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Rush - Hemispheres CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.37 | 2484 ratings

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3 stars The followup to Farewell to Kings takes the approach of that album, cranks it up to eleven, and also sees Rush experimenting with an increased presence of synthesisers and keyboards in their work. Whilst these experiments would yield the sound of albums like Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures - foreshadowings of which can be heard here and there on this album - Hemispheres itself is a rather muddled beast.

Side one is dominated by the title track, the sequel to Cygnus X-1 on the previous album - although both thematically and musically, it couldn't be more different. Cygnus X-1 is a spacey number about a guy who deliberately steers his spaceship into a black hole out of his burning curiosity to see what was on the other side. It was tight, cohesive, had different sections seamlessly melded together through tight changes of time signature, and it rocked like you wouldn't believe.

Hemispheres, conversely, is a bit more of a mess. It's a fantasy story about the conflict between the gods of reason and emotion and how eventually they install a mortal to adjudicate the balance between them. So far, so prog. The problem is that it's yet another Rush epic that, like the bad old days of Caress of Steel, just doesn't have sufficient ideas to fill its running time. What's more, the different sections feel hastily pasted together, almost as though they are separate songs that happen to run together. The same was true to an extent of 2112 of course, but 2112 both rocked harder and kept the listerner's interest far more than Hemispheres, and didn't repeat itself nearly so often.

On the second side we have two throwaway tracks - Circumstances, which sounds like a reject from side two of 2112, and the heavy-handed political allegory of The Trees. But at least we also have the album's saving grace - La Villa Strangiato, a 9 minute instrumental track which both acts as the culmination of their prog-above-all period and as the transition to the next phase of their career. Ducking and weaving at a breakneck pace through a range of different moods, juggling time signatures without breaking a sweat with each band member soloing like their lives depend on it, it's everything that the title track should have been but wasn't.

Still, one really awesome track isn't enough to save an album that is otherwise rather inessential. Harsh, maybe, but there's no getting away from the fact that this is a very transitional album which would have got a significantly lower rating were it not for the wonders of La Villa.

Warthur | 3/5 |


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