Cruising into a fifth decade as one of the most relevant and creative bands on the planet, Canadian legends Rush have been given the Classic Rock Magazine Fan Pack treatment to celebrate the release of their first studio album in five years.
RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth reviews and rates Clockwork Angels and all of its added extras as Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neal Peart react to their new-found status as one of the biggest acts on the planet.
Rush – Clockwork Angels (Roadrunner)
Genre: Progressive Rock
Rush has always been the clear leader when it comes to producing cerebral progressive rock and the band’s music has always boasted the technical flair and raw passion required to transcend genres.
The modest three-piece has always commanded respect, always pushed boundaries and never felt bound by fashion, label pressures or fan expectation. But that was then.
In 2012 the one-time cult heroes and perennial underground act have morphed into one of the biggest bands on the planet. An immersive documentary, record-breaking global tour and acclaim on a scale never imagined during five decades in the music business has cast Rush in a new light.
Indeed, so big are Canada’s foremost rock stars that the revered Classic Rock Magazine has devoted an entire Fan Pack to their latest work. Concept album Clockwork Angels is the first record Rush have released since the band experienced its late flowering fame and associated fortune but does the music reflect those altered circumstances?
In some respects the answer is yes. In terms of production Clockwork Angels is a giant leap forward compared to its 2007 predecessor Snakes And Arrows. Lead singles Caravan and BU2B hinted at an altogether heavier feel and while that’s certainly true of much of the material here the sound is richer and more rounded.
Always keeping pace with the rapid advance of technology it seems Geddy Lee, Neal Peart and Alex Lifeson – in tandem with co-producer Nick Raskulinecz – have fully embraced the tools available to the 21st century progressive rock band and left no stone unturned in the pursuit of aural excellence.
This is an album conceived as something to be consumed in one sitting and, as such, it lacks immediacy. No change there, then. Rush have built a reputation on creating records that demand close attention and long-term validation – many of the band’s back catalogue titles continue to throw up unexpected surprises decades after their initial release.
Nevertheless, a song like Seven Cities Of Gold does make an instant impression. Lee’s vocal is perfectly placed within a typically congested yet focused mix and guitar hero Lifeson’s melodic touch evokes early 80s AOR. Think of this as the best six minute-plus single that never was and skip here if time is of the essence.
The Wreckers’ REM-like intro is neatly justaposed alongside Seven Cities Of Gold to ensure a powerful mid-section that, initially at least, overshadows the album’s sonically charged opening and cluttered conclusion.
But Clockwork Angels is best enjoyed as a whole, its interwoven lyrical themes and familiar musical twists creating a scintillating progressive rock experience the like of which the majority of bands could only dream of replicating. Rush, of course, has the experience but the band’s strength is a steadfast refusal to recycle the past. Clockwork Angels is yet another reinvention at a time when more eyes than most are fixed on the pioneering act’s next move.
Taking a heightened profile in their stride, Lee, Lifeson and Peart have risen to the occasion and proved their worth.
But the newly released Classic Rock Fan Pack isn’t just about the music. Fans of Rush’s remarkable journey will devour the lavishly produced and detailed magazine mixing new band interviews with the erudite opinions of many high-profile peers. There’s the glossy poster, free key ring and exclusive album packaging but none of this would matter without a classic Rush album par excellence. To get it all is a genuine treat.
RUSHONROCK RATED: 9/10 Angels Delight