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Rush – Clockwork Angels – review

If you know me you know of my undying and resounding love for the band Rush, who I honestly believe is one of the five greatest bands of all time.  Whenever they announce a new album it’s a moment of high anticipation, and this one may be the most anticipated of all.  The first single Caravan was released over two years ago from Clockwork Angels, which marks their 19th album.

Now I have a hard to attempting to review lots of albums, but especially a Rush album because of my devotion to them.  I am going to attempt to give my honest opinion here, even though I want to immediately scream HOW AWESOME IT IS!   Now I have long missed the days when every Rush album was a concept album about dragons, kings, and men discovering the lost art of music in the distant future.  That was half the fun of it all.  Clockwork Angels attempts to bring some of that mysticism back to their music.  Author Kevin J. Anderson, a friend of drummer Neil Peart, is supposedly writing a novel to coincide with the albums release, and had this to say about the concept:

“In a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life.”

Um….sounds awesome to me! Now let’s see if the music can hold up alongside of it.

To me 2007’s Snakes and Arrows was a low point for the band, and I’d place that album as one of the worst in the Rush discography.  On the other hand 2002’a Vapor Trails was a nice turning point for the band in my opinion, as they incorporated a harder more modern rock sound.  Clockwork Angels sits somewhere in between those albums in sound, while attempting to go forward as well.  They sound as fresh as ever on songs like Wreckage, Bu2b, and Headlong Flight, but they also sound kind of tired and attempting the same thing on songs like Halo Effect and Wish Them Well. Now I’m not expecting for Rush to come out and blow the doors off the music industry with something so mind-blowing that I proclaim I’ve never heard of anything like this before!  I can dream though.  What I am looking for is just a taste of something more from them.

Clockwork Angels has everything the past few Rush albums has had with that heavier, modern rock sound, but I think it also has something those other two albums didn’t have.  There’s more orchestration involved in some of these songs, especially the closing track, The Garden, which reaches an epic crescendo that is in the same vein as songs such as November Rain by Guns N’ Roses. This orchestration and more grandiose feel pushes Clockwork Angels closer to the top in their canon.

Now it’s impossible to listen to a Rush album just one or two times and really grasp everything that is going on within.  Neil, Geddy, and Alex’s work as musicians is of the highest caliber, as is their writing.   Clockwork Angels as a whole feels, sounds, and goes through the movements as probably the best Rush album since Roll the Bones. The band no doubt is reaching the end of a long and historic career, and it will no doubt take some time for Clockwork Angels to find its place amongst other masterpieces from them such as Moving Pictures, 2112, and Permanent Waves, but this is a different Rush then that time period, and a different Rush from their synth driven 80’s form as well.  All I know is I’m happy a new album from them is here and I’m going to enjoy that feeling while it lasts.

Grade: B