Sound — 8
"Hold Your Fire" takes place in the keyboard-flushed soundscape of 80's. Lifeson's guitar has been processed to a dreamy twang at this point, and Lee is using some variety of Wal-Bass, trebling his way into bassist heaven one sick line at a time. I'm not sure what Peart was using in his kit, but I believe he was into electronic drums at the time, and there is the inclusion of the xylophone... so... whatever, Peart has got you covered. As far as the production goes, this has got to be the "cleanest" sounding Rush album ever produced. That is a vague description of it, but then again I am not an audio engineer, so what do you want from me? Overall, I like the sound.
Lyrics — 7
Okay, I may be wrong here but I believe almost all the songs follow an "A-B-C-B" rhyme scheme. This gives the lyrics a very processed, somewhat whimsical feel. Could also be construed as "cheesy", I'm afraid. Geddy has become very good at shoehorning pretty much anything Neil writes into the constructed melodies at this point, so reconciliation of music with lyrics is in no way a problem. As far as singing is concerned, I personally find Geddy to be a very skilled singer with a somewhat unpleasant natural timbre. Fortunately, he is very restrained vocally on this album, never delving into the charged shrieks (which served a certain pathos) that characterized their early work. Couple this restraint with the already soft production and you have a listening experience surpassed only in ease by the forthcoming "Presto". As for the lyrical content itself, I found there to be a strange divide within the 10 tracks. Roughly half dealt with personal matters and reflections, whilst the other half was more of a continuation of the subject matter of "Mystic Rhythms" from "Power Windows". That is to say, they seemed focused on aspects of mysticism or even primitiveness. "High Water", in particular, struck me as a kind of eerie ballad that seemed out of place sharing space with the likes of "Second Nature". Generally speaking, though, the lyrics are characterized by the sort of latent erudition all of Peart's stuff has.
Overall Impression — 8
I notice many Rush fans using "Moving Pictures" as a sort of touchstone or litmus test for the excellence of any post-Brown release by the band. It is, of course, something of a masterwork, unparalleled in its emotional breadth and tightly wound, electrifying performances. That manic, virtuosic energy still resounds in tracks like "Lock And Key", "Turn The Page", "Force Ten", and the flooring instrumental interlude from "Mission". But I guarantee you that the Rush of 1981 would not have been able to write "Open Secrets", a haunting interpersonal analysis somberly colored by exquisitely chosen, chorus approximating synthesizers. To write that song required for them to progress through the soundscapes of the anxious "Signals" and the despairing "Grace Under Pressure". It is, of course, never an easy matter to progress. And the album on the whole is slightly disjointed, perhaps. And perhaps the material lacks the zest and verve of "2112" or "Moving Pictures". But so long as Rush can produce a song like that... well, I'm still in.