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3.64 | 46 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2002

Filed under Hard Rock


1. One Little Victory (5:08)
2. Ceiling Unlimited (5:28)
3. Ghost Rider (5:41)
4. Peaceable Kingdom (5:23)
5. The Stars Look Down (4:28)
6. How It Is (4:05)
7. Vapor Trail (4:57)
8. Secret Touch (6:34)
9. Earthshine (5:38)
10. Sweet Miracle (3:40)
11. Nocturne (4:49)
12. Fear, Part IV: Freeze (6:21)
13. Out of the Cradle (5:03)

Total Time: 67:19


- Geddy Lee / vocals, bass
- Alex Lifeson / electric and acoustic guitars, mandola
- Neil Peart / drums, cymbals

About this release

Studio album
14 May, 2002
Produced by Rush and Paul Northfield

2002 - Atlantic(US)(Europe) CD
2002 - Anthem(Canada) CD
2002 - Atlantic(US) LP

Vapor Trails Remixed released by Rhino on September 30, 2013 on CD and 2xLP.

Thanks to Raff, Time Signature, cannon, Pekka for the updates


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Rush-Vapor Trails

After being on hiatus since 'Test for Echo', Rush came out with my favorite Rush album. Seeing as Peart lost his wife and daughter during Rush's hiatus, it makes sense that Vapor Trails is one of Rush's darkest albums. This is no light and uplifting album, this is a dark album where Peart unleashes his emotions very well in the lyrics.

This album signaled yet another new era of Rush, a much heavier style having the most metal moments since probably 'Hemispheres'. It is also the first Rush album to not have keyboard since 'Caress of Steel'. It's not all the same sound though, you get a nice variety with heavy driving riffs on tracks like 'One Little Victory' or melancholy ominous tracks like 'Ghost Rider'. The lyrics are among Rush's best in my opinion, with themes as 911('Peaceable Kingdom'), Death of Peart's wife and daughter('Ghost Rider'), and Change('Celing Unlimited').

The song structure is stronger, with the bridges of songs like 'Secret Touch' transitioning perfectly. Speaking of the bridge of 'Secret Touch', Lifeson gives some of his best riffs in a while driving throughout the bridge while Lee slaps the bass and Peart keeps a strong beat. We get to see another part of the 'Fear' saga as well, with 'Freeze' having some heavy riffs and lyrics about fight or flight. To close of the album there is a much lighter song, 'Out of the Cradle', to end the album off on a nice note.

Most of the songs on the album are dark and heavy, so if you're into Rush's darker and heavier stuff you will probably enjoy it. 'Peaceable Kingdom' and 'Earthshine' are my personal favorites.

A lot of people dislike the production, yet I honestly think it fits. The production is dark and raw matching the mood of the songs, and I think that is how it was supposed to be. Even if you don't like the production though, Rush recently re-mixed the album with a different production so more people can enjoy it I suppose.

Overall, I think Vapor Trails is Rush's first flawless album since 'Moving Pictures'. Even though it may not appeal to some, I think this is when Rush entered their best era. It's darker, heavier, and raw.

Hope you found this review helpful. _______________________________________________

I'm trying out a different kind of review then my normal track by track reviews, please tell me what you think and what type you think is better. :)
siLLy puPPy
After the horrible tragedies of Neil Peart losing both his wife and daughter within a year's time, RUSH was put on hold for a few years but after the dust settled they put out their 17th studio album VAPOR TRAILS. This album has been criticized for its horrendous production but I disagree with these critiques finding this “alternative” production to lend a totally different kind of sound for RUSH that has that loud distorted 90s feel to it. This album seems like it should have been released after “Counterparts” (thereby skipping “Test For Echo”) because it rather continues the same sound, feel and songwriting. Unfortunately it also continues the now too frequent tradition of one good side and a second side that just painfully goes on too long. In fact it probably would have been better to take side one of “Counterparts” and combine it with side one of this album to make a really good album.

Once again, I was expecting more from this one. After the life changing events that took place it seems like they would have made more of an impact on this music this time around, but VAPOR TRAILS doesn't sound significantly different than the other tepid outputs of the 90s, however, the first side is fairly interesting and it is an album that does make it into the player now and again unlike some of their absolute weakest members of their discography.
"Lighting up my unconscious, And the secret places of the heart.'

