First there were all the fantasy-inspired lyrics; then came the artistic concept albums; then there was a lull in creativism for a decade or so; which finally brings us to today, and our main topic: Rush's newly released album, Clockwork Angels. To hear one of my favorite tracks from it, click right here! I've already listened to the album, and I can honestly say it is one of my favorite Rush albums of all time (though that's also because of personal bias). I'll go through what this album represents in terms of Rush's career, how it differs from older Rush albums, and why I liked it so much. So let's get right down to it!
Immediately upon starting the album, you'll notice that the songs sound much heavier and much darker in tone than any of their previous releases. The lighthearted sound that early Rush brought with them is pretty much gone, replaced with a lot of hard-hitting guitar riffs and slightly moodier tone, like in the opening song. If you've followed Rush's career, you would actually notice that this has been a very gradual evolution, a noticeable trend toward a heavier, darker sound. Because of that, this album really seems like the next logical step for the band, and I like it. Their last couple of albums usually contained only one or two stand out tracks on them, and they didn't feel very cohesive as whole albums. They felt much more like a collection of separate tracks, some hard, some soft, but no real direction. This new album, however, is completely the opposite. Not only is every single track on the album totally impressive, but they all share a similar tone and direction that binds them together. This album has ALBUM IDENTITY (meaning the songs from it will be recognizable as "Clockwork Angels songs"), which is something that the previous albums did not have. Not only that, but this time the band has fully embraced the hard rock sound that they've been developing over recent years. You won't find any acoustic or synth songs like on old Rush albums, basically what you're going to find on this one is "hard rock with lots of changing time signatures." Obviously I'm a fan of hard rock above everything else, so to get a Rush album that is closer to hard rock than any album before is a great treat for me.
It's kinda funny, actually. Rush used to be known as leaders of progressivism in rock music. But when you consider how far the genres of progressive rock and post-rock have come, and what artists sound like nowadays, Rush actually sounds surprisingly mainstream in comparison. Much easier to listen to, at least. This isn't actually a pro, nor a con, but I think it's an interesting observation.
On the technical side, the instrumentation on the album comes through beautifully. Neil Peart's drumming is noticably amazing, reminding everyone why he's an inspiration for drummers everywhere. Geddy Lee's voice has apparently not changed at all over the last 25 goddamn years, he still sounds as good as ever. And because of the heavier, hard rock nature of the songs, Alex Lifeson's guitar is more prominent here than on any other album, save their first two. Every single member gets to shine in their own field, and the entertainment level of the songs never seemed to drop once. It really is a great Rush album.
In conclusion, I'm awarding Clockwork Angels a score of 7/10, which for me puts it up amongst their other best albums like Fly By Night and 2112 (but for entirely different reasons than those two). It's a great, upbeat, hard-hitting progressive rock album. If you're looking for the quieter, mellower progressive rock sounds that you loved from the 60's and 70's, you won't find it, so be warned. But if you are looking for a kickass rock album with some slightly unconventional song structures, this one is perfect for you.