Most longtime Rush fans realize that a new album from the Canadian trio in the early 21st century is quite an accomplishment. After drummer Neil Peart's much-publicized tragic turn of events in his private life not long after Rush's 1996 release Test for Echo (the death of both his teenage daughter and wife less than a year apart), the group's future was understandably cast into doubt. Slowly but surely, however, the band regained their footing and issued their 17th studio album in 2002, Vapor Trails.
You would think that a veteran band entering their fourth decade together would perhaps mellow out a bit, but this doesn't prove to be case -- as evidenced by the leadoff track, One Little Victory, while the majority of the album follows the same direct and hard-hitting sound as their past couple of releases (fans of the group's more synth-based and sterile mid-'80s style will have to look elsewhere).
Neil Peart, who remains the group's main lyricist, opts to conquer such challenging subject matter as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on Peaceable Kingdom, while bits of the lyric to Ghost Rider (Pack up all those phantoms/Shoulder that invisible load) leads the listener to believe that perhaps the drummer is sharing his personal healing process with the fans. Other standouts include the melodic Sweet Miracle, the explosive Out of the Cradle, the mid-paced title track, and Earthshine, the latter of which showcases how fine Geddy Lee's voice has matured (especially when compared to his high-piercing shriek on Rush's early albums). All in all, Vapor Trails does an amiable job of signaling the welcomed return of Rush.