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Rush - Clockwork Angels CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.96 | 1060 ratings

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4 stars I was ever so eager to hear this album since I first read about it sometime in late 2010. It was at this time, after knowing about Rush for 28 years and even owning a few of their CDs, that I suddenly became a rabid fan overnight. I can hardly say what spurned it on. But once I began listening to the CDs I had, really listening, I instantly felt I had to have every studio album they ever recorded. Within a few weeks I had all 19 albums - the Feedback ep being one that I already owned since its release. And then there was Clockwork Angels on the way. I could hardly wait.

But wait I did as the purported release date got pushed a year back. And as the excitement and anticipation built, I couldn't help but fear that this might be a Phantom Menace situation, where all the hype that precedes an established cultural icon leads reviewers to give it more praise than it is truly due.

Thankfully, I was totally wrong to think that way.

Detailed reviews are already in written; however, I want to mention my standout impressions.

Caravan - Since I downloaded the single from iTunes last year, I have totally loved this song for its heaviness. But the best for me is the instrumental section which is more than just a space for a solo. In four parts, the first three showcase Rush's instrumental compositional skills and the ferocity in their playing ability. The fourth part is where Alex burns up the fret board, concluding the solo with a tension-filled mad slashing of the strings followed by an abrupt release in the form of a pick-slide.

BU2B - The single hit things off instantly with that heavy riff and thundering bass sound. On the album there's a mellow intro. It seems at first that Rush is going to slow down after the rocking first track, but if you know the song from the single then you know that you are going to get your ass kicked again. Though the title stands for Brought Up To Believe, I always loved how it could be read as Be You To Be. An indication of Neil's deep intellect, no doubt.

Clockwork Angels - This is where the album really begins to stretch out. The introduction has you almost cringing at the buzzing guitar, thinking, "Here comes the next wallop!" But the song moves into four different riffs, mixing eighties classic Rush with nineties Rush and the heavier riffs of latter day Rush. Though its not among my favourites yet, I really like the sonic explorations in this song. It seems to say that if you didn't understand that this was going to be a heavy prog rock album yet, Rush are going to show that side more clearly here. After the solo the song shifts into a lazy blues mode as Geddy sings a passage from the Bible about not leaning on your own understanding. No question how Neil views that notion. The backwards choir-like singing at the beginning and the end are a great addition.

The Anarchist - A rocker of a song yes, but not in the ultra heavy vein of the first two tracks. Rush explore more territory of soundscape here using strings and a Middle Eastern flavour that is highlighted in Alex's brief but very Tea Party-esque solo.

Carnies - One of Alex's coolest riffs ever and something to prick up the ears of any metal fan.

Halo Effect - Hailed as the next Closer to the Heart by some reviewers, I think it's not realistic to compare it to that old classic. I find the two are very different songs. So far, this one has not stood out for me yet; however, I know with every Rush album there are always the songs that grab me at first and later other songs begin to stand out. Considering the praise this track is getting, I am sure I just need to listen to it more.

Seven Cities of Gold - Such a totally bad-ass bass line and Neil works his kit stunningly well along with the bass. Somehow, this reminded me of Chris Squire's bass intro to The Messenger on Yes's The Ladder album, not as a companion but as the nice boy next door funky bass compared to Geddy's mean mutha bass line here. Alex adds excitement with guitar effects until the song kicks in full. The instrumental break in the middle is psychedelic and mind-bending. One of the more metallic tracks on the album.

The Wreckers - I expected with this title the song would rip the studio to shreds in intensity. But actually it's a beautiful chorus rock song that should get crowds singing along with glee. Very catchy melody. (Wait! Didn't UFO once call Geddy, Glee?)

Headlong Flight - There was one day where I just played the video for this song over and over, not because I loved the video - I was busy doing stuff at work. I just wanted to hear this song again and again. This is Rush absolutely rocking their hardest and making no bones about churning out ass-kicking rock for over seven minutes. Not only is the main riff such a ripping display of power and distortion, Alex comes in near the instrumental section's beginning with another heavy riff, accompanied by Neil practically shooting rifle holes in his kit. It reminds me of Wolfmother, who introduce one thundering metal riff that knocks you flat on your butt, and then just when you are getting up to headbang to it, they drop in another monster riff for a few bars that knocks you right back down again. Alex totally lets fly on the solo hear too. Geddy and Neil drive the wall of sound behind the guitar like an over-sized steam locomotive careening down a mountainside.

BU2B2 - Most people aren't thrilled about this song and I agree that it wouldn't be missed had it been left out. But Alex stated that Neil felt it was integral to the story and I agree that it is an important part of the tale. Indeed, that this tale of despondency follows the very positive outlook expressed in the lyrics of Headlong Flight reminds me of things I read in Neil's book Ghost Rider. There were days where he'd feel he was enjoying his journey and making progress on the healing road (recovering from the death of his daughter and wife) and then suddenly he'd be in tears of grief all over again. Since this is a concept album, I feel the song does have it's place here, even if people won't be adding it to their playlists.

Wish Them Well - The gloom of BU2B2 doesn't last long, and after just over a minute we are back to the positive rock vibe of this song. The message is one that strikes me as a very important one to learn. After seeing on Facebook how so many people are angry and constantly annoyed with people who have supposedly caused them emotional harm, I really began to feel how important it is to just steer clear of anyone that makes you feel angry. Furthermore, why go about wishing that people would die or suffer? Just wish them well. So, the message in this song strikes a very deep chord with me. Following this thinking leads to a higher level of human reasoning.

The Garden - Everyone seems to think this is an amazing song and I agree. Musically it's a beauty, and Geddy delivers to the best of his ability here. But even though I have always liked Geddy's voice (even way back when I was only a casual listener of Rush's music), I can't help but wonder with music this beautiful if a more gifted balladeer might do the song even more justice. Just a thought. Alex's guitar solo is beautiful!

I give this album 4.5 out of five personally. How does it rate as prog rock? This is Rush we are talking about. Prog or not, these guys do everything they can to push themselves further. That at their age they can make an album that would stun and deafen any of the other old hard rock bands is amazing. Rush don't slow down. They evolve. They explore. Long songs, strings, incredible musicianship, futuristic concept album. It's certainly worth four stars here!

(Strangely, this album has me wanting to listen to Snakes and Arrows more.)

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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