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Rush: Snakes & Arrows

Long billed as the album that would bring Rush back to their classic sounds of the 70's, Snakes & Arrows is instead a remarkably focused release that sees the band returning to some heavier, yet ultimately more textured moments. This is no Hemisphere part two, more akin to something along the lines of Moving Pictures, Grace Under Pressure, and Counterparts, with the trio really taking to the time to come up with good, memorable songs, layered with tons of Alex Lifeson electric and acoustic guitar tones (including the return of solos!), Geddy Lee's spirited vocals and bass work, and the exemplary drumming and lyrics from the master Neil Peart. It's easily their best album in close to a decade.

Things kicks off in grand fashion with "Far Cry", a somewhat bombastic piece led by Peart's drum grooves and Lifeson's chunky guitar tone. "Armor and Sword" is one of the heavier songs here, with almost "Which Hunt" styled doomy guitar riffs over dense arrangements littered with intricate drums, keyboards, and Lee's acrobatic bass grooves. The bassist's vocals are quite mysterious here, adding a nice touch to this dark and heavy track. Things are more upbeat on "Workin' Them Angels", a catchy number with great hooks and Lifeson's layering of acoustic and electric guitars, something he does throughout the album, giving this one a rich depth, punctuated by Peart's drum blasting near the outro. "The Larger Bowl" contains some wrenching lyrics from Peart, and the arrangements are mostly acoustic, but it's a highly addicting piece that will have you humming the melody for hours. Alex Lifeson even drops in a tasty guitar solo for good measure.

The band dips back into dark and heavy territory for "Spindrift", a plodding yet menacing track with evil riffs from Lifeson, haunting Mellotron, stunning drum work from Peart, and an inspired vocal from Lee. The first of three instrumentals is "The Main Monkey Business", a nice proggy number with atmospheric keys floating underneath some intense riffery from Lee and Lifeson, while the ever busy Peart keeps things all glued together yet allows himself some moments to blast away with some almost fusiony fire. A surprising jump into bluesy hard rock, mixed with some crankin' prog metal, is heard on "The Way the Wind Blows", and "Hope" is the second instrumental, this one a vehicle for Lifeson's excellent acoustic guitar mastery.

Melodic bass lines and textured guitar patterns permeate "Faithless", a song that will remind of some of the material the band was writing on albums like Presto and Test for Echo. Bland and slightly generic, it's one of the least appealing songs on the CD. "Bravest Face" is another lackluster song, with too much of a "folky/alternative" thing going, despite some nice Mellotron waves, but the band bounces back somewhat for "Good News First", which features some nimble bass grooves from Lee and plenty of varied guitar parts from Lifeson, as well as an appearance again from the Mellotron. What this one lacks in intensity it makes up for with variety and complexity. Fans of "YYZ" will love the kick ass instrumental "Malignant Narcissism", a complex, prog-metal/fusion burner, with wonderful bass lines from Lee while Lifeson chugs and snarls his way through the mix, Peart providing no shortage of impressive beats and fills underneath it all. Hot stuff indeed, just wish it was longer. The closer "We Hold On" is a savage rocker with some of Lifeson's most wicked playing on the CD, and sure to be a live favorite for years to come.

Overall, Snakes & Arrows is a triumph (no pun intended or reminder of that other Canadian trio) for Rush, despite the fact that it falters a tad three quarters of the way through for a bit. They probably put three more tunes on here than they really needed, but what's good is really good, and it shows a band that still knows how to rock out with the intensity that they were known for many years ago.

Track Listing
1. Far Cry
2. Armor And Sword
3. Workin' Them Angels
4. The Larger Bowl
5. Spindrift
6. The Main Monkey Business
7. The Way The Wind Blows
8. Hope
9. Faithless
10. Bravest Face
11. Good News First
12. Malignant Narcissism
13. We Hold On

Added: May 31st 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Rush Website
Hits: 4669
Language: english

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Rush: Snakes & Arrows
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-05-31 06:17:00
My Score:

It's been about five years since Rush last delivered original material with Vapor Trails and early reports from the studio had outlined that the new release would be more of a return to the bands storied past. With Snakes & Arrows Rush clearly shows that they able to offer a slight return but one that looks to the future just as much as it recollects the past. To get the initial comments out of the way on this release the "return to form" would not go as far back as Hemispheres like some had anticipated and why should it since that level of Progressive Rock would not be as easy to replicate and sell effectively in today's world. Instead we have an album that brought to my mind images of the colors they experimented with on both Presto and Counterparts, two of my favorites from the Rush middle years. The album launches off with "Far Cry" which is a track that I think will become a concert staple that becomes far more powerful than that of the openers from Vapor Trails or Test For Echo. Unlike many critics I did not mind VT all that much but do agree that TFE was a bit of a letdown when it came down to it. On S&A there is a certain freshness that I think will instantly capture the hearts and most specifically the ears of all their legions of fans right away as the production here is a tight one that ebbs and flows like the Rush of old. There is a ton of excellent melody put forward as Geddy hits his trademark high notes and soft subtle ones as often as necessary. Alex Liefson is to be commended on the number of different guitar elements he introduces here as we find traditional guitars, mandolins as well as the electric ones and with the sound production courtesy of Nick Raskulinecz you can hear every single one of them as they are introduced in the music. Lyrically this is perhaps the strongest that we have found from the band in years and Professor Neil Peart certainly dished out some ideas that will make reading along with the music a pleasant experience once again. His drumming as always is tasty and most effective and the fills he delivers will strike you as "just perfect" for each scenario that you find on this musical journey. It would be safe to say that this is the best Rush has sounded in the past decade of releases.

There are many highlights on this release and among them are "Workin' Them Angels" and "Faithless" which work on so many levels in both lyrical and musical content. Rush seems to be aiming at making one look deeper inside themselves as opposed to setting up any political agenda. The guys also make sure to deliver a few notable instrumentals and with "The Main Monkey Business" we hear something that could very well be a number that came from the time that Roll The Bones was released. It's a brooding and atmospheric tune that I liked very much. Of the remaining two instrumentals "Hope" is a strong guitar led piece while "Malignant" Narcissism" finds them at their funkiest and perhaps most experimental on the album. Overall there isn't a down or boring moment on the whole release and the 24 page color booklet offers you the lyrics and images, but no photos of the guys except for the final page. With Snakes & Arrows I think we all shall find a Rush that is prepared to take us into the next decade of their career with the banners raised high. This intelligent and incredible piece of music is a welcome battle cry and proves that even after thirty years of musical productivity that there are still fresh ideas to bring to our attention.

» Reader Comments:

Rush: Snakes & Arrows
Posted by Matt on 2021-04-22 17:00:10
My Score:

Great review, pretty much agree with everything stated. Snakes & Arrows is a very good comeback album for Rush after two disappointing releases.

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