Rush - Snakes And Arrows
Hard Rock
13 songs (62'50)
Release year: 2007
Rush, Atlantic Records
Reviewed by Marty
Major event
A new Rush album for me is always met with anxious anticipation. Most of their albums require several very attentive listening sessions to really get into the mindset of these three well-seasoned veterans and what they have set out to accomplish. With Snakes And Arrows, I went through the usual routine for any new Rush album of listening to it in it's entirety twice followed by the usual brief period of disappointment/depression that they have yet again failed to make another Moving Pictures album! I instantly liked a few tracks but was initially indifferent about the rest. Finally, throwing any expectations out the window and taking this album in for all it has to offer, track by track I was slowly drawn in only to finally see the light and be hooked on this wonderful piece of work by a band that has a history of over 33 years in the music business. They have avoided the dreaded "dinosaur" moniker by constantly challenging themselves and never playing it safe. Snakes And Arrows pushes the band even further and shows that Rush is still very relevant in today's modern music scene.

I really liked Vapor Trails especially the stripped down sound and the brutal honesty of Neil Peart's very personal and reflective lyrics in looking at the tragedy of events that had transpired in his personal life in the years leading up to that album. The covers album Feedback released a couple of years later, was an amazing interpretation of the tracks that the band had grown up listening to and played in the various cover bands that they had been in prior to Rush. Producer Nick Raskulincz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver, Stone Sour, Shadows Fall) loved the raw power trio sound that they captured in the studio for that album and was obviously was a big influence on his approach to the recording process for Snakes And Arrows. Instead of completely fragmenting the songs into separate discreet entities which wouldn't even require all three band members to be there in the studio, quite a bit of the bed tracking was done more or less live with Neil, Alex and Geddy all in the room at the same time. The band used a similar approach while recording Feedback and it really brings back the raw power trio energy to the band's sound; something that has been missing for decades now.

The first track Far Cry was also the first single to be released and has been in heavy rotation on FM radio for the last several weeks. With that song, Rush has enjoyed the most successful single release in many, many years. The heavy driving sound for Far Cry continues from where Vapor Trails left off both musically and vocally but the production is huge, much more crisp and overall far superior to that album. Neil Peart writes that "One day I feel I'm ahead of the wheel and the next it's rolling over me" in a track that looks at the state of the world right now and how it's even more chaotic than we'd envisioned it to would think we would've all learned to be more tolerant to other ideals and beliefs by now. Armor And Sword has more of a "jangly" clean guitar tone mixed with darker heavier aspects and even some acoustic work in a track that brings Bravado from Roll The Bones To Mind. Tackling the volatility of the differences in religious beliefs, Neil writes, "No-one gets to their heaven without a fight". The energetic Workin' Them Angels with it's big slicing Who style power chords layered with acoustic guitar, looks at living life on the edge as Geddy exclaims "All my life I've been workin' them angels overtime". The Larger Bowl, complete with it's more laid back 60's feel relies on a strong acoustic guitar presence on a catchy track that explores the aspects of fate and how some of us seem to have it all whereas others struggle all their lives just to survive in the "larger bowl" of life. Spindrift takes the listener back to the more ominous tones of tracks like The Camera Eye and Witch Hunt. With big booming riffs, an awesome sense of melody, it deals with the whirlwind and turmoil of emotions and feelings that we all experience; much like the spindrifts of waves and sand that we see in the oceans and deserts. Religion again is the topic of choice for The Way The Wind Blows, a bluesy track with charged up segments that features a great trade-off between the driving and melodic verses and the laid back acoustic guitar flavored chorus section. The winds of war and mistrust are even more dangerous than ever before as Geddy sings "Pray, and pass the ammunition". Continuing to tackle aspects of religion, Neil Peart gives us a very personal insight into his own beliefs with the track Faithless. With Vapor Trails styled riffs and vocals, Neil addresses his disdain for organized religion and states "I have my own moral compass to steer by". The chorus section reminds the listener of Ghost Of A Chance from the Roll The Bones album in which Geddy sings, "But I still cling to hope and I believe in love....and that's faith enough for me". Bravest Face alternates between more laid back acoustic flavorings and soaring pre-chorus vocal by Geddy in a track that explores the front that we all put up in public, our "bravest face" in light of all the adversity in our everyday lives. Good News First has a great driving feel with big guitars and uses some 60's vocal effects and explores the volatility of relationships and how to move on by not constantly bringing up the past. Despite the darker and more ominous tone to many of the lyrics on this album, We Hold On is a tribute to the strength of the human spirit and how we always persevere despite all the bumps in the road the we encounter as we travel the long road of life.

Rush has often included instrumental tracks on their albums but with Snakes And Arrows, we get three of them. The Main Monkey Business uses a mix of acoustic and heavy booming electric guitar in a tour-de-force that sees a very strong bass and drumming presence by Geddy and Neil. This track is awesome and easily the best instrumental track since YYZ. Hope is an amazing acoustic guitar display by Alex Lifeson that oozes Jimmy Page influences and uses Middle Eastern and celtic melodies throughout. Malignant Narcissism (a line borrowed from the Team America:World Police movie) is a short but very interesting and driving track that features heavy bass riffing by Geddy Lee.

Overall, Rush has continued on the path set out back in the mid 90's of slowly fading out the keyboard use. In fact, besides some orchestration, the only keyboards are the occasional mellotron effects by Geddy on a few tracks. The band was so positive about the experience of writing and recording this album that it shines brightly in the finished product that is the Snakes And Arrows album. Heavier in some aspects than the band has been in decades, it also features a more softer melodic side. The melodies, vocal lines and choruses are all very strong and it's obvious that the Feedback experience was something that definitely has recharged the band and will continue to be an influence on their music to come. The strong melodic sense and the more frequent use of acoustic guitars gives the album a more home-grown "organic" sound and not the huge polished production of some of their other albums. More "accessible" in sound over previous work, it is the type of album that could really attract attention from people who have been indifferent about Rush in the past. Some are heralding this album as some of their best work ever. I'll reserve that judgement until the day that they release something on par with Moving Pictures. They are on the right track to once again reach that milestone and judging by this new album, they still have the horses to do it.....and that's faith enough for me!

Killing Songs :
Pretty much everything but my personal favs are Far Cry, Armor And Sword, Workin' Them Angels, Spindrift, The Main Monkey Business, The Way The Wind Blows, Hope, Faithless and Bravest Face
Marty quoted 92 / 100
Jeff quoted 69 / 100
Other albums by Rush that we have reviewed:
Rush - Clockwork Angels reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 90 / 100
Rush - Beyond The Lighted Stage reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Rush - Test For Echo reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Rush - Counterparts reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Rush - Roll The Bones reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
To see all 26 reviews click here
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