without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
After the recording of Test for Echo, Rush drummer Neil Peart was struck by tragedy, opting him to take a leave of absence from the band for an indeterminate period of time. In the meantime, bassist Geddy Lee went and recorded a solo album and guitarist Alex Lifeson went and….well, got older (he may have had a side project in there as well, I can’t remember). But Peart did return, and the band celebrated this by recording a back-to-their-roots rock record, the first album to not utilize synthesizers since the mid-70’s.
But what is a comeback album without a few misleading claims? Indeed, there are no synthesizers used on Vapor Trails. It’s a very heavy, guitar-driven hard rock record that’s a bit too straightforward to be considered progressive, but it’s not a flash from the past. Just as Rush’s earliest hard rock was appropriate for the era in which it was recorded (the 70’s), Vapor Trails sounds like what it is: a hard rock album released in 2001. So those who were disappointed by the hard alternative sound forged on the band’s 90’s albums shouldn’t get their hopes up because this sounds just like those did. However, the Rush playing on this album is a band refreshed, much unlike the Rush pre-hiatus. The revived Peart delivers one of his strongest performances in years, while Lee and Lifeson’s guitars crunch harder than ever (that “One Little Victory” intro riff is huge). The material is not intricate by any means, but it’s clear that the creative juices are once again flowing. Lifeson’s riffs are interesting, Peart is vibrant, Geddy Lee is Geddy Lee, things are good.
The album tends to be heavier than most of the band’s records, with lyrics bathed in optimism instead of pretension (there’s plenty of spiritual mumbo-jumbo too, as well as a glimpse into Peart’s catharsis). There’s a little Alice in Chains in here, a little Soundgarden, and, my god, a little bit of Rush too. Indeed a lot of the better musical ideas occur during the subdued moments, where Lee and Lifeson harmonize as beautifully as they ever have. Once again, we find Alex Lifeson being a bit too modest with his soloing, but his rhythm technique makes up for it a bit. All in all it’s just a solid, albeit long, Rush album; the only problem being that it’s a modern Rush album, making it far inferior to those of their heyday.
But considering the age of the band, the direction they were heading prior to this, and the personal tragedies of Peart, it’s a miracle that this thing is listenable at all. The fact that it’s quite good is even harder to believe, but it’s quite the case here. It won’t be an immediate favorite for fans coming off a steady diet of their classic material (in fact, it probably won’t be a favorite at all), but with the right perspective, it’s clear that it is an honest, consistent album from a band that a lot of people had written off as spent. Perhaps not the comeback album you might have been hoping for, it is nonetheless reasonable for what it is.
Rush's back catalogue is a largely a maze of different niches and styles within the progressive rock field. From the classic rock approach of Rush and Fly by Night to the epic stylings of 2112 and A Farewell to Kings to the synth laden era of Signals and Power Windows to the more modern prog approach of Counterparts and Test for Echo, Rush has quite an impressive resume. Which part of Rush's catalogue does Vapor Trails finto then? Well the short answer is none.
Rush is known for having an amazing drummer and two very largely underrated players. The highlight of this album is definitely Neil's impressive drumming, but Alex and Geddy definitely shine on this album as well. Alex Lifeson has a knack for writing very memorable riffs that are not showy. His performance on this album is completely outstanding. A lot of really awesome riffs and even a couple of really well thought out solos. Geddy Lee, as usual, has impressive bass lines throughout the entire album. He definitely forges ahead and plays a lot of really memorable lines and fills. And his vocals are spot on! This is best vocal performance Geddy has done since "Grace Under Pressure". Neil Peart sounds as incredible as ever. My only qualm (and this is minor) is that since the late 80's until now he has been riding on the ride cymbal a little too much. He belts out a lot of really awesome fills and rhythms (listen to One Little Victory).
This Rush album is a different beast than anything else they have released to this point. It's full of energy and really is a hard rock album (and I haven't seen Rush this energized since "2112"). It seems Rush has forgotten or purposely left out many of their progressive tendencies and went for an all out rock album. This is by no means a drawback! It seems to make every song a little more easy to swallow and digest. Rush are definitely making a statement with this album, and that is "we're not your mom and dad's Rush anymore". While a lot of this album is hard rock, there are some nice ballads (such as "Ghost Rider"). Many people seem to knock on Geddy Lee for his vocals, but I think they definitely work on this album. The faster, more driving pace of many of the songs just fit his vocal style so well. And the ballads! Geddy just sounds great on those too!
The production is top notch. Every instrument shines through. No instrument undermines or tries to outdo another. Everything has the proper place in the mix and the vocals are just right as well. So no complaints there.