'Vapor Trails' is the last Rush studio album I got hold of as I knew it did not receive favourable reviews. I really only bought it as there was nothing else in the shop worth purchasing. I listened to it in the car on the way home and was underwhelmed to say the least. Apart from a few decent songs in the first half it is a very half hearted return to the studio from the virtuoso musicians that have produced some genius work over the years. The keyboards have been locked in a cupboard somewhere, and Lifeson has put his guitar soloing on hold. The sound is compressed and it is a raw aggressive sound overall. A lot of the songs have appeared on 'Live In Rio' and I prefer those versions any day however at least it is superior to some of the mediocrity in the 80s such as 'Presto' and 'Hold Your Fire'.

The background of the album is more famous than the actual songs. The production is below par but the music has passion and lyrically is very strong. There were some extenuating circumstances in which the album was released. Tragically Neil Peart suffered terrible losses with the death of his daughter and subsequently his wife. The lyrics reflect the pain of loss and grief and as such have a lot to say to us about suffering and dealing with grief.

The album cover is an iconic image of a meteor blazing away, or perhaps it is the sun, and we see the vapour trails of the burning mass. The image is symbolic of burning away the dross of the past, the turmoil of tragedy, and moving on which is a key point of the album. There are some definitive highlights as on any Rush album and most of these come at the first half of the album. so I will begin with these first.

'A certain measure of righteousness, A certain amount of force, A certain degree of determination, Daring on a different course, A certain amount of resistance, To the forces of the light and love, A certain measure of tolerance, A willingness to rise above'.

'One Little Victory' starts things off with a thunder clap of loud guitar and drum pounding. The band sound serious and really thrash this out with conviction. Rush are back and they want the world to know it. It is a fantastic song with tons of melodic guitar and very powerful lyrics. One of the better Rush songs of recent years and it sounds incredible live.

'The vacant smile, Of true insanity, Dressed up in the mask of Tragedy, Programmed for the guts and glands, Of idle minds and idle hands, I rest my case, Or at least my vanity, Dressed up in the mask of Comedy, If laughter is a straw for a drowning man.'

'Ceiling Unlimited' is a feast of guitar and fast paced basslines with indelible percussion. The quick tempo works well making it feel very urgent and quite uplifting. The lyrics border on impenetrable but of course Peart was keeping a lot of his thoughts private and it is open to interpretation. The song drags on a bit and is not memorable but not too bad overall thanks to the driving beat.

'Sunrise in the mirror, Lightens that invisible load, Riding on a nameless quest, Haunting that wilderness road, Like a ghost rider, Just an escape artist, Racing against the night, A wandering hermit, Racing toward the light.'

'Ghost Rider' has a beautiful melody sung well by Lee and augmented with some very innovative guitar licks. The hopeful lyrics depict Peart motorcycling across North America following the tragedy of losing both his wife to a terminable disease and daughter in a car crash in the same year. The song is one of the best things on this album and it is Peart's songwriting that makes it extra special; 'nothing can stop you now'.

'All this time we're burning like bonfires in the dark, A billion other blazes are shooting off their sparks, Every spark a drifting ember of desire, To fall upon the earth and spark another fire, A homeward angel on the fly, A wave toward the clearing sky.'

'Peaceable Kingdom' begins with preternatural vocalisations and there is a strong cadence. The verses are primarily bass and some ambient guitars. Later there is a crunching guitar riff that is raw and harsh but it has emotion and passion. It feels like a throwaway track but at least it is heavier than the material on previous albums. I especially like the riff at 3:30 and the way it builds with layered vocals.

'Like the rat in a maze who says, 'Watch me choose my own direction', Are you under the illusion, The path is winding your way? Are you surprised by confusion, When it leads you astray? Have you lived a lifetime today, Or do you feel like you just got carried away?'

'The Stars Look Down' is based on the 1935 novel by A. J. Cronin that was concentric on how mankind is powerless to comprehend the main reasons why we have to suffer pain due to the tragedies that befall us. Of course Peart related to this and eloquently is able to convey the emotions of grief in the lyrics. The melody is upbeat but Lifeson's heavy guitars add a darker texture. The twelve-string guitar is a welcome addition, and Peart's drumming is forced and appropriate to the heavy atmospheres. The song is a highlight as it is a very different sound for Rush.

