03. Clockwork Angels
04. The Anarchist
06. Halo Effect
07. Seven Cities Of Gold
08. The Wreckers
09. Headlong Flight
11. Wish Them Well
12. The Garden
Twenty albums in, you have to ask: what’s left for Rush to prove? A band that have already been through and gotten over their ‘questionable’ period, characterised by excessive synthesizers and the sudden mastery of levitation, in record time and returned to that driving proggy rock that defined classics like 2112 and Moving Pictures. Since the hiatus and return of legendary drummer Neil Peart after a huge personal tragedy, the band has cautiously returned to recording music, in the form of 2002’s Vapor Trails and Snakes And Arrows five years later. Both albums were distinctly Rush and both contained some great tracks, but they weren’t quite the return to form that fans had been waiting for.
The build up to Clockwork Angels was taken at a leisurely stroll as well. Five years have passed since their previous release, with the only real murmur of new material coming in the form of the Caravan EP which featured slightly differing versions of the opening two tracks here. With time came impatience and with impatience came expectation — but the most glorious or cynical thing (depending on your outlook) about being a band as a big as Rush is that even if Clockwork Angels was sub-par, enough fans would champion it as the second coming just because of the name on the front. Thankfully, Clockwork… is nothing of the sort. In fact, it marks the return of the kings of prog-rock, giving them another album to really act as a jewel in their crown.
Based around the story of a young man and his changing attitude towards life and the infamous Watchmaker who keeps track on all that happens in this steampunk world, Clockwork‘s concept isn’t an essential part of enjoying it, each and every track can also be enjoyed as a standalone piece outside of the context. For instance, ‘BU2B‘, on the surface, tells only of the upbringing of the main protagonist but can also be taken as an interesting insight into the subjects of fate and karmic retribution, only cementing Neil Peart’s status as a legendary lyricist.
However, it’s the music that makes the biggest impression. Whether it be the obnoxious grooving stride of ‘Seven Cities Of Gold‘, the pulsing rock of ‘Caravan‘ or the relatively straight-forward anthem in ‘The Wreckers‘ — the band’s bass driven prog never becomes anything less than stunning. Every nuance and rhythmic flourish is measured and thought out, with each member bouncing off each other perfectly and showing the kind of unspoken teamwork that can only come about from nearly 30 years of playing together. ‘Headlong Flight‘ is a perfect example that brings to mind some of the bands early 80’s, lengthier material, while maintaining an uptempo feel and still providing plenty of moments for instrumental wizardry.
Other highlights include ‘Carnies‘, a track that could’ve gone horribly wrong considering it’s unfortunate and cheesy ‘carnival’ theme. Instead, barring the unnecessary introduction, Rush manage to create one of the biggest riff driven tracks on the album, that switches seamlessly between surging, bluesy riffs and tasteful, delicate leads courtesy of the oft-neglected Alex Lifeson. Also, the version of ‘BU2B‘ contained here isn’t far removed from it’s original, only containing an additional acoustic intro, but it is by far the stand out track. The main riff sounds monstrous and when completed by the relatively frantic guitar playing and Geddy Lee’s distinctive vocals, it’s compelling in a way that urges you to reach for the repeat button the moment that last vocal harmonies fade away.
Clockwork Angels is nothing short of a masterpiece — a real tour de force of what progressive rock is and how it should be done. Anyone who would call themselves a fan of Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Primus or any number of progressive bands would do themselves well to get immerse in the latest release of a band that arguably inspired them all. So what do Rush have left to prove? Well, nothing to anyone but themselves. To prove that, even with an average age of 59, they can still outdo many of those bands that call themselves fans and they can still exceed expectations when needed.
Rush’s Clockwork Angels gets…