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on 21 June 2012
Hard to believe how fresh these guys are able to sound 38 years after their first album.
I had not great expectations about this one. Based on the two previous studio albums, I just awaited another "Rush by numbers" work. I mean: powerful, hard hitting and masterfully executed, but not especially inspired.. I liked Snakes and Arrows a bit more than Vapor Trails, but somehow the spirit of old Rush' golden era (let's say the one that flew over A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures) seemed to be forever gone.

A digression here : Vapor Trails, especially, is a quite tiresome album to me. It stays a bit to much in the low frequency sonic spectre: too much bass guitar, to much bass drum, and too much guitar power chords, not properly equilibrated by other sonic and musical ingredients, which makes it a hard task to listen to it, from beginning to end, without taking a break. Snakes and Arrows, while walking the same sonic territory as V.T., was more varied and dynamic, and I found it more enjoyable. Not bad albums to my taste, but not exciting enough.

Clockwork Angels, however, is gifted with a different nature. It is tremendously fresh, vital and captivating, and makes me recall the best years of the band. Yes, Rush look younger than yesterday, playing with enthusiasm a set of convincing songs. Nothing to do with (like someone could fear), a tired old group. There are no fillers in this album. It is a concept album equipped with its proper organic quality. From the beginnig, the listener is propelled by an exciting, dynamic music, feeling the need to know how the story goes.

Theme:
As I said it is a concept album, based on a sci-fi story. There is a "perfectly organized" world where people are instilled to not to think by themselves and to be content with their destiny ( Planet Earth, year whatever, I guess) . The album tells the adventures and reflections of an inconformist young man during his quest for truth.

Sound:
Compared to previous albums, I find that Neil Peart's drums playing is a bit more restrained, and that the drums are not so loud in the mix . Just a matter of nuances; don't worry, Neil Peart is still there and you can hear and enjoy his playing .
Geddy Lee's voice is in good form, and maturity has made him gain expresiveness. The bass sounds hugely powerful but very defined and clear too.
Lifeson `s guitar makes also a quite restrained job (at least not prodigal in solos), but the instrument has a killer full tone, and the playing is very expressive and piercing when strictly necessary.
The whole album sounds clear and well defined even at a low volume (a quality that was not shared by Vapor Trails and Snakes and Arrows).

The songs:

1. Caravan - Is Rush in pure and best form. Intricate rhythms, guitar riffs, catchy chorus (" I can't stop thinking big ") A
statement of purposes. It ends with a beautiful reflective passage a la Pink Floyd, where acoustic and electric guitar
with tremolo effect take command.
2. Bu2B - Another classic Rush tour the force rocker propelled by mighty drums. "We were taught that we lived in the best of
all possible worlds".
3. Clockwork angels - Rush trademark intricate, fierce ternary tempo. Wonderful guitar solo.
The pedlar 1 - Short instrumental integrated at the end of Clockwork angels. Old (and all) time Rush.
4. The anarchist - Another powerful rocker, where the rebel anarchist character is introduced. Strings and guitar solo with
a northern africa/arab flavour (a la Page&Plant).
5. Carnies - The rock goes on. The young man's fate changes since his encounter with the anarchist.
6. Halo effect - A nice ballad about following false illusions. Beautifuly sung by Lee. Short enough (3:14) so the
trepidant pace of the album is not left for too long.
7. Seven cities of gold - Another uptempo heavy rocker with catchy chorus. High pitched Lee's vocals recalling older works.
8. The wreckers - It begins with an openly pop a la Byrds intro, rapidly changing into a minor key melody. This could be a
rather "radio friendly"song, despite its serious, sour matter: "All I know is that sometimes the truth is
contrary/everything in life you thought you knew". All along the song there is a constant contrast between the a-la Byrds
and dramatic character passages, so the result is melodically varied and appealing.
9. Headlong Flight - A killer epic, vaguely reminiscent of Iron Maiden. Our hero declares he would not change anything he did
("I learned to fight, to love, to feel")
10. Bu2B2 - Short mature bittersweet reflections by Lee & strings only.
11. Wish them well - This is the most pop oriented song in the album, almost in a Paul McCartney's style (no joke) , except
for another piercing solo by Lifeson. It makes sense considering the positive message: the benefit of not keeping anger
and grudges in our hearts
12. The garden - Masterful slow tempo with another positive, mature declaration of principles: "The measure of a life is a
measure of love and respect / ... / A garden to nurture and protect". Strings intro, acoustic guitars, and, from the
4:30, a beautiful, emotive crescendo that soars high for a perfect album's end.

