With a career spanning four decades and encapsulating nineteen albums, Rush are an institution. One of the few prog giants to cross over to the mainstream, each and every album is met with a huge degree of anticipation months in advance. So it was with a fair amount of delight that TMF sat down for a preview of Clockwork Angels in all its glory. Set for release on 11 June, what can Rush fans expect from the band's latest musical extravaganza?
A staple of the recent Time Machine tour, this single was released nearly two years ago now and is old hat by comparison the rest of the album. However, the mix is different to single, with the most noticeable difference the addition of strings flying around in the background - adding to the already big sound this little beauty had.
This too is subtlety different to the version that appeared with ‘Caravan’ previously. Tying the opening two pieces together is a new intro of ethereal acoustic guitars and some heavily warped vocals, before it explodes into that killer riff all Rush fans have fallen in love with.
3. Clockwork Angels
Now we’re getting stuck into new territory! What immediately jumps out at you about the title track is how it harks back to the Rush of the late 70s. The various sections that make up this mini masterpiece feel slightly indulgent yet sit together so comfortably. The feel too, is very evocative of that era - lurking somewhere between ‘Xanadu’ and ‘The Trees’, albeit far more powerful than they have ever been.
4. The Anarchist
Already there is the sense that Clockwork Angels is different; whereas recent albums have been somewhat introvert and closed, this is anything but. Epic on a massive scale, ‘The Anarchist’ continues the trend of more upbeat, faster, and heavier tunes that is beginning to form the musical theme of this record. Here we have the sound of a band relaxed and having an enormous amount of fun. Despite being more in keeping with the modern day Rush compositions, it still fits right in alongside the more classical title track.
Bang! Now this is some heavy shit! Very much the partner-in-crime of ‘BU2B’ with its deliciously crunching riff – complete with harmonics – this is a good contender for the album highlight, and will certainly be an absolute barnstormer live. Rush are continuing to strike the perfect balance between experimenting with something new yet still sounding undeniably themselves. Oh that riff, that sweet, sweet riff!
6. Halo Effect
This little three minute ditty is the first time the foot has come off the gas, but even this doesn’t quite fall into ballad region as the band hold in, but don’t disguise, the urge to let loose. ‘Halo Effect’ has third single written all over it as the uplifting chorus is tailor-made for vast stadium sing-alongs, and is guaranteed to become a fan favourite.
7. Seven Cities Of Gold
The breather is indeed brief as ‘Seven Cities Of Gold’, quite probably the standout track from Clockwork Angels, sees Alex Lifeson once again bringing the hammer down. Slower than anything from the first half of the album, it heads towards the land of doom with yet another rip-roaring riff and dark menace aplenty. Another soaring solo in the middle eight, and is quite possibly the pick of the bunch; as a result of the new writing process for this album, a lot of the music has a loose, improvised, almost jazzy, feel to it, and ‘Seven Cities Of Gold’ is the most exhilarating example of this.
8. The Wreckers
This one has an old pop rock feel to it, characterised by jangly and melodious guitars. Along with ‘Halo Effect’, these two show Rush can still write these great radio-friendly hits, and do it far better than most. Not one of the stronger songs on the record, it is still a very pleasant number that adds yet more dynamism to this enthralling show as the orchestra swells to a crescendo, and even has a massive guitar line bursting out to take us to the fade.
9. Headlong Flight
What is this I hear? Punk? I do believe it is! The furious riffs (yup, even more of them) have the bite and urgency of the finest rebellious miscreants, and are damn catchy to boot. Another shifting monster of a song, Rush peerlessly stitch all the pieces together majestically, and even at approaching eight minutes it never feels as such nor overstays any welcome. Yet more madcap guitar solos burst out, and I’m pretty sure Alex has never had so much fun doing these…
A short little interlude, this is more akin to an orchestral remix of its bigger brother. A rather strange piece in the context of the album, yet it’s not entirely out of place. At a little over 90 seconds though, it has gone before you’ve had time to ponder the question.
11. Wish Them Well
Easily the most straight forward number on Clockwork Angels, and possible in the entirety of the Rush back catalogue, ‘Wish Them Well’ is a bit punky, very poppy, and not at all as memorable as it pretends to be. Something of a throwaway tune, it is the one track here that elicits complete indifference, and wouldn’t be missed were it to magically disappear.
12. The Garden
And so to the finale, and with ‘The Garden’ we are thankfully back to classic Rush as the acoustic guitar re-emerges for some of that stonking pop-prog they defined so many years ago. The song builds into this glorious mesh of pleasing guitars and a giant wall of those strings that have littered the album, quietly propping up the background but now taking centre stage for themselves in one last hurrah.
And so there you have it, a thrilling ride through the heartlands of classic prog seen with a modern eye - a wonderfully executed sixty six minutes of musical wizardry by one of the finest bands around. Rush have done it again.