Sound — 9
Rush has been around a while and have a proven track record as awesome musicians, songwriters and performers. After being together as a band for 6 years, they released their first album in 1974 and after this point experienced no personnel changes. Neil Peart is the least tenured member of the band with only 38 years as a member while Geddy and Alex each have 44 years. If you think about it, it is really mindblowing they are not only still a band, they are releasing new material and touring (and not nostalgic tours, but real tours with new songs). Absolutely amazing. Even those few lone individuals who are not fans of Rush have to respect the number of years we are talking about here and Rush's devotion to making new music.
"Clockwork Angels" has 12 tracks and is approximately one hour and six minutes long a respectable length considering we are talking about a band that is simultaneously considered one of the best classic rock and progressive rock bands still active today. While I've read online that Alex Lifeson strongly denies that "Clockwork Angels" is a concept album it does come across like a concept album to me, and it seems it also does to novelist Kevin J. Anderson (a friend of Neil Peart), who has stated that he will be writing a sci-fi novelization of the album. I'm certain this will be an interesting novel, with Kevin J. Anderson describing the plot as follows: "In a young man's quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life."
The playing on the album is beyond reproach. The drumming is solid, the basslines range from satisfactory to brilliant, and the guitar work is memorable riff after memorable riff. If you are into classic rock or prog rock then this will be the biggest album release for you this year. The sound manages to be pretty diverse while still sounding like Rush.
Lyrics — 9
Geddy's voice is still powerful but maybe not quite as high pitched as it was early in his career. He seems to sing in a slightly lower register which seems natural on these tracks. The delivery is really well done throughout Geddy is a professional. The lyrics are well written, as well, with some really interesting concepts behind the lyrics. As a sample of the lyrics, here are the lyrics from the song "Caravan": "In a world lit only by fire/ Long train of flares/ under piercing stars/ I stand watching the steamliners roll by/ The caravan thunders onward/ To the distant dream of the city/ The caravan carries me onward/ On my way at last/ On my way at last/ I can't stop thinking big/ I can't stop thinking big/ On a road lit only by fire/ Going where I want, instead of where I should/ I peer out at the passing shadows/ Carried through the night into the city/ Where a young man has a chance of making good/ A chance to break from the past/ The caravan thunders onward/ Stars winking through the canvas hood/ On my way at last/ In a world where I feel so small/ I can't stop thinking big". Again, while Alex may have said this isn't a concept album, the songs and lyrics sure feel like a concept album, though all of the songs also seem to lyrically be able to stand on their own.
Overall Impression — 9
This album will be taking up semi-permanent residence in my mp3 player, and is absolutely one of the best releases so far in 2012. My favorite songs on the album are "Caravan", "Clockwork Angels", "The Anarchist", "Halo Effect" and "The Garden". I can't say that I disliked any track on the album. I'm personally an album type of guy instead of buying single songs, and a single song if I dislike it enough can ruin an album for me luckily "Clockwork Angels" doesn't contain any bum tracks. While listening to the album I went back and listened to a lot of songs throughout Rush's career as I was thinking about the actual breadth of time they have been active as a band, and the songs on "Clockwork Angels" don't seem out of place with their existing catalog, but a logical next chapter. I look forward to hearing more new material in the future.