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2012-05-03 @ Angel Recording Studios, London, UK

It was in a rainy dusk that Riff magazine walked the streets of Angel, into Angel recording studios – an aptly chosen place for Rush to showcase their latest masterwork: “Clockwork Angels”.


After the success of 2007’s “Snakes & Arrows” and its tour, everything seemed ready for Rush to again enter the studio and break the waiting cycle that its fans had been complaining; surprisingly enough, in early 2009 news started to surface that the writing process for the next Rush album had initiated. Along 2010, two singles were released “Caravan” and “BU2B” (brought up to believe) which signaled the fans that their thirst might be quenched soon.Unfortunately, 2010 and 2011 had the band traveling with its “time machine tour” which ended up delaying the wrapping up of the album.It was only during April 2012 that a new song emerged, “Headlong Flight” a song that ignited the heart of many fans as it showcased a very vibrant band. There was some criticism that this song was very different from the other two previously released and that the album would miss the common thread that so many times coloured landmark albums such as 2112.

Upon arrival, the listeners were presented a small essay by Neil Peart, where the legendary drummer sets the canvas where the band painted their latest songs. This time, the inspiration comes from distinct personalities such as Voltaire, John Barth, Daphne du Maurier, or even early Spanish explorers in the American Southwest – very diverse indeed.

The central idea for the album is “the future as seen from the past” or as Neil suggests “yesterday’s tomorrowland”.

As we look at the album cover, the first thing that pops up are the symbols that are arranged in a circular pattern. These symbols are in reality, runic hieroglyphs for elements and processes. Each one represents a lyrical theme, due to its character or mood.

A single piece of paper described the track-list for the album:
01 Caravan 5:40
02 BU2B 5:10
03 Clockwork Angels 7:31
04 The Anarchist 6:52
05 Carnies 4:52
06 Halo Effect 3:14
07 Seven Cities of Gold 6:32
08 The Wreckers 5:01
09 Headlong Flight 7:20
10 BU2B2 1:28
11 Wish Them Well 5:25
12 The Garden 6:59

In between “Clockwork Angels” and “The Anarchist” there was a title called “i – the pedlar 1”, and also between “Headlong Flight” and “BU2B2” there was a title called “ii – the pedlar 2”.

The meaning of these monikers should become more evident when the full lyrics become available, but for now, they seem something like a subtitle for “Clockwork Angels” and “Headlong Flight”, as these two songs have some sort of connection between them.

The listening event started as the members of the press sat down in chairs displaced like in a church, facing the altar of sound where a sub-woofer stand in the center, guarded by two big PA speakers. As soon as the PR pressed play in the CD player, everybody felt something special was about to happen…

The following lines are short notes of the strongest emotions that the songs transmitted to me. As the reader knows very well, songs from a band like Rush are very complex and cerebral in the way they are crafted, so a lot of subtleties and detail is not evident on a first listen.

With this thought in mind, I share my experience:

01 – Caravan
This one has already been released and can be heard at:
Brings thoughts of the 2112 album.
Hypnotic guitar riffs.

02 – BU2B
This one has already been released and can be heard at:
A hard track with a lot of hold and release.

03 – Clockwork Angels
Middle eastern intro with those signature Alex Lifeson big strums.
Neil really works the toms in this one.
Huge number of bridge sections.
Enchanting solo that segues into a weird bridge where Geddy Lee uses the telephone voice effect.
Very atmospheric ending.

04 – The Anarchist
The main guiding element is the rhythm.
Very melodic.
(the CD jumped on this one)
The telephone voice is back on this one.
Extremely intense solo with excellent background tension and very tasteful buildup of the whole solo.

05 – Carnies
The guitar makes a very heavy and powerful entrance.
A lot of effects end up hiding the guitar.
80s style lead guitar phrases.
Crazy breakdown that transitions again to a very heavy ending.

06 – Halo Effect
Airy introduction.
Ballad acoustic guitar sounds.
Very light pop rock kind of feel.
Nice interlude with traditional Irish flavor.

07 – Seven Cities of Gold
Intro bass riff with the ominous cowbell.
Instant classic Rush slow-paced guitar riff.
Catchy chorus.
Atmospheric solo with a lot of Lifeson trademark whammy bar action.
Goes full circle (what a great song to put in loop).
One of the highlights.

08 – The Wreckers
Happy and melancholic vibe.
Sad but uplifting chorus.
Mysterious section in the middle.
Nice orchestral ending with a cinematographic feel as a guitar solo fades out.

09 – Headlong Flight
This one has already been released and can be heard at:
Fast-paced song.
Has a sort of punk attitude.
Intense breakdown.

10 – BU2B2
Slows down the pace.
Violins come back again.

11 – Wish Them Well
Slow, simple and repetitive.
Starts to get interesting as it reaches the end but then goes back to the repetitive chorus.
Yet another fade out.
Less inspired track on the album.

12 – The Garden
Big violins.
Nice guitar and bass riffs.
Awesome Rush acoustic guitar.
Inspired and uplifting orchestral arrangements.
Classic Lifeson single notes with chorus and delay.
Excellent entrance by Neil Peart.
References to the watchmaker.
Piano prelude to a huge solo from Alex Lifeson, again with excellent orchestration – big guitar moment of the album.

Overall, a very enjoyable album, with excellent sound quality and full of detail; all of the musicians are in awesome shape and showcase the brilliance that brought them to their iconic status.

One can clearly state that is displays awareness for modern approaches while showing respect for the more traditional sounds.

An album that will solidify Rush’s position in the front line of progressive rock – very diverse with huge exploration moments.

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