RUSH have been around for over four decades now and are still out there to fascinate several generations of Progressive Rock fans with new world tours and charismatic outputs. Many other heroes have gone a long time ago like GENESIS or PINK FLOYD, others have gone through weirdest changes and live from their past status such as KING CRIMSON or YES and a couple of great bands have never gone beyond the status of underground heroes that have more recently influenced Progressive Rock bands but never reached out for a wide spread commercial success such as PENDRAGON or SPOCK'S BEARD. RUSH simply are the kings of Progressive Metal and have not written amazing records throughout their whole career and always tried out new things. One can cite the epic conceptual masterpieces from 1976 as well as the critically acclaimed "Moving Pictures" in 1981 but also more recent stuff like the last output "Snakes & Arrows." The brand new "Clockwork Angels" must not hide behind these records and is another highlight in the band's brilliant discography. I would even go as far to say that it's among my very favourite RUSH outputs right now but of course it hasn't passed the test of time yet.
Even though I really adore this band, I must admit that their earlier works are not always easy to digest. The album structures are generally complex and often mix catchy, commercial and memorable short tracks on one side with rather experimental epics with a focus on instrumental passages on the other side. Many changes of style from Hard Rock beginnings over Progressive experiments to shorter mainstream attempts divide the band's discography into different eras that are not always adored by every fan. The high pitched and somewhat feminine vocals of Geddy Lee have always been charismatic but kept the band from gaining a definite mainstream status and I must admit that I couldn't listen to them all day long.
"Clockwork Angels" is in my opinion the band's most accessible record and I mean this in a good way. The record feels so effortless, honest and powerful that it always outs a smile upon my face. The band perfectly mixes complex structures and diversified fresh song ideas with loads of catchy parts and addicting melodies you won't get out of your mind from the first try on. I immediately fell in love with this record and it hit very quickly. On the other side, each song offers many perfectly arranged details to discover over and over again and the somewhat autobiographic, emotional and philosophical lyrics of this conceptual masterpiece are more than ever worth to be examined a little bit closer. The lovely booklet may help you to take some time and get into the excellent lyrical attempts on this stunning record. I have also to underline that Geddy Lee's vocals on this record are simply amazing. They sound not as strained as they were in the past but surprisingly down to earth, mature and warm without losing their uniqueness. Usually, vocalists get worse as time passes by but with his 58 years, he is at the definite zenith of his career and sounds better than ever to my ears. For all those that have somehow disliked his vocals, you should definitely give this record a spin as they are much easier to approach as they were in the past days. Not only the vocals have improved but also the already excellent musical skills of the band. Add a top notch production to this and you might realize that there's not much left to criticize on this album.
Musically, the short three-minute tracks are as detailed, harmonic and precise as the seven-minute epics. The band varies from amazing calm sounds with space elements, decently soft string passages, chilling acoustic guitar tones, peacefully pumping bass guitar lines and a varied kit of drum techniques in one single perfect song such as "Halo Effect" on one side to one of the heaviest songs ever written by this band with "Headlong Flight," a nostalgic anthem with a wild middle part where every instrument has its time to shine even though the whole things remains coherently connected by a killer chorus that other Progressive Rock bands wouldn't write in their whole career. This album really offers anything you've ever liked about the band. There are highly experimental middle parts in complex masterpieces such as the diversified title track "Clockwork Angels" or the heavier pumping "Seven Cities Of Gold." New things as the circus ambiance in the beginning of the diversified grower "Carnies" can be heard every now and then if you listen this record attentively with your headphones on. There are also many potential hit singles that remind me of intelligent Rock and Pop music from the seventies and eighties as in the airy "The Wreckers" or the very warm "Wish Them Well" that has a melodramatic but also very positive message. These songs sound not nostalgic but so fresh as if they were done by some thirty year old musicians. RUSH are definitely still hungry and have a lot to say. In their whole career, they haven't written a twisted and emotionally driven top notch ballad as strong as the closing "The Garden" that sends shivers down my spine and almost brings me to tears each time I listen to it. Every song is worth to get further descriptions but I will give you the advice to take advantage of the pleasure to discover 12 amazing Progressive Rock pearls on your own as even the shortest track "BU2B2" is way more than just a reprise or an interlude but a very meaningful and profound track in its limited length that perfectly fits to this record and could have been developed to another very own and unique full song.
In the end, RUSH deliver once again another highlight of their career on this intense record that is already on a close run to become my favourite record of the year. Anybody who likes progressive music should call this record his own. It might one day be as essential as a "The Court Of The Crimson King," "Darkside Of The Moon," or "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" and should be seen as a modern classic of Progressive Rock that underlines in the best manners that this genre isn't dead yet at all.
(Online July 9, 2012)