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Snakes & Arrows

Classic Rock, Hard Rock & Metal, and Rock album by Rush

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The Dark Age of Rush Continues

  • Jun 16, 2007
Pros: Far Cry, Workin' Them Angels

Cons: Few guitar solos, Geddy Lee's voice has HAD IT

The Bottom Line: Can someone else write this, please?

Listen up, everyone, I have good news and bad news: The good news is Rush released a new album recently, which in all likelihood will be followed by a new tour! The better news is that the album, Snakes and Arrows, is quite good. Also, I have finally thought up a title for the last decade of Rush music: From this day forth, to join the decades of Rock Rush, Synth Rush, and Alt Rush, this decade of Rush music shall be known as…. Dark Rush!

The bad news is that after 30 years of piercing the heavens and the earth, I believe Geddy Lee’s unique, splitting voice is finally shot. This is one of those things we knew was coming, but didn’t want to admit it. We’ve heard it coming ever since Test for Echo back in 1996. Throw that record back into your CD player and listen to poor Geddy strain to hit the required high notes in Dog Years. He still sounds good, but his voice has definitely dropped four or five octaves in the last decade and he won’t be shattering bulletproof glass anymore. Fortunately, the voice loss hasn’t effected his abilities as a musician, and so we get treated to three great instrumentals on Snakes and Arrows: The Main Monkey Business, Hope, and Malignant Narcissism.

Snakes and Arrows is not a throwback album, as many have claimed. It sounds more like a combination of Test for Echo and Vapor Trails much of the time. It has an edge, and while Neil Peart’s lyrics still won’t discourage anyone planning to kill himself, they’re still the deep and righteous types we’ve been hearing ever since Neil flushed his copy of Atlas Shrugged. The musical darkness heard on Vapor Trails has been lessened considerably, but it’s there. Alex Lifeson has yet to fully return to his flight-of-the-bumblebee guitar solos, although he gets to play more.

Snakes and Arrows opens with Far Cry, one of the most explosive, powerful, and overall best songs Rush has ever recorded. The song lacks the lyrical depth found on many other Rush songs, but with a booming bass, catchy hook, and quick pace, Far Cry still seems destined to stand among popular greats like Tom Sawyer and Closer to the Heart.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with Snakes and Arrows is that Far Cry isn’t what you’d call a taste of what’s to come. It’s the best song on the album, which means that afterward, it’s all downhill. Snakes and Arrows is very front-loaded. The best songs on it are the first five: Far Cry, Armor and Sword, Workin’ Them Angels, The Larger Bowl, and Spindrift. Many of the songs after those are actually very good, but the effort put into them seems a little less apparent. A particularly low depth is reached with the song Bravest Face, which I am giving stripes as arguably the worst song Rush has ever recorded. The verses have an interesting mix of blues and bluegrass music. The clich├ęd lyrics are about how some things aren’t what they seem to be, and how certain people have different viewpoints of different things. Worst of all are the hooks, in which the music sounds like the music you hear in movies whenever the good guy falls off a cliff.

The Way the Wind Blows is a very odd song. Rush gets semi-political here as the lyrics sadly talk of how close to the dark ages we are today. The hook is soft and gentle, with an acoustic guitar and Geddy even changing notes during the lines. The song works even though Geddy’s voice changes aren’t as effective as they were back during the Rock era. The Larger Bowl is another number slightly softer than the others. The song asks the questions of why people have such different destinies if we’re all so much the same. Armor and Sword is probably about as close as Snakes and Arrows gets to having an epic.

The metal influence from Vapor Trails can be distinctly heard in Far Cry, Spindrift, and Faithless the most. Spindrift has a hard guitar and I haven’t figured out what the song is supposed to be about. Faithless has a slow, driving grind. In it, Neil writes that while he doesn’t have any official religion or even a god to believe in, he follows his own moral compass. He tackles the idea that the preachers and ministers who speak of morality aren’t necessarily living moral lives, even by their own standards. It’s an excellent song which speaks to all those who have dismissed the idea of a true religion. Faithless is the last song on Snakes and Arrows worth mentioning. Of the remaining three, one is an instrumental and the other two, Good News First and We Hold On, are forgettable.

Snakes and Arrows, like many Rush albums, doesn’t have a lot of crossover appeal. It won’t convert anyone who’s not already a fan. But hardcore Rush nuts have come to expect this. Snakes and Arrows will be very satisfying to Rush fans, and that’s all we ask.


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More Snakes & Arrows reviews
review by . September 04, 2007
posted in Music Matters
I've listened to Rush on and off since one of my best friends introduced me to the band when I was in high school. My friends were impressed by the vocals of Geddy Lee and the guitar skills of Alex Lifeson. For me, I was amazed by the percussion skills of drummer Neil Peart. Over the years Rush has gained and lost favor in the public eye, but has largely maintained a steady and popular following. They are a group of musicians who have a very distinct style, yet aren't afraid of exploring new territory …
review by . May 11, 2007
As a long, long-time Rush fan, I was, of course, thrilled to acquire yet another album. I had been listening to "Far Cry" (the single) for several weeks, and was pretty excited to hear the rest.    For the most part, the boys from up north have delivered! There are some true gems on this album...particularly lyrically. I wouldn't say this is one of their best albums ever, but it doesn't sit near the bottom either. It is certainly a very solid effort, clearly indicating that these …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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A return to their former glory days,Snakes and Arrowsshows this seminal prog rock band reclaiming some of the sonic territory that they'd lost over the past few years. It's not certain what contributed to this artistic rebirth, but Rush has crafted a historical and emotional odyssey that shows many both where they've been and where they're going--from the baroque soundscapes of "The Main Monkey Business," reminiscent of their earliest work to the seductive almost folkloric urgency of "The Way the Wind Blows," which is as dangerous, anxious, and prophetic as anything that Arcade Fire or Mars Volta is doing currently. Main Lyricist Neil Peart has spent the last decade getting over the death of his wife and daughter, and those tragic events have given his songwriting more depth and gravity as he explores the strengths and limitations of faith in both metaphoric and literal detail. While never didactic or ponderous, this disc is really an instruction manual for how one conducts themselves with grace and hope through unendurable pain and the vagaries of life. Gone is much of the shrillness of their earlier incarnations--Geddy Lee's trademark high pitch shrieks have mellowed considerably and Alex Lifesong's guitar playing has an assurance and freedom that can only come with age.--Jaan Uhelszki
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Label: Atlantic, Wea
Artist: Rush
Release Date: May 1, 2007

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