'Here's a little trap, That sometimes catches everyone, When today's as far as we can see, Faith in bright tomorrows, Giving way to resignation, That's how it is, How it's going to be.'

'How It Is' continues a fast pace with a ton of 12 string acoustic and a happier feel especially in the lyrics. I am not so taken with it and it is not one that stands out among the others on the album.

'Atmospheric phases make the transitory last, Vaporize the memories that freeze the fading past, Silence all the songbirds, Stilled by the killing frost, Forests burn to ashes, Everything is lost.'

'Vapor Trail' is another highlight with great musicianship. A touch of synth enhances the guitar break. Peart is terrific on fast drumming fills and the bass accentuates the sound. Overall the vocals sound excellent and this is always one of the delights of the album on every listen.

'Out of touch, With the weather and the wind direction, With the sunrise, And the phases of the moon, Out of touch, With life in the land of the loving, With the living night, And the darkness at high noon.'

'Secret Touch' is one of my favourites with it's memorable 'the way out is the way in,' mantra. I heard this live a few times on one of the many DVDs I own. The melody is nice and the whole thing sounds uplifting and optimistic. I like Peart's lyrics here and especially the way Lee injects so much emotion in the vocals. One of the best Rush moments on this album.

'Earthshine, Stretching out your hand, Full of starlit diamonds, Earthshine, Reflected light, To another's sight, And the moon tells a lover's story.'

Earthshine' is another fast paced track with some innovative guitar work. I like how it misses a beat in some sections. Lifeson unleashes a great lead break which is a nice change on this album. I like the lyrics that focus on the way occasionally the sun's light bounces off the Earth's surface and reflects to the moon, and then the moon shines its light back to the Earth. Perhaps this reflects Peart's thoughts as he controls the grief he feels by putting on a brave face hiding his true feelings like a mask. I think we can all relate to doing this occasionally to hide our feelings. I like the ideas that surface on this album such as this.

'I wasn't walking on water, I was standing on a reef, When the tide came in, Swept beneath the surface, Lost without a trace, No hope at all.'

'Sweet Miracle' is another sleeper that I have rarely heard but it is okay. The guitars are akin to the U2 sound of Edge. The lyrics are again full of hope despite tragedy and it is a credit to Peart that he was able to express such feelings. The music is also uptempo and bright to enhance the mood.

'Set off on a night-sea journey, Without memory or desire, Drifting through lost latitudes, With no compass and no chart, Flying through hallucination, Distant voices, signal fires, Lighting up my unconscious, And the secret places of the heart.'

'Nocturne' has a booming drum tempo and some grinding guitar distortion. The lyrics question if the protagonist had the dream or did the dream have him. The aggressive fuzz guitars are a welcome sound, and overall this is one of the darker explorations of Peart's thoughts. I like this as something very unique in the Rush canon, with a diverse sound and instrumentation. Lee screams in one section adding to the mystical atmospheres.

'Coiled for the spring, Or caught like a creature in the headlights, Into a desperate panic, Or a tempest of blind fury, Like a cornered beast, Or a conquering hero, The menace threatens, closing, And I'm frozen in the shadows.'

'Freeze (Part IV of Fear)' is the continuing saga began on earlier albums that deals with fear. The riffing and deep growling bass are a feature but it is monotonous. It is an unremarkable song but still not half as bad as a lot of material on their 80s albums, so at least the band have stepped up a notch on this heavier sound. It is a bit noisy though, the multilayered processed vocals are annoying after a while, and it is way too long and repetitive.

'It's a hand, That rocks the cradle, It's a motion, That swings the sky, It's method on the edge of madness, It's a balance on the edge of a knife, It's a smile on the edge of sadness, It's a dance on the edge of life, Endlessly rocking.'

'Out Of The Cradle' closes things off with a breakout of heavy guitar riffs and energetic drumming. Lee still opts for a processed vocal which does not resonate with me when I know he has great vocals without studio trickery. It is again not a highlight on the album but rocks hard and is an interesting song to finish on. Peart is saying despite all that has happened the band will keep on endlessly rocking, and thank heavens for that!

