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Standing head and shoulders above the Led Zeppelin worship of the previous album, Fly By Night sees Rush create a first rough draft of their distinctive prog metal style. This is most apparent on the album's highlight, the multi-part epic By-Tor and the Snow Dog, which aside from a slow section towards the end is a great prog metal composition featuring some superb guitar work from Alex Lifeson.
Of course, the transformation in the band's sound is thanks mainly to the presence of Neil Peart, whose more technically proficient drumming allows the band to explore more complex musical territory. But both Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson give a superior performance this time around as well, the presence of Peart clearly boosting the band's morale and both founder members relishing the opportunity to show off their skills outside of a blues-rock framework.
It isn't a perfect album, though; it occasionally suffers from muzzy production values and a residual tendency towards lightweight rockers (such as the forgettable Best I Can or Making Memories), and the faltering acoustic piece Rivendell is an embarrassing slice of Tolkien worship that's best forgotten about - not least because it stretches about a minute's worth of musical ideas over five minutes. Nonetheless, the album brings the band appreciably closer to becoming the dominant force they would become, so major-league Rush fans will probably want to pick it up regardless.