Highly recommended.
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2012's Clockwork Angels is the new concept album from the legendary Canadian band Rush. It is the band's nineteenth studio album of original material (twentieth if you count the covers album Feedback) and follows up their last two albums in bringing out the more Hard Rock/Metal aspects of their sound. It takes Snakes And Arrows' variety and Vapor Trails' power and combines them into a very strong album indeed, one that isn't ever dull or plodding. It can be bought now as a digital download, now in a special fan pack edition of Classic Rock Magazine that comes with a Keychain, Poster and links to online bonus content or later on its own in either CD or Vinyl format. The story that it tells is also available separately as a novel if you want to take things even further.

If you have already heard `Caravan' and `BU2B,' which were released a full two years earlier than the record was, then you should have some idea of this album's musical direction already. The songs have since been re-recorded to fit in better with the rest of the album though, so even if you've played them to death already, you won't feel cheated that they are part of the album.

Despite concentrating on the band's heavier side, the album is still very dynamic and varied. Sometimes things will be melodic and sweet, sometimes there are synths and keys in there, sometimes you'll hear little touches that remind you of Hemispheres and A Farewell To Kings and then of course sometimes you'll hear more of the direction from Snakes And Arrows' and Vapor Trails' heavier moments. The opening to `Carnies' even has a big fat riff that could almost fit on a Monster Magnet or Down album.

Each song on Clockwork Angels contains a lot of different parts; you could hear a funk-like break down in one track, an acoustic intro in another, some proggy feedback scrapes in another and straight rock beats in yet another, or you could hear all of that and more within one single track.

Highlights include the closing track `The Garden' which opens with acoustic guitars and has a grand orchestral feel in places, as well as the amazing single `Headlong Flight', which mixes variety with focused hard rocking (similar in a way to `Far Cry' off the last album but with more parts packed into it) and the fun track `The Anarchist' that really takes off in a neat passage that revolves around tom-rolling.

As a general rule, I always find that the best Rush songs are the ones where a lot of time has passed without you knowing it, for example a five-minute track that feels like it is only two-and-a-half minutes long; and the worst ones were the ones where a lot of time passes without enough ideas used to justify the song lasting as long as it actually does, for example a six-minute track that could have worked a lot better as a three minute song.

The best thing about the whole Clockwork Angels album for me personally, is that every song justifies its own length. When this plus is added to the superb musical direction (I prefer the band's heavier side personally), the superb production and the as-always superb musical and vocal talent on display, it makes for an absolutely captivating record that hits hard on first listen and has a lot more to offer on subsequent spins as well.

Then on top of that, you have the interesting steam-punk story to get to grips with across each early listen, which just adds yet further intrigue and replay value. It would be tempting to say that this is almost guaranteed to be loved by any Rush fan, but then you have to consider that their audience is so wide and diverse and their catalogue is so varied that pleasing any one type of fan may cost another type of fan to loose interest.

If you are an early-prog or synth-pop fan first, and a Rush fan second however, if you hated Vapor Trails and the heavier parts of Snakes And Arrows and are generally the type of person who hates all Metal, then Clockwork Angels may not be for you. I can see how it may be leaning a little heavily on one aspect of their sound and that maybe that's the one part of Rush's style that you don't personally enjoy. Maybe even the conceptual nature of the record or the variety within each track isn't enough to save it for you, if you simply don't like Rush when they get all loud and distorted. If this describes you, then my advice would be that maybe you ought to give this one a miss.

Otherwise however, this is a pretty essential album and no matter the size of your Rush collection, this should probably be a part of it.

In summary; Clockwork Angels is a strong and fresh album, it is energetic, entertaining and focused, it is heavy rather often and has enough ideas per song to justify each song's length. It just sounds vital and has enough depth to reward repeat listens. Overall, its a pretty top-notch release and it's definitely something you should consider getting if you like Rush, especially if you like their heavier side.
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on 19 June 2012
As a Rush fan since 1979, I can honestly say they are fully back on track. Passion, precision and speed abound in the music. The production is fine, don't listen to the whiners! Rip to at least 320kbps or just listen to the CD! I think this release is the best since 1981. Modern, layered, dynamic and I can't wait for May 2013 when they hit the UK. A must have release.

