Rush: Clockwork Angel
So you’re one of the biggest prog rock bands on the planet and have been so for a long time. Long enough to cut 18 albums and sell zillions of units. By now no one looks to you for something new; they come for the hits and the musicianship, for the magical memories of nostalgia.
So for album Number Nineteen why not put out something sounding like it might have come out at your peak; bombast, bigass production, impenetrable lyrics and all.
This is exactly what the dudes of Rush, Peart, Geddy and Lifeson have done, dropped an album which amplifies all the quirky stuff and steadfast vision that put them on the radar back in the day, not to mention the throwbackin’, balls-to-the-wall playing which evaluated them to their current exalted status.
‘Clockwork Angel’ sounds like the work of a much younger band, a much less famous band, almost the sound of a band demanding to be heard. That’s probably the biggest surprise here and it shows in shorter, tighter songs and muscular musicianship.
Clockwork Angels is reportedly a concept album involving a repressive force known as ‘The Watchmaker.’ As usual, you have to get into it and dig out Peart’s narrative fingernail by fingernail. It’s a minefield of poetic mazes of rhyme, alliteration, metaphor and allusion, filled with references to “angels,” “prayers,” and “miracles.” Concept aside, these words sound important to the very soul of the project and Lee delivers them with subtlety grace and the deep understanding only possible between brothers in arms.
Closest thing stylistically to this collection would be Snakes and Arrows. Which is not to say they entirely snoozed in the interim, but still.
There are high points all over the place: the slick way on the note-perfect title track that Lifeson eases from clean, chiming riffs to anxious, distorted downstrokes, with Peart pounding away nimbly under Lee’s soaring, gorgeous harmonies. ‘Halo Effect’ is a killer ballad on the level of ‘Closer to the Heart,’ with great acoustic work from Lifeson and haunting orchestral passages. “The Wreckers” is anthemic, life-affirming power rock, with layers of Lifeson overdubs and one of Lee’s catchiest choruses.
Album closer The Garden, hints at a sequel with its reference to "one of many worlds."