Deep Dive: Rush

Welcome to the fourth installment of Deep Dive, where I take an in-depth look at the studio discographies of some of the giants of progressive rock and progressive metal.

For those who don’t feel like reading this massive entry, I’ve included a TL;DR and ranking of albums at the end. I’m opting to explore albums chronologically, as opposed to a ranked-list format. The context in which albums were made is important, and that is an element often missed in a ranked list.

Rush is a band I’d always planned to eventually cover in this series. I’d made no firm plans as to when, exactly, but they were undoubtedly on the docket. Originally, this Deep Dive was slated to be a look at Genesis, but Neil Peart’s unfortunate passing earlier this year prompted me to push off the Genesis entry for a later date.

In the early 1970s, acts like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Atomic Rooster had demonstrated that trios could produce excellent progressive rock, but Rush pushed the capabilities of that limited format to its extreme with complex suites containing massive tonal variation. Even once Rush moved past their prog rock heyday, their music was mostly inventive, energetic, and—above all—distinct. Over the years, Rush became one of the best-known and most-successful rock acts of all time, particularly in their native Canada.

Subdivision I: The Early Years (1968-1974)

Rush formed in 1968 and originally consisted of guitarist Alex Lifeson (born Zivojinovich; “Lifeson” is an English translation of his Serbian name), bassist/vocalist Jeff Jones, and drummer John Rutsey. These early years saw a high degree of volatility in the band’s lineup, with Lifeson remaining the one constant. Jones left shortly after the band formed, soon replaced by Geddy Lee, and even Geddy was briefly out of the band in 1969. Continue reading “Deep Dive: Rush”

Album Review: Perséide – Parmi les arbres

perseideBand: Perséide | Album: Parmi les arbres | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock | Year: 2019

From: Trois Rivières, Canada | Label: Independent

For fans of: The Moody Blues, Yes, Ange, early Pink Floyd

Buy: Bandcamp | Apple Music

Much of the non-metal featured on this site has its roots planted firmly in the years of 1971-73. That fact is neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but it does lead to the prevalence of certain tropes and trends. Perséide’s roots extend a few years further back. Instead of harkening to prog giants like Genesis or Yes, their music stems most obviously from late ‘60s psychedelia and proto-prog, a la The Pretty Things or The United States of America.

This Quebecois quintet is not wrapped entirely in the past, though. On Parmi les arbres (Among the Trees), modern touches of indie rock are present. These influences make the music feel like a vibrant descendent of ‘60s psychedelia, rather than a rehash. Continue reading “Album Review: Perséide – Parmi les arbres”

Album Review: Dizzy Mystics – Wanderlost

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Band: Dizzy Mystics | Album: Wanderlost | Genre: Progressive rock | Year:  2019

From: Winnipeg, Canada | Label: Independent

For fans of: Tool, RX Bandits, Children of Nova

Buy: BandcampAmazonApple Music

“Dizzy” is an apt adjective for this Manitoban quartet. The music here is packed to the brim with tight, technical riffs played at a breakneck pace. But this isn’t some math rock-style exercise in sheer complexity, nor is it some John Petrucci-style masturbation session. Dizzy Mystics are shockingly melodic in their compositions. Wanderlost is definitively not a metal album, but the closest analog is Tool. The melodies seem rooted in a similar strain of ‘90s alt-rock and are run through a similar artistic lens, albeit one with less distortion.

Folk influences are pervasive. Mandolin and acoustic guitar are often given prominence, and the technical skill combined with the tempo can give some echoes of bluegrass at times. There’s even the occasional flash of 1980s-Rush-style-vaguest-hint-of-reggae touches. Continue reading “Album Review: Dizzy Mystics – Wanderlost”

Album Review: Syrinx – Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light

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Band: Syrinx | Album: Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light | Year: 2019 | Genre: Heavy/Traditional metal, Progressive rock

From: Vancouver, Canada | Label: Church Recordings

For fans of: Queensrÿche, Rush, Fates Warning, Iron Maiden

Buy: BandcampAmazon

Optically, it may be weird to use genre labels including both the words “traditional” and “progressive” to describe the same band. But truth be told, many progressive rock acts do little to progress rock, and traditional metal provides a broad enough template to allow a lot of innovation. Syrinx take their base sound from the realm of bands like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. But they add the structural complexity and ambition of early prog-metal bands like Queensrÿche alongside aesthetic flashes of some ‘70s prog giants like Yes and Rush. Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light is full of fun and energetic riffs, but there’s a healthy dose of rhythmic weirdness and structural abstractness.

After opening with a short, swirling instrumental, Syrinx dive right into a shining example of their hybrid sound. “Time out of Place” is carried on the back of a tight, anxious riff during the verses, and the chorus features a cascading synth line that could have featured on a classic Rush album. The ensuing “Devil’s Soldier” opens with a soberer tone, but it doesn’t take long to launch into a more aggressive timbre. While one of the less-proggy tracks on the album, it’s engaging, and the vocals, a hoarse semi-shriek, are especially striking. Continue reading “Album Review: Syrinx – Embrace the Dark – Seek the Light”