"I've got my own moral compass to steer by/A guiding star beats a spirit in the sky." —from "Faithless"
To borrow a line from Beck, prog-rock trio Rush are a little worse for the wear, but they're wearing it well. Listening to Snakes and Arrows, it's easy to believe that these guys have been banging away at it since 1968, but it's also easy to see—and hear—that they've lost almost none of the vim and vigor that marked their youth. They can still play circles around musicians half their age, and even if their familiar storm of raging guitars, bone-rattling drums, and fluid bass riffs suggests that there's not much here in the way of sonic adventure or experimentation, the primal fury of their playing and the sheer complexity of their writing makes it clear that they're still a long way from phoning it in.
It's that genuine enthusiasm—even so far into their career—combined with drummer Neil Peart's increasingly open and confessional lyrics that makes Rush so appealing this late in the game. Their records have only become warmer and easier to embrace, without losing any of their drive or exuberance. And to that end, Snakes and Arrows might be something of a songwriting peak, even if it's occasionally a bleak contrast of religion and faith.
During a motorcycle journey across the United States, Peart was affected by the various Christian billboards that line America's roads. "Just seeing the power of evangelical Christianity and contrasting that with the power of fundamentalist religion all over the world in its different forms had a big effect on me," he said in an interview with Billboard.com. "I looked for the good side of faith. To me it ought to be your armor, something to protect you and something ...1