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Rush - Vapor Trails CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.43 | 798 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
3 stars From what I've seen on this site, the jury is still out as regards Rush's comeback album after a forced 5-year stop: masterpiece or disappointment? Reinvention or rehash of old formulas? In my honest, humble opinion it is neither, though my judgment of this album veers definitely towards the positive. It has its flaws, first of all the notoriously muddy, grungy production - very untypical for the band, though in a way reflecting the changes that had occurred in those five years in the members' personal lives. Rush had come very close to calling it a day for good, which would have been an enormous loss for the whole world of rock music. Consequently, many fans expected a triumphal return to form, but things went rather differently and widespread feelings of disappointment ensued. "Vapor Trails" is undoubtedly a brave move on the part of the band, more experimental and raw than most of their past efforts, but it is also no masterpiece.

Keyboards seem to have been relegated to the past, which is probably very good news for those fans who were seriously bothered by the over-abundance of synths in the band's '80s output. Even though Lifeson plays fewer solos than usual, his guitar is pushed to the fore with a rawer, aggressive sound which hasn't been heard for years on a Rush record. As a matter of fact, he proves once again that he is one of the greatest riff masters in rock. On the other hand, the production values somehow flatten the guitar, which results in the tracks sounding a bit samey after a while. Neil's drumming is immaculate and elegant as ever, and Geddy's vocals get better and better with time. When I heard him live two years ago I was surprised at how good he's become - no longer shrill, but rather forceful and expressive. It's a pity that the mix does nothing to improve the mighty sound of Geddy's legendary bass.

This album contain more tracks than most Rush records, though no instrumentals. There is also quite a bit of filler, songs which are rather unremarkable and undistinguished. This is not the case of the opening "One Little Victory", driven along by Alex's frantic riffing and Neil's powerhouse drumming, or the intense, relentless "Peaceable Kingdom" and the weird, mid-tempo "Freeze". The album's absolute standout, however, is the song I have chosen for my nickname, the hauntingly beautiful "Ghost Rider", in which the three musicians get a real chance to shine individually and collectively - especially the rythm section. The title-track is also outstanding, with great vocals by the inimitable Mr Lee.

Other reviewers have rightly mentioned the deeply personal nature of the lyrics, penned by Neil Peart after the tragic losses he had suffered. Gone are the times when he got his inspiration from the doubtful writings of Ayn Rand or from fantasy and science fiction. "Show me beauty, but there is no peace/for the ghost rider": these are the words of a man who's known pain, anger and grief, nevertheless has managed to get on with his life. The stylish, Tarot-themed cover art is also worthy of mention, even though the band are always been noted for the beauty of their album sleeves. Three and a half stars, really - waiting for the next one.

Raff | 3/5 |


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