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“Fly by Night” is the second studio album by Rush. Neil Peart makes his debut here as lyricist and drummer making this album rather significant. With Peart in hand, the band proceeded to embark on a path of greatness. Even in this early release, you can find some legendary material.
This whole album (With the exception of By-Tor and the Snow Dog) is very upbeat and easy on the ears. Some songs such as By-Tor, Anthem, and “Beneath, Between, and Behind” feature an icy atmosphere to go along with this, which works extremely well. The album also features one of the first progressive epics in the rock/metal industry, which is an incredible listen. This said epic, By-Tor and the Snow Dog, is the album’s highlight and makes this release worth getting, even for the one song.
The band is as good as always here. Geddy Lee’s vocals are very shrill, for the most part and fit the music very well. Lee’s bass is also excellent, being very audible and working splendidly with the instruments. Peart’s debut is flawless and proves his masterful drumming abilities. Lastly Alex Lifeson’s guitars have the perfect sound for the album and are largely responsible for the album’s atmosphere. Lifeson’s rather frequent solos here are also very impressive.
Opener “Anthem” is what a NWOBHM Rush would sound like. The guitars project the old heavy metal feel, plus Geddy Lee sings very well here and provides some very high screams at points of the song. Peart’s amazing drumming skills are already apparent on this song, particularly near the end. The whole band works to give this song an icy atmosphere mixed with a heavy metal/hard rock sound. All in all, one of the album’s highlights. Best I Can is very basic hard rock. The song’s got pretty good solos, bass, and drumming, but the vocals here are only decent. It’s a fun song, but nothing special. “Beneath, Between, and Behind” is very average due to a lack of variety. The icy guitar is back, which is nice, but it’s not as impressive as before due to the song’s average quality, something I can say for all the instruments here. This is one of the weaker tracks on the album.
Moving on, we have By-Tor and the Snow Dog, a truly revolutionary eight and a half minute epic. The song begins as Geddy Lee describes the two characters of this story, By-Tor (villain) and the Snow Dog (hero). About two minutes in, the “battle” (The five and a half minute instrumental section) of these characters begins. The two combatants are at full strength at this portion of the fight; the instruments reflect this with some wild solos and interesting special effects (or are these effects some bass trick?). Either way the battle tires down after raging for two and a half minutes long, as the epitome of an atmospheric instrumental section begins. This passage consists of constant quiet chimes and a very subtle melody that successfully projects the iciest atmosphere I’ve ever heard in music. Lee provides one simple but very effective bass note every ten seconds or so that completes the atmosphere. The darkness of this section probably represents that the Snow Dog is losing the battle and hope is diminishing. About six minutes in, (The song not the section) short drum rolls begin to appear as the melody begins to build up, until finally a huge drum roll completely changes the mood and a slow but effective solo begins. This final section of the battle probably symbolizes that the Snow Dog has turned the table, and is finishing off By-Tor. The song then ends the way it began, except with Lee singing about the victory of the Snow Dog.
Anyway, the title track is a very catchy song that’s great for the road. Geddy Lee sings very well, and some good soloing is also present. The song is ultimately, very adventurous and upbeat. “Making Memories” is another catchy song, this time with some upbeat acoustics. Electric guitar is heard during the solos, which, like most of Lifeson’s are very good. This song is definitely very much like the title track. Next up is Rivendell a ballad based off of the respective fictional Elvin city. This song contains completely acoustic guitar, and no drums, making for a very soft atmosphere. Listen to this one when enjoying nature. “In the End”, the album’s closer, is a pretty good mid-tempo song. There are acoustic and electric guitars present, and the song is ultimately very ideal as a closer, especially when you consider that it’s main riff is the same as the title track’s except slower.
Summed up, this release is a tad inconsistent, but features some outstanding tracks like By-Tor and Anthem. If you’re a fan, get this album, but people not familiar with Rush should hear some of their other releases like “Moving Pictures” before checking this out. Don’t expect “Fly by Night” to be one of the greatest progressive albums, just expect it to be a very good one.