The Garden will blow you away.
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on 11 June 2012
Unlike a lot of people, I'm quite a young Rush fan (I'm only 18) but in the past 2 years or so, I've fallen in love with Rush because of the sublime way they've told such stories through their music. My favourite albums before this would probably be the era from Fly by Night to Moving Pictures, as well as Presto; however, I was pleasantly surprised by this album as I wasn't expecting it to leave such an impression so quickly. I remember listening to Caravan and BU2B when they came out as singles and thinking, "Hmm... Not bad." Although, as a complete album, I think that the album as a whole is much better than its constituent songs as it tells a brilliant story laced with steampunk and alchemy. Truly a brilliant album and probably one of my favourite Rush albums already.
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on 11 June 2012
Every album Rush have produced since the heady days of Moving Pictures has had at least 2 or 3 good tracks on it and while I was really pleased with Vapor Trails I found Snakes and Arrows a bit more of a mixed bag.
Clockwork Angels is the best of the three post hiatus albums by a margin and while it is too early to tell for sure I think there is an argument for this being the best album since Power Windows.

The album starts with the two pre-released tracks Caravan and BU2B which is a pity on first listen as the rest of the album is fresher and it detracted from that initial buzz of listening to an album for the first few times. That said, this is a loose concept album and there is a story going on around the songs so it makes sense to place them where they are.

There are twelve tracks on the album (11 if you discount the reprise of BU2B) and they are all of good quality with a handful of early standouts to grab the attention and pull you in to the album as a whole. The mid-section of The Anarchist, Carnies and Halo Effect is a superb run of potential classics with The Wreckers providing another 'hit'. The total standout is the superb closer The Garden. Genuinely up there with the best songs they have ever produced. It has everything - heart and soul combined with excellent lyrics and great instrumentation.

My only criticism of the album is the production. I bought the 'fan pack' so have the CD but my first listen was on a lower spec PC and the mix sounded very muddy; like there was great gig on inside the stadium but I was on the outside.
Since then I've listened through a few more times on better equipment and the mix is very bassy - which is great if you have the kit to do it justice but something to watch for if your main listening is with in-ear phones on a mobile device.
Even on a half decent system I had to take the bass down a notch to hear the melody properly.

I'd also point any fans in the direction of the CD booklet. This is the first time in ages that I've taken the time to read the sleeve notes etc and it did enhance the pleasure of the music. The short paragraphs that introduce each song help place it in the overall narrative and make the lyrics more accessible. It's a loose concept at best but works reasonably well.

Overall I'd say this is a 4 star album - it's not the best Rush have ever produced but it is damned good and suspect that it will grow better with repeated listening, with better production it would probably have sneaked a 5.
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on 11 June 2012
I have to agree this is one of the best albums the band have done, and there is a lot of hidden gems on this CD Fan Pack version. As I had it pre-ordered before the cut of point deadline, I got my name listed on the extra poster. Anyway, there is elements from the past albums hidden within the tracks on this disk. There is nothing new I can say that has already been posted, but one thing! I wonder if anyone else noticed about the album cover art work. We have twelve zodiac icon signs for the hours of a clock, but look at the time 9:12. Well some of you will go so what, or what does it mean? Answer was puzzling me for ages since I first saw the album pre-release pictures, then it just hit me while looking at it after my Fan Pack arrived, 9:12 in the 24 hour clock system equals 21:12 as 2112 the first Rush album I ever bought.
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on 26 November 2012
I adore this band and have been listening to them and going to see them play like forever. They are, in many ways the reason I became a musician. They sowed those seeds in me when I was like 10 years of age and like Jack's beanstalk they just grew and grew.

With this caveat in mind I must say that for all the creative and musical genius that has so obviously been poured into this entire album, and at every stage, from concept to mastering it remains flawed, perhaps fatally by the lyrics or more likely the choice of scenarios to turn into songs from the overarching steampunk tale of journey and discovery (upon which, this album is based).

One of the reasons 2112 was such a massive success was that the story, the lone underdog battling against an overwhelmingly powerful and oppressive totalitarian system even unto his death was something that millions could appreciate, simply put, it resonated and the final "ATTENTION ALL PLANETS OF THE SOLAR FEDERATION - WE HAVE ASSUMED CONTROL" was the masterstroke of a genius at home with his craft. Our hero had not died in vain, his single lonely plaintiff cry for help had been heard after all and his death was anything but a meaningless tragedy. This was storytelling at its simple best. A beginning a middle and an end, hubris and nemesis in the classic Greek tradition wrapped up in 20th century musicianship and creativity of the absolute highest order.

