Rush: Snakes And Arrows
Rush - Snakes And Arrows - [Atlantic Records]


While almost every prog metal band who's passed its third album is wallowing in it's lack of creativity and originality, and basically trying to justify their existence, yet Rush release their 18th album and give all the armatures around a good lesson of how it's done.

Rush, formed back in 1968, became one of the most influential bands in prog rock and metal. If someone even thinks of mentioning age as a function here, then it's time to pick "Vapor Trails" (their first album in the new millennium) and understand that even after about 34 years of existence as a band (according to the year 2002), they manage to release some of their most direct and acclaimed work to date. For further proof, you can pick their 2003 live triple album "Rush In Rio" to witness a crowd of 40,000 screaming fans on the top of their lungs. These fans scream so hard that they partially overdubbed the band, even in the on-stage microphone.

Only 5 years after the release of their last studio album, and only 4 after the role model of all live performances was documented on a live album, Rush release their 18th album "Snakes And Arrows". The title was chosen as a play on a children's game called "chutes and Ladders". Nick Raskuiinecz, who formerly worked with the Foo Fighters and Velvet Revolver was placed in the producer's chair, in order to keep their sound up-to-date on this record as much as they sound live.

Neil Peart, who's been through some harsh personal tragedies (even before the release of "Vapor Trails") keeps providing some of his best lyrics; talking about war, mankind, life/death, good and evil. The band sounds heavier and tougher than ever, Alex Lifeson (who recently featured on Porcupine Tree's latest album "Fear Of A Blank Planet") still plays the mean cutting-edge guitar, Geddy Lee's vocals are still fresh and tight with his forever shifting bass dynamics, and Peart is drumming in a way that no one will ever match. They all go at it - the hard way, and don't let go 'till the album's final track is over.

Opener "Far cry" functions as the radio single and does everything that an opening track should do; A hard metallic riff paved with dramatic brakes, breaking off into a short instrumental intro that some bands can only dream (notice the words chosen to describe the act) of writing. It all leads to Geddy Lee's vocals hitting you hard with the lyrics only Rush can be recognized with: "Pariah dogs and wandering madmen\barking at strangers and speaking in tongues\ the ebb and flow of tidal fortune\ electrical changes are charging up the young". NO one can write lyrics like that these days.

"Armor and Sword" opens up with a King Crimson (who also had a lot to do in defining prog and metal as we know it today) feel, and followed by Lee's voice singing about the emotional scars children grow up with. "The main monkey business" is one of the worthiest instrumentals I've heard in a long time, and joining it for the same title award comes "Malignant Narcissism" right before the album ends. "The largest bowl" talks about the lack of equality in life. To old-time Rush fans, you'll recall the album "Hemispheres" debating about the emotional and rational lobes, "Bravest face" talks about the different sides of good and bad hidden in each and every one of us.

Rush succeeded in remaining not only relevant to its musical genre, but to be one of its flag carriers, even after almost 40 years of activity. In "Snakes And Arrows", the band comes back to harvest the seeds they planted in prog rock and metal back in the 70's, and by that, it is apparent that Rush will have masterpieces on the new millennium just as much as it did back in 20th century.

Roy Povarchik

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