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Vapor Trails

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

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A meticulous, powerful rock blitz.

  • Jun 1, 2002
  • by
It took me several listens to start enjoying this album. It definitely rock hard, but it's also Rush's most complex album in many years, with a recording that perhaps needed some more clarity.

That said, I think the songwriting is outstanding. Initially I have to admit all the songs kind of bled together indistinguishably and it was a difficult album to listen to. However, as I began to dissect the music, I found I liked it quite a bit! Complex textures abound on this album, as Alex Lifeson explores textural washes with his guitar. Lifeson sounds more energized than he's sounded in years, and with NO keyboards, his space in the mix is huge. Back is the determined interplay between guitar & bass, and the grooves are endless. Geddy Lee is experimenting with his voice a little more too. He takes a few opportunities to sing at the highest ranges he has in years. No screaming, but high nonetheless.

I've only had this album for a little while now, and I'm pretty excited about it. I've been listening to it a lot, and I see where the songs are going to get their lasting appeal. At face value, everything is pretty rocking and there's great riffs on just about every song. Complexity is revealed over the course of many listens. Your ear will be initially hooked by a catchy riff or a slick bass line. Further listening reveals plenty of guitar overdubs, intricate syncopations, complex counterpoints, and great drumming. Neil Peart is awesome on this album -- his monster grooves are everywhere. Some of his lyrics are markedly more personal this time around, which is an interesting change.

My only problem lies in the distortion on Lifeson's guitar. On Vapor Trails he has essentially changed into a textural player. Some of the chord structures are just too complex to be played out with the buzzing distortion effects he has here, and some textures degenerate into little more than noise.

The songs are excellent: "One Little Victory" is a riff-monster, hard and aggressive; "Vapor Trail" moves between an clean electric sheen and a distorted frenzy; "Earthshine" is mysterious, ethereal and heavy; "Ghost Rider", is built on an incredible groove with coruscating guitar textures, detailed arrangements, and inspiring melodies. "How It Is" begins with guitar chords recalling a lullaby, then it twists into a crisp groove of ringing guitars and humming bass. Also interesting is "Peacable Kingdom", a very complex piece musically. Lyrically, it has been called a response to September 11, but since it was written before that fateful day, it seems more eerily prophetic. Look at these lines:

"All this time we're shuffling and laying out our cards
While a billion other dealers are slipping past our guards
And all this time we're hoping and praying that we might learn
While a billion other teachers are teaching them how to burn"

The song is also clever because of how it works in metaphors of Tarot (?) cards into the subject matter. Peart's still a great lyricist.

In the end, I'd say this is Rush's best album in many years. As Peart writes in "Out of the Cradle", "Here we come out of the cradle, endlessly rocking." Since that's the last song, I hope this is a sneaky message that the band will continue to make music. Over the years, they've proven to be one of my favorite artists and Vapor Trails is a very strong return in my opinion. Most Rush fans have probably picked it up already, but if you've been hesitant, I encourage you to give it a try.

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More Vapor Trails reviews
review by . August 05, 2002
posted in Music Matters
Pros: Rush is back and as skillfull as ever     Cons: The new direction seems a little off at first     The Bottom Line: Did I have a dream? Or did the dream have me?     Well. Okay. Alright. I can barely remember the last time I dipped my toe into the cold waters of music reviewing, but here goes...      Six years. Six years its been since we were presented with the last collection of original, studio recorded Rush …
review by . July 05, 2002
posted in Music Matters
A rich, complicated album. The first time I put it in (I'm a HUGE Rush fan since 1976) I enjoyed it but worried it might be a bit plodding. A week later, I couldn't turn the darn thing off!!! It is a textured album, every song dense with sound. No signature guitar solos, but it still jams. Peart's drumming is not as obviously flashy, but it's pretty darn solid, and Geddy's bass has never been fleeter.The lyrics are truly outstanding. Remembering Neil Peart's tragedies of recent years makes these …
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Clayton Reeder ()
Ranked #434
Rogue capitalist in search of all that is interesting, weird, or beautiful.      Collected here are my hundreds of reviews from Amazon.com, covering mostly music that is offensive … more
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The songs onVapor Trailsmay not be as instant or accessible as those on their previous albums, but the Canadian trio is definitely playing harder and bolder than they have in years. Layers of guitars have replaced most of the keyboards, setting Alex Lifeson free to explore new territories and textures. Geddy Lee is also given more playing space, such as on "Peaceable Kingdom," where his bass parts take the role of rhythm guitar. The arrangements are intricate and interesting throughout, yet never overwhelming. "Secret Touch" twists and builds from melody to a monsterous jam, while Neil Peart's awe-inspiring drums give extra power and dynamics to the album's heavier numbers, such as "Nocturne" and the bombastic lead cut, "One Little Victory." Lee's vocals and harmonies add great depth to "Earthshine," while the airy "How It Is" soothes with nice open chords and jangling guitars. Rush has taken one step forward while keeping one foot back in a rawer sound, all the while continuing to evolve musically.--Gail Flug
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Label: Atlantic, Wea
Artist: Rush
Release Date: May 14, 2002

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