Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Their Flawed Masterpiece - 80%

DawnoftheShred, May 10th, 2007

Caress of Steel is probably the most panned album in Rush’s discography. Nestled in between the classic Fly by Night and the absolute masterpiece that is 2112, Caress is often seen as underdeveloped and overextended, an album the band were not yet experienced enough to pull off properly. In many ways, this is absolutely true: Rush could have made this magnificent. But it’s not terrible for what it is, that being a perplexing amalgam of 70’s rock, prog, psychedelic, and folk that might just pleasantly surprise the hardcore fan of old-school Floyd, Tull, and Yes.

The first hurdle one has to clear to get into this album properly is the production. It’s immediately evident after a few seconds that this is not as crisp and clear as the previous two albums were, but it does a nice job in making this thing sound absolutely ancient. There’s something about a mustier sound that really adds to the fantasy element presented in the lyrics. But anyway, once you get used to it, you’ll find that the band still sounds really good. Alex Lifeson does rip into some fantastic leads on here, but much of his playing on here is acoustic, which is where the folk influence really starts to show. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of hard rocking riffage, with his great pre-synth-era guitar tone. Also as expected, Getty Lee’s voice is sublime through most of this, with maybe one or two high wails that he sounds like he’s struggling to reach, and his bass playing is as superb as ever. And of course Neal Peart provides the ultimate rhythm section to every song on here, with a little screwing around in “Didacts and Narpets.” But the band’s quality of performance is to be expected, as it’s the songwriting that is the problem here, not the players.

The album starts off quite well, the first three songs of standard length and not sounding too far removed from Fly by Night material. “Bastille Day” is a fantastic rocker with a marvelously catchy chorus, definitely one of the highlights for any Rush fan. “I Think I’m Going Bald” is the last song to carry the spirit of their debut, rocking just as hard as any of those songs did. “Lakeside Park” is refreshing and mellow and an easy shoe-in for second best song on here, with some of the album’s more thoughtful lyrics. The album starts to unravel a bit with the epics that follow these. “The Necromancer” has a lot of cool ideas rhythmically, but Peart’s lyrical accompaniment is somewhat corny, especially the narration before each of the three parts. This detracts a bit from the song, which is a shame, as there are some pretty heavy passages. Album closer “The Fountain of Lamneth” is even more epic, clocking in at over twenty minutes. Rush fans be wary: just because you love the 2112 Suite doesn’t mean you’ll be quick to embrace this metaphorical tale. This is the half of the album that will take the longest to grow on you, especially if you’re not much for the brunt of 70’s progressive music. I won’t attempt to provide any lyrical interpretation, but the song itself is very dynamic, sweeping from soothing acoustic passages to Rush’s traditional heavier soundscapes and everything in between. This is very Floydian at times relying heavily on mood and tone as the various parts flow through one another. But again, this is no 2112: the lyrics are a lot denser and deeply bathed in symbolism, while the transitions between chapters aren’t nearly as fluid. Also notable: on the cassette version I have, “Didacts and Narpets” and “I Think I’m Going Bald” are switched in the tracklist, showcasing the awkwardness of the former very early in the album and effectively destroying the complete flow of the final epic by the addition of the latter. This is almost exclusively fodder for the truest of prog fans, those that think Tales from Topographic Oceans is far more breathtaking than pretentious and/or those that think the Atom Heart Mother Suite is among that band’s finest works.

In conclusion, my first impression of Caress of Steel, coming off a steady diet of Hemispheres, was decidedly negative, but the album has fast grown on me. Most of its problems are superficial, as the album is still effective in engrossing the listener in its symbolist realm. It’s not necessarily a casual listen, but most rewarding albums tend not to be anyway.