Test for Echo
Type: Progressive Rock
Continuing the shift back to a leaner, less layered sound, Test for Echo is a quality effort from Rush. Alex Lifeson's guitar is more up front than it has been in a long time, especially on songs like "Driven," "Limbo" and "Time and Motion," yet the characteristic syncopation that has become Rush's trademark sound is not compromised. Geddy Lee's bass playing continues to show influence from Primus' Les Claypool and the trio uses synthesizers less than they have in several releases. Lee's voice also seems to be getting better with age. Neil Peart's lyrics continue to sport poetic and literary devices that other rock songwriters fear to approach and he stretches a little to play hammer dulcimer on "Resist." In short, this album is a predictable progression from previous trends.
Which is just fine with me.
I am happy to see Rush moving back to simpler arrangements and a little more distortion. The spacey, ethereal sounds of their 1980s albums began to wear on me a little, though I do think Neal Peart's lyrics were at their peak during this period, particularly on Power Windows. His best lyrics on this album are probably presented in "Totem," a defense multi-cultural belief systems. I am also happy to see the band returning more often to the extended instrumentals, like "Limbo" on this album.
The pamphlet design is of high quality, similar in style to the old Hipgnosis album jackets. A lot of computer generated images and fractal patterns give the slipcover booklet a feel almost like a graphics intensive web page, which fits very well with the song "Virtuality" in particular.
It will be interesting to see where the group goes from here. Recently, Peart's daughter died in an accident, and I am predicting this will have a profound effect on his lyrics in the future. We may see him returning to the level of lyricism he attained in the mid eighties, if only because he is driven by pain. I'm not sure the group's current musical trend will fit well with the kind of lyrics that might come from this loss, though. I look for the Lee and Lifeson's music to get a little lighter in the future if Peart's lyrics go that direction.
Until then, I will continue to enjoy the status quo of one of the most consistent bands in modern music.
Rating (out of a possible five):