The only real drawback of this album, in my opinion, is the lack of an epic track (I know we haven't seen one of those in quite some time). But then again, with the style of this album, an epic track may not have worked out very well.
Rush definitely deserves applause for creating a memorable and uplifiting album (especially after the trials and tribulations of Neil Peart prior to this release). It's just an amazing album that has to be heard. I think that all fans of Rush and prog should check this out. If you're new to Rush, this may be a great starting point!
I don't understand why Rush doesn't have more reviews on this site. It's really a crying shame considering how emotional, talented, and influential they are. I can understand how people have a hard time thinking of them as metal because they do in fact sound closer to prog rock and classic rock, but damn, they're on the site now! Everyone needs to get with the program!
Anyway, Vapor Trails continues Rush's trademark slice of intensely emotional, heavy, driving prog rock/metal and though not a masterpiece or as atmospheric, memorable, and progressive as Test for Echo, I see nothing wrong with a band toning down their sound a little bit for experimental and creative purposes. Hey, as long as they're not turning mallcore on us then I'm cool with whatever they decide to do.
Whereas Test for Echo was more ethereal and atmospheric( as well as having less radio viability), there in fact was a single from this album, though I can't remember which song it is. The ironic fact is, though, that these songs aren't as memorable as the ones from Test for Echo. You would think since this album is more straightforward and commercial-sounding then the songs would stick in my head more, but it's not the case.
Geddy Lee still somewhat sounds like the chick that never was, Alex Lifeson is still churning out heavy, crunchy, technical grooves, Neil Peart still knows how to devour those drums of his, and the bass is still right on target.Here we have a technical opus that doesn't become long-winded and superfluous like some prog acts do.
I believe, also, that the lyrics on this album are still somewhat political and worldly like they are on Test for Echo, but the meanings of them didn't register with me yet. I will read the lyrics soon to determine this, however.
All in all an excellent release from a highly talented, but overlooked band. Not a masterpiece, but pick up just the same.
Considering what Neil Peart went through prior to this recording, it's impressive that he still has his heart in his playing. Once Rush got back together and he had worked out some of his problems, they crafted this 'comeback' album of sorts. It is a little different for them. Renowned as the kings of progressive rock/metal/whatever (an idea I totally agree with), it's interesting to see that this album isn't nearly as technical or progressive as many of their earlier efforts. More straightforward songwriting seems to be the order of the day here, and it works in most places. The catchy opener One Little Victory, which comes bursting right out of the gates with Peart's propulsive double bass/snare rhythm (VERY cool drumming), and some pretty heavy riffing for them which happens to be really well-written. Though mostly verse-chorus-verse, there are some jumpy transitions here and there, and it's such a cool song that I've got no complaints. Alex Lifeson actually pulls out some surprisingly heavy and groovy riffs, particularly near the end of Peaceable Kingdom, what a badass riff! Still one of the most diversely talented guitarists out there. This is also one of my favorites on the album, with a beautiful chorus and very cleverly written lyrics, impressive stuff. Geddy Lee shines throughout with his soaring vocal melodies (he's still got it) and killer basswork, the latter of which really shows on Earthshine. Basically, strong songwriting throughout most of the album, and it's less technical and progressive for Rush, but not bad by any means. Worth checking out.
Vapor Trails is by no means a complete album, but I haven't been able to get some of these songs out of my head, they are just that good. I had the priviledge of seeing Rush on this tour, and they have to be one of the greatest live bands in the world. I even enjoyed the songs off of Vapor Trails, which I haven't heard prior to the concert. Instead of criticizing the mediocore, I'll stick to the greatness that this album conveys.
One Little Victory used to irk me slightly, because it sounded like Geddy Lee was whining too often, but Rush fans have to learn to live with that and it is actually a pretty hard driven song with excellent bass work.
Ghost Rider is one of my favorite songs from Rush. Its just so beautifully written by Neil Peart. A very ballad like song that is shows many that Geddy Lee's voice is getting much better. Its supposed about the untimely death of his wife and daughter and how it possessed him to ride his motorcycle across the world. If you are interested, he wrote an actual book about the entire events as well aptly named Ghost Rider.
Secret Touch is another really nice song, mainly so because it showcases Geddy Lee's ungodly bass playing ability. Once again another beautifully written song.
There are many nice songs on this album. I just decided to showcase my personal favorites. My only complaint about this album is that Rush seems to be doing what Dream Theater has been doing with Mike Portnoy, with Neil Peart. Neil is IMO the closest to god of drumming as their can be, but he doesn't display what he's capable of here really. He sounds more powerful here than in previous albums, but he doesn't showcase his technicality, and I know its not because he lost it, because he was still ruling ass live. Great drumming would bring this album up to a 100 pretty quick.