely one of the heaviest songs that Rush have ever produced and is, apparently, one of Lee's favorites -- and even better when seen live.

Coming down to the end of the album the songs start to get more emotion again, and actually more towards the melody than the heavy. However, if the ''wall of sound'' has gotten to you by this point it's not likely to wear off for these tracks, unfortunately. EARTHSHINE, a live favorite, is another song to open with a wicked riff from Lifeson. Voice effects of Lee are easily forgiven as they're well used and the song becomes an excellent track to sing along to. SWEET MIRACLE is another song about Peart's road to recovery, this one slower than the rest on the album. Beautifully sung by Lee, this is a song that is, again, heavier than it seems, both in lyrical content and in music.

From this point onto the end the album is pure rock. The song about sleep, NOCTURNE, is another heavy piece. ''Did I have the dream/or did the dream have me?''. Definitely a song that requires the listener to dissect the lyrics, this is still a good song. Following in the tradition of their 80s albums, FREEZE concludes (I think) the 4-part song ''Fear'' started with their 1981 song, Witch Hunt. Heavier and less like any of the Fear tracks before it, FREEZE still has a catchy chorus that keeps it driving. Finishing off the album is the pure rocker, OUT OF THE CRADLE, which closes the album just as it started, heavily.

In the end this is more of a rock album than a prog album for sure. However, it will still appeal to fans of the Heavy Prog genre and any kind of rock fan in general. A welcome return after a not-so-great album (Test For Echo), and a long hiatus. This one gets 4 stars. Unfortunately you'll need to listen to this album many many times and even go back to it later to see how well it's aged since you last listened to it. Definitely a hard one to ''get'', this album is worth it in the end.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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