CLOCKWORK ANGELS has the same musical creativity and a breadth of ability no band on the planet can match, from a "libretto" point of view however, this is where the comparisons stop. We start off with a young man seeking a different life, he goes on adventures, though most often we are left in the dark as to what those adventures actually are, he has tragedies and eventually he ends up back where he started, tending his garden. All the songs work as stand alone pieces as one would expect, the musicianship and pure craft alone makes sure of that but this isnt an album of stand alone pieces like SIGNALS or POWER WINDOWS this is a high concept album with an overarching storyline and should be experienced as such. Instead we have a strong beginning, several middles and an "end" which is so flaccidly anti-climatic as to be the lyrical equivalent of an anti-viagra tablet. When the Elder Race overthrew the Solar Federation I punched the air and yelled YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! When this album ended I went "Ummm... ok...!" I get what he's on about, I understand the references, I just think it could have been written... better.

That said... I love this album, it kicks butt and does so with a righteousness no other band can even come close to and I love it despite the lyrical and storytelling failings. That much of it is also painfully autobiographical endears me even more to Mr Peart and I hope that with this outpouring his cathartic healing process nears completion.
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on 8 November 2012
Ok...I'm quite young to be a "die hard" Rush fan. I'm 22 and only discovered them after buying Moving Pictures on a whim last year, but I can safely say in the year since then they have become one of my very favourite bands!

I now own nine of their albums, most of them being their 70's output, and I love that side of their career! I haven't heard much else outside of those releases, but I loved what I knew enough for me to buy the Classic Rock fan pack the day of it's release!

The moment I played this album I fell in love! The whole album is simply gorgeous...it has this wonderful sense of fun and the musicianship is second to none! I haven't been playing these albums of Rush for decades, so I am not as familiar with them as much as a fan from the seventies would be! But to my ears, Clockwork Angels sounds like a classic along the lines of 2112, Fly By Night or Moving Pictures.

Every song on this disc is a winner, but for me, Caravan, BU2B, Clockwork Angels, Seven Cities of Gold, The Wreckers, Headlong Flight and the sumptuous lyrical masterpiece The Garden stand out as definitive highlights!

For me, as a new fan, this is up there with their best stuff. I think it builds onto the work of Snakes and Arrows wonderfully, and to think this album was made by a group of men old enough to be my father, well I'm captivated and delighted! To my ears, this album has the energy of a debut album. The only thing that betrays that is the quality of musicianship and the strength of the songwriting.

I won't touch upon the concept behind the albums theme, or pick out the finest moments of each individual player (whoda thunk Rush was a trio? This sounds like an orchestra of rock musicians!), as for me Clockwork Angels is more than a story, and more than the mere sum of its parts. It's the best elements of a classic summer blockbuster gathered together into audio form. It's without a doubt the most exciting album of 2012, and I cannot see how anybody could be disappointed!

Album of the year, and one of the best albums I've ever heard in my life!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 2 January 2013
Now this is meant as a compliment but I am not a Rush fan. I don't dislike them but have just never felt the need to buy into them in any great way. However, I did like Snakes and Arrows and I now positively adore Clockwork Angels. I'll let others who know more about the band decide where this album stands in the pantheon of Rush releases so it just suffices to say that any one who may have misgivings about Rush and their relevance nowadays should listen, really listen, to this album and wallow in the outrageously good prog/metal on offer. BTW I only listen to music on my computer or ipod nowadays and the album sounds fine to me so I can't comment on the apparent shortfall in sonic quality for those with decent kits.
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on 31 July 2012
During the years 1978 to 1983 Rush were my musical world. Liked other bands, loved Rush. Collected everything from Albums and Singles, posters, badges, patches...the whole early teens malarkey. I bought Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, Signals and Grace.. on release day and all 4 are still firm favourites. And then Power Windows shot them down. Bought it and could not - no matter what - get into it. Sold it to a mate at college. After that, I never really went back. Bought the live DVD's, bought Lighted Stage, saw them live...but no album purchases. On the recommendation of my brother in law I picked this one up last week...and not stopped playing it since. Not going to review it, will just say ignore the doubters...this is a 10/10
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