By most accounts this was the first decent album by the Canadian rock trio. The 20 minute long suite on the first side is an enjoyably daft prog-metal romp. Neil Peart's lyrics narrate a preposterous sci-fi story about a planet whose leaders have banned music. The protagonist discovers a guitar and then unsuccessfully proceeds to introduce his fellow citizens to its delights.
However back in the real world, Alex Lifeson is on great form with his Zeppelin-influenced hard riffs and solos. The introductory "Temple of Syrinx" is a plainly great rock tune. The rock is mingled with contrasting slow sections, like where the protagonist discovers the strange object with "wires that vibrate". These seemed rambling at first but grew on me. Geddy Lee's piercing voice goes into yelp and screech mode far too often, but he's mostly in control and has a strong tone. As endearingly cheesy as the concept is, you have to cringe at the announcement which ends the piece: "attention all planets of the solar federation! (x3) we have assumed control! (x3)".
The short songs on the second side have their moments, mostly melodic hard rockers. "A Passage to Bangkok" is angular and tastefully Oriental. "Tears" is a pretty ballad whose 12 string and Mellotron give an early Genesis sound. A good album overall, rooted in straightforward rock, but they would develop a more individual sound on subsequent stuff.
May 12, 2004