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Rush - Snakes & Arrows CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.57 | 940 ratings

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3 stars Not every later release by the 70s era progressive super heroes has to be a bust. I'll be the first to admit that Snakes & Arrows is not Rush's greatest release, but it show a band which is still expanding its horizons even after 30 plus years. There are times when Snakes & Arrows can be incredibly frustrating and at other times staggeringly beautiful. It is a mixed album with two things at its centre: Number 1, discussions of faith by people who don't necessarily have it and, Number 2, Alex Lifeson. This is the first Rush album on which I've heard him be, without a doubt, the strongest member of the trio.

I can remember hearing snippets of Far Cry back in 2006 in anticipation of Snakes and Arrows. It has a very different feel from the Rush with which I was familiar with at the time. It is slickly produced and exceedingly heavy. Probably heavier than anything Rush has done to date, and I included the Clockwork Angles single in that statement. This is a terrific track. It's a bit of a tease, because it really doesn't belong on this album. It isn't quite preachy enough.

Armour and Sword is the essence of Snakes and Arrows. It is a criticism of religious beliefs and how all their noble intentions more often than not turn into a lethal burden on society. Richard Dawkins probably has it on continuous loop somewhere. I couldn't agree less, but that doesn't stop it from being a pretty solid track. Not a favourite mind you, but a well executed one. It's hard and pounding and has a bit of a mid 80s flair to it. Working Them Angles is much in the same vein. Hard, pounding and critical of religion. Yawn. Two in a row? Seriously? Not a good production choice. It does have a few bright spots, especially the intro, but keeps sounding too much like Armour and Sword.

Much has been made of the fact that A Larger Bowl is written as a pantoum, a type of poetry which I'm not qualified to discuss, because I could care less. It does make from an interesting song. There isn't really a proper chorus just a rolling rhyme. It's a lament for the strife on earth. It gets a little too communist for me at times. It is a good song though, on the heavy side yet, but less on the thumpy side. Lifeson has some excellent guitar work, both acoustic and electric on it.

Ok, I'm getting a little tired of the heavy dark ruminations on the state of the world and religion's role in it. Maybe I'll get a reprieve. Spindrift, no, not yet. Sigh. The first half of the album sorely is lacking in variety. I think people who are more supportive of the message or and more inclined towards metal would prefer it. It's good, but lacking the vivacity and spirit which define Rush's most memorable work. Of these, only Fry Cry gets significant play.

That all changes however on The Main Monkey business! And not a moment to soon. It's a highly entertaining, largely guitar driven instrumental release from the doldrums of the last three tacks. It features great work by all those concerned. It is the weakest of the three instrumentals though. It is something of a turning point on the album; with less (not none) angst angst, and more rock rock.

The subject matter of The Way the Wind Blows is still the same, but the approach is a little different. Rather than simply railing it at offers an alternative just being upset with the state of religious affairs. It has an excellent chorus, both in music and message. The style of the song is hard rock during the body and acoustic during the chorus. During the intro and the solo, Lifeson is also uncharacteristically bluesy.

Hope is the best song on this album and is one of the best Rush songs of all time. It is an Alex Lifeson acoustic guitar solo, which along with Thick as a Brick and the 4th Movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony is one of the only pieces which still give me goose bumps every time I hear them. This is one of the key reasons why I feel Lifeson is king on Snakes and Arrows.

Faithless. Uhhhh, thus spake the atheist peacher. My life is so great because I have no beliefs, thanks. It's as sickening as Christian rock, just with a message that's the polar opposite. Dull. Moving on.

Bravest Face is a little like the Way the Wind Blows, in that it has soft and hard elements. It's a lot better than faithless. I think it has an interesting message about perceptions. It's a pretty cool song over all, and shock! it has notes played in a major key.

There was a serious mistake made on the Good News First. Like a lot of Rush songs, the rhythm section rides in the front seat. When you hear what Lifeson is doing in the back ground I think you'll agree it would have been better at the forefront. This is another real heavy track like those on the first half, but it has a different feel; a little less cluttered with noise and a little more progression. If the others were more like this one I might consider giving this album a four rather than a three.

Malignant Narcissism is a bass driven rock out. Like Hope, I wish it lasted much longer than the paltry 2:17 it's given. Where Hope was Lifeson's showcase, this is Lee and Peart's. It almost doesn't sound like Rush at one point, but once the bass revs up again there's no mistaking it. Second best song on the album.

We Hold On, is a hard rocking track and a good closer for the album. It isn't as intellectual as a lot of the other tracks and I think that's a strength when it comes to this album. The weight of the subject matter doesn't drag the music down with it. Once again, Lifeson should have been made more prominent in the mixing, but c'est la vie.

Snakes and Arrows does get a little bogged down at times. It doesn't destroy the album, but it can make it hard to listen to as a whole each time. The instrumentals, Far Cry and We Hold On shine the brightest. There are some other pretty solid tracks and some pretty rough ones, but Snakes and Arrows shows a band still capable of making excellent music, and to some extent chipping of the rust of creative inactivity. It leaves me wanting more of what I like and expecting quite a lot from any subsequent release. I like it as a whole about three for five, but I like parts of is considerably more.

R-A-N-M-A | 3/5 |


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