Rush- Snakes and Arrows
Written on May 22, 2012
Snakes and Arrows, Rush’s 18th official studio release, shows Rush returning to a heavier, more aggressive and epic sound, which I would describe as modern progressive hard rock.
This new harder and more aggressive sound is most apparent on the first 7 tracks, which are a 40-minute relentless assault of sonic guitar riffs, intricate bass rhythms, and complex drum attacks.
This run of 7 songs opens with “Far Cry,” which starts with a short borrowed riff from Rush’s 1978 album Hemispheres, and the aggressiveness doesn’t let up from there. The song then marches ahead with orders of indefatigable heaviness, which sets the tone for the rest of the album and easily makes “Far Cry” one of Rush’s best opening tracks. “Armor & Sword” is up next, and it picks up right where “Far Cry” left off, as it is also a throwback to Rush’s late 70’s progressive style, in that it is their first epic track in decades, and it is their longest studio track since 1981’s “The Camera Eye.” The third track, “Workin’ Them Angles,” is much more upbeat and catchy than the first two tracks, but it is no less heavy, and it drives along at a blistering pace. The last song that I’ll highlight from the first 7 songs is “The Main Monkey Business,” which is the first of three instrumentals on the album. Along with “Armor and Sword,” it is the most progressive and epic song on the album. It clocks in just over 6-minutes, and it is filled with plenty of incredibly complex time signatures and intricate playing, yet it is completely melodic at the same time. Thus, it easily places itself in the running for one of Rush’s best instrumental tracks along with “La Villa Strangiato” from Hemispheres and “YYZ” from Moving Pictures. To round out the first 40-minutes of the album, there’s also “The Larger Bowl,” “Spindrift,” and “The Way Wind Blows.” These songs are all excellent as well, and together with the aforementioned songs, they form a 40-minute block of sequential music that ranks as one of the best blocks of music that Rush has ever put on a record.
So, the first 7 songs are undoubtedly fantastic. But because they are so good, they somewhat overshadow the remaining 6 songs. There are some solid tracks that close out the album; they are just not as powerful or energetic as the first 7 songs. Of these remaining six tracks, I only consider two of them complete filler: “Bravest Face” and “Good News First,” and in my opinion, they should have been left off the album.
However, finishing out the rest of the album, there’s “Hope” (an instrumental acoustic spot from Lifeson), “Faithless,” “Malignant Narcissism” (the third instrumental track on the album), and “We Hold On,” the somewhat underrated closing track.
If it were me, in addition to dropping “Bravest Face” and “The Good News First,” I would have also dropped “Hope,” “Faithless,” and “We Hold On.” The latter three are not bad songs, but they take away from the flow and energy of the album. I would, however, keep “Malignant Narcissism” in the mix, as it shares the same energy and feel as the first seven tracks. If they had done that and rearranged the song order, it would have given them a 40+ minute, 8-track album that is completely flawless, and it would definitely fall into my top 3 Rush albums of all time; nevertheless, Snakes and Arrows is still a great album in its current form, and it should not be overlooked by Rush fans, progressive rock fans, and general rock fans.
“Malignant Narcissism” and “Hope” were both nominated for Grammy awards in the “Best Rock Instrumental Performance” category. “Malignant Narcissism” was nominated from Snakes and Arrows in 2008, and then “Hope” was nominated the following year in 2009, as it was included on the tribute album– Songs for Tibet: The Art of Peace. It’s not surprising that both songs were nominated, as they are both great and almost every instrumental track that Rush has written has been nominated since the category was created in 1980; it is also not surprising that neither track won, as Rush rarely receives the credit they deserve, but it is surprising that “The Main Monkey Business” was not nominated, for as I mentioned, I think it ranks as one of Rush’s best instrumentals, and I enjoy it more than “Malignant Narcissism.”
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