RUSH – Snakes & Arrows

By Matt Kastner 

With this being Rush’s first album with entirely original material released in nearly 5 years, there has been much hype for this album. Early rumors suggested that the band was going back to their roots for the album and it would sound very much like their 1976 album, “2112.” Others were suggesting that the band was continuing with the style that they had left off with on 2002’s album, “Vapor Trails” and mixing it with that of 1978’s album, “Hemispheres.” When the first single, “Far Cry” was released, the latter seemed to be the more accurate statement. Now finally, on May 1st, 2007, another chapter in Rush’s legendary history begins…

And what a disappointment this chapter is. So much hype has surrounded this album and it does not live up to that hype as one would expect. Because it is disappointing, though, it does not make it a bad album. It just isn’t what somebody might have expected from Rush. For somebody who bought into the hype, I can say that my first impression of it wasn’t the friendliest, but as I listen to it more and more, it slowly grows on me. We were teased with the release of the single “Far Cry” and it serves as a great intro for any album. “Far Cry” also seems to be one of the best songs that the band has written in the past 20 years. After that, the rest of this album is either hit or miss. The lyrical themes of this album are great, I must say, and we’re treated with master musicianship yet again by the band. But much of the songs here could all fit perfectly on an album titled “Presto 2,” or even “Test for Echo Revisited,” particularly the track “Spindrift” (which has “Presto” pouring out of it). I really liked the production on the songs and it did make it easier on the ears than “Vapor Trails,” the problem is it just doesn’t seem to deliver musically. The progression that made Rush great back in the 70’s and 80’s is now starting to take a toll on them it seems. Songs like “Workin Them Angels,” and “The Larger Bowl” seem like an attempt at something you might have heard on 1987’s “Hold Your Fire” only without the keyboards. Sounds like a good thing, right? Sadly though, they seem to miss the spot.

But in this album, there are a few shades of light, mostly in the three instrumentals “The Main Monkey Business,” “Hope,” and “Malignant Narcissism.” “The Main Monkey Business” has an excellent build up in the middle of the song and Peart seems to be on the top of his game. “Hope” is a beautiful acoustic piece composed and performed solely by Lifeson. “Malignant Narcissism” brings back that classic Rush vibe with a thunderous bass riff on top of a groovy drum pattern and guitar effects. The lyrical themes of this album are great, I must say, and we’re treated with master musicianship yet again by the band. “Armour and Sword” is a decent follow up to “Far Cry” and has a very melodic chorus with some pretty cool drum patterns provided by Peart. The song “Faithless” isn’t too bad either, as it gives a bit of that classic 60’s guitar feeling with it at certain spots. “We Hold On” makes a pretty good closure for the album, and if Rush produces any more albums after this one, then I can only hope that “We Hold On” was a preview of things yet to come.

Overall, this album wasn’t as bad as I had originally perceived. If you’re looking for something that has that classic Rush vibe to it, then this is most certainly not the album for you. What can be said about this though, is it is not exactly one of the best albums Rush has produced, nor is it even in the top ten best they’ve ever done, but it is a pretty decent album that will most likely take some time to grow on you from that initial first listen. Album of the year? Hardly.

Rush website