Overall 'Vapor Trails' is certainly not half as bad as the critics attest. It is no masterpiece but at least it rocks and the lyrics are some of the best Peart has penned. 3 solid stars.
Anyone who is familiar with Rush knows that the band was going through some tough shit in the late ‘90s. Drummer Neil Peart tragically lost both his daughter and his wife in the span of less than a year, effectively putting the band on a hiatus for quite some time. It’s because of this that Vapor Trails even getting released in the first place was surprising to people, since most had written the band off. But as fate would have it, the trio from Canada did indeed reunite to record their comeback effort in 2001-one that a decade later, people still aren’t too sure about.

First: the infamous production. Yes, it sucks. It’s a freakin’ mess. Alex Lifeson’s guitar is too distorted. Geddy Lee’s vocals are either too muffled or too up-front, depending on which vocal effects are used (more on this later). It’s too dense. It’s basically the opposite of the clean, professional production that Rush had used for the previous twenty years, and it’s probably the main reason why people tend to shun Vapor Trails. What’s curious about this is that the band actually spent a really long time writing and recording it; although the circumstances definitely warranted Rush easing back into the swing of things, it’s still a little strange to think that Vapor Trails came out the way it did.

However, I present to you a different perspective: the production on Vapor Trails can actually be seen as a blessing in disguise. GASP! Sure, when compared in a vacuum to virtually any Rush album before it, Vapor Trails sounds awful, but just listen to the songs. There is a discernible energy to this album that Counterparts and Test for Echo lack. Part of this is undoubtedly due to Vapor Trails being Rush’s “reunion” album (the time off giving them some really emotional tunes to write), but you can’t convince me that songs like “Earthshine” or “Ghost Rider” would sound nearly as good with the production that they used on their 90s material. Simply put, the songs on Vapor Trails have a bite, an edge, a punch about them, and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

When you think about it, though, this falls right in line with Rush constantly changing and evolving to fit the times. They have fathered both proto-metal and progressive rock, explored synths in a way that wasn’t totally cheesy, and successfully experimented with grunge and alternative rock sounds; it should come as no surprise that they would eventually release an album like Vapor Trails (let alone in their late 40s). It’s noticeably devoid of guitar solos, Lifeson instead opting for a dirtier guitar tone to fit the riff-oriented songs. The keyboards are totally gone. The traditional Rush melodies are still there, but in a way that’s both charged and yet unable to get out. It’s quite fitting, as you can almost feel the band’s emotional experiences spilling over into their music. Granted, melodically structured songs like “How it Is” tend to be thrown away by the fanbase because they sound buried, but there’s still plenty of beauty to be found here. And on the other side of things, songs like the opener “One Little Victory” and “Nocturne” are what the band tried to do on Counterparts: use a guitar-based sound to create energetic, aggressive tracks.

Really, what Vapor Trails suffers most from is filler. There aren’t any songs here that I’d call “bad,” but the album certainly could be a couple of tracks shorter; it’s getting the point in the band’s career where you have to wonder if another installment of “Fear” is really necessary. And the “thousand Geddy” approach to the vocals can get a little irritating, too. I know the guy’s getting up there in age, but I think the band waited one album too long to get him to sing in a lower register, instead of adding all sorts of vocal effects to the already muddy sound (although Snakes and Arrows had both). I mean, they’re not even consistent, and they’re the only thing on this album that sounds thrown together or done at the last minute.

In the end, what is usually regarded as the most dividing album in Rush’s career is simply another exploration in a new sound; this time, it’s heavier and more intimate, a perfect match to suit the most tumultuous time in the band’s history. It may not be a top album in their extensive discography, but there are plenty of hidden gems here, more than enough to give Vapor Trails a fair shake. Remember, production isn’t everything!
After his wife and daughter both died within a year of each other, it seemed as though Neal Peart was simply too shattered to continue with Rush. After a lot of soul-searching and a long road trip, Peart finally felt ready to get back in the saddle and the result was Vapor Trails. The infamously slipshod production job has already been discussed to death so I won't get into that here - what I will say is that Rush seem fairly laid back here, operating mainly within the comfort zone they had settled into over the past two decades and offering few surprises. Then again, I guess they were just thrilled to be back in the studio at all.

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