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Rush - Hold Your Fire CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.28 | 859 ratings

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2 stars The All-music Guide states that this album is "infinitely greater than the sum of its parts." Since my first listen, I've tended to think the opposite, that this album is much worse than its individual components, which overall aren't that impressive to begin with. I don't hate this anywhere near as much as I used to (I once would have given it *), but as you can see from the rating I still don't have many warm feelings towards it.

I have a lot of problems with all of the tracks on this album after the opener. My main issue is that most of the tracks, at their cores, are really generic, really dull adult-pop songs. When the songs are slow, they don't have strong, memorable melodies, and when they're fast, they don't have strong, memorable riffs. Plus, the album tries to pass itself off as a high-brow art-rock album, filled with grandiose synths and ridiculous lyrics (there is quite a bit of dime-store psychology on here to go with the more typically grandiose Peart material), but the artsy aspects are mostly just a superficial covering for the rotten, boring melodies underneath. There are some good basslines, but the sound is so trebly and wussy that it drives me nuts. The drums only sound like there's a real virtuoso behind the kit some of the time; they're booming and loud in the mix, but very rarely impressive. Lifeson gets more to do on this album than I used to think, as he has a small number of great lines, and he does do a lot of work in setting texture (along with the synths), but I don't get the sense that he's a crucial part of the sound when I listen to this album.

Few of the songs are immediately offensive, and mixed in with other albums they would have just been fairly below average filler. An album like this, though, with one clearly-below-average song after another, becomes a pain in the neck to listen to. Plus, there are some unbearable moments of unintentional comedy. Hearing Geddy bellow out, "I DON'T WANT TO FACE THE KILLER INSTINCT, FACE IT IN YOU OR ME" over important-sounding synthesizers pretty much sums up on its own why I can't take this album seriously, and the rest of the song ("Lock and Key") doesn't get much better. The opening chords of "Mission" sound like music I first heard in Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, and the lyrics seem to think they're making an important artistic statement but are really just a lot of hot air. The song gets faster than the opening "majestic" section, but at best it's a generic, by-numbers 80's Rush rocker. "Turn the Page" is a rocker with some decent drive to it, but it's not that impressive a song, and when the song goes into the expected tricky instrumental break, all I can say is whoop-dee-freaking-doo. And as for "Tai Shan," well, I think George Starostin got it right when he said (essentially) that the lyrics sound like the reaction of a generic tourist upon visiting China; hearing these lyrics set to an oh-so-generic synth-heavy melody doesn't improve my mood much.

Fortunately, there is some really good stuff on here. I've always adored the opener, "Force Ten," a great rocker with a terrific bassline, some powerful riffage, a great vocal melody (especially in the "slower" portion) and good lyrics. The angelic chorus synths in the beginning are a little silly, and some of the synths in the middle are far cheezier than anything the band had used to that point, but when I listen to this song, it inspires me to think I can accomplish anything, and I respect any song that can do that to me. While I used to think this was the only worthwhile song on the album, though, I can now pick out three others (all in the first half) that I like a decent amount. "Time Stands Still" would work better as a 3-minute song instead of a 5-minute song masquerading as some kind of profound art-rock, but the lyrics at least touch on a subject (growing old, wishing time wouldn't slip by so fast) that can resonate with everybody. "Open Secrets" has some fabulous emotional guitar lines, and "Prime Mover," at the least, is a noticably better generic 80's up-tempo Rush song than either "Mission" or "Turn the Page."

Aside from a couple of other tracks (which have neither much of a positive nor much of a negative impact on the rating), my overall attitude towards the album is one of sleepy boredom, which is at least an improvement over my former vitriolic hate. I know that lots of fans consider this one of their best (though I have noticed that there are even a lot of fans of their 80's stuff who wrinkle their noses at this one), but I can't help but see this as a total dead end for the band. Unless you're a diehard, you should probably avoid this one.

tarkus1980 | 2/5 |


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