Now that I’ve listened to Rush’s new Snakes & Arrows several times since writing my pre-review, I can safely stand behind it. On first two trips through, I didn’t hear massive riffage and many of the songs seemed bland. However, once my ears dug a bit deeper and I began digesting the hooks and looking forward to them, it really opened up to me.
“Far Cry” is the heaviest track to my ears, and “Spindrift” is heavy as well. I guess that’s why they’ve been tapped as singles. The tastiest riff on the album has the be the heavy lead line that’s played several times in the first of three instrumentals, “The Main Monkey Business”. When I start playing this album on bass, that’ll probably be one of the first songs I try to cop. Saying “when I start playing this album on bass” is significant for me; I was so turned off by the engineering on Vapor Trails that I was never inspired to learn how to play the album as I had done with previous Rush records.
Speaking of the engineering, this album is definitely mastered loud, but not as egregiously as the contemporary competition. To my ears it sounds vastly superior to VT, although I don’t think the comparisons I’ve seen to the Permanent Waves sound is warranted. Perhaps it compares to the remastered version of PeW, but I wouldn’t know. I still have all my orignal-pressing Rush CDs (plus the MFSL Moving Pictures and Signals discs) and love their dynamic range.
Back to S&A‘s songs: if you’ve ready any of Neil Peart’s books, you shouldn’t be surprised by the lyrical content of this album. My favorite lyrics are probably “Far Cry”, “The Larger Bowl” and “Bravest Face”. The overall theme of the album is somewhat forlorn, but I think the last track “We Hold On” is slightly optimistic.
Two things that stick out musically to me on this album are the plentiful acoustic guitars and vocal overdubs. It’ll be interesting to see how those are replicated live, especially on a song like “Bravest Face”. Will we see the return of the Omega Concern acoustic guitar stand, or will Alex use piezo pickups and processing on his electric guitars? In many places I think the vocals are layered too much. Geddy’s lead vocals are strong enough, especially in the register he’s singing in, to stand on their own. It would be nice to hear some Rush tunes that don’t mandate recorded backing tracks to perform live.
Overall, the album goes a long way towards making up for the miscues I perceived with Vapor Trails, and it’ll be a welcome addition to my Rush collection. I’ve preorded the DVD Album Limited Edition, which may require a review of its own since it’s a new format. The album is a great deal; you get more than 60 minutes of new Rush tunes. Highly recommended.