On May 1, 2007 "Rush" released their 18th studio album, "Snakes & Arrows".
The album was included among the top ten progressive albums of the decade that opened the millennium, on the list of Classic Rock magazine.
The album was co-produced with Nick Raskulinecz who worked with, among others, "Foo Fighters" and "Velvet Revolver".
Nick, who is also a fan of "Rush", is the one who approached the band's management and asked to serve as its producer. At first, there was no enthusiasm for the idea, but after a campaign of persuasion this special collaboration between the fan and the band, paid off handsomely for both parties.
Nick encouraged the band to stretch its boundaries in the complex rhythmic and melodic patterns that characterized its 70s albums, combined with an up-to-date and contemporary sound.
The results were to the satisfaction of all band members to a point that Geddy Lee noted that he places the album among the band's three biggest albums.
The collaboration with Rush also contributed a lot to Nick Raskulinecz and opened many doors for him. Nick became a highly sought-after producer who later worked with bands such as: "Alice In Chains", "Bush", "Mastodon", "Stone Sour", "Evanescence" and "Halestorm".
The band chose to record the album at Allaire Studios which was located in a secluded mansion called Glen Tonche in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. The place was initially rented for only two weeks, as the band wanted to record there only the drum parts of Neil Peart who really liked the sound there. Eventually, Neil, Geddy, and Alex just fell in love with the place and stayed there for 5 weeks during which the album was recorded from start to finish. Neil said the atmosphere was really good, they enjoyed spending time with each other like in the early days, and that was well reflected in the music. When the band entered the studio, they already had 11 written songs in their possession. Two more were written in the studio during the recordings. Alex said it was the fastest recording of an album they had, since 1977's "A Farewell to Kings".
The album opens strongly with “Far Cry” and Alex Lifeson's powerful chords, accompanied by the thunderous drums of Neil Peart and the dominant and beating bass of Geddy Lee. Anyone who listens well will find that the chord that ends the first sequence of power chords at the opening of the song, just before the break (second 0:12), is exactly the one that opens "Hemispheres". Lyrically, Neil Peart wrote the lyrics about how his generation started off great - concerned with peace and love - but in the end, they ended far off: "It's a far cry from the world we thought we'd inherit".
The music on the album moves mostly in its "comfort zone" of Rush. At the same time, the album shows "Rush" experiencing different and new music genres.
Listen to the opening rhythm of the song "Armor and Sword" which Peart attributes to renowned jazz drummer Buddy Rich. The bass line and guitar sound at the opening of the song are a bit reminiscent of King Crimson in the era of "Red" and "Larks' Tongues in Aspic".
The riffs in the song "Spindrift" are heavy and flirtatious around Doom Metal from the '80s.
Elements of blues are heard in the song "The Way The Wind Blows".
In "Faithless", a conscious effort was made to write and perform a song at a slower pace compared to the band's repertoire.
The song "Good News First" uses a mellotron, a musical instrument that the band has not used since the song "tears" from the album "2112".
In terms of instrumentation, the album is mostly based on the guitar-bass-drum triangle, with almost no use of keyboards and other instruments. While the arrangements on the album are complex and dynamic, the musical pattern is mostly basic and direct, with a return to Rush's roots based on hard rock and blues.
Alex Lifeson wrote the music for the album on acoustic guitar, on the advice of none other than David Gilmour who is characterized by this method of writing. Gilmour also received credit for the inspiration he gave Alex on the album liner notes.
It is interesting to note that this is Rush's first album that includes 3 instrumental tracks: "The Main Monkey Business" is a musically complex track, which took Neil Peart 3 days to formulate the drums and percussion roles in it. "Hope" is a piece based on a 12-string guitar in which Lifeson's playing is mesmerizing and reminiscent of Jimmy Page. "Malignant Narcissism" is led by Geddy Lee's unique bass playing and in which Peart uses a minimalist drum set of only 4 parts.
"Snakes & Arrows" maintains a high and uniform level throughout, with no falls in lyrics, composition, production, or playing. It has all the right ingredients to be a great album. But in the same way that the excitement from the initial listening to the album dissipates, so does a considerable part of the songs in it, which did not survive time and did not get to be included in the band's stylists.
At the same time, the album is a very important and integral part of the band's development process and undoubtedly paved the way for the exemplary and excellent concept album that will follow "Clockwork Angels".