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Metal n' More Meth Minute: A Sunday Rant

Dan Meth explores an important question: is Rush heavy metal.

Okay, Rush isn't Dethklok, but... let's see... "Working Man"? "Finding my Way"? "Witch Hunt"? "Stick It Out"? "2112"?! Okay, let me break it down.

Rush was in the 70's was old-school metal, like Led Zepplin, like Black Sabbath. I think I remember reading that Geddy and Alex played Clapton covers at coffee shops in Canada. Rush, like many great bands that produce more than a score of albums, wrote a lot of different kinds of music. Rush became Rush by transcending those other influences and becoming the defining band of the progressive rock movement. Rush became the musical force that it is when it transcended those influences and produced albums like Moving Pictures, Permanent Waves, and Counterparts. And all of those albums have songs that are definitely metal.

And yet take a poll of old-school Metallica fans, and you will find a strong corresponding love for Rush. Their early body of work has a more viscerally rock sound, something we'd more often associate with a metal sound.

Name the qualities of metal?

Funny enough, due to my personal agony over a band I call Disappointica, I've thought a lot about what "metal" is. I think it goes like this:

  • 70's: Sabbath. Metal.
  • 80's: Metallica. Metal.
  • 90's: Pantera. Metal.
It is my firm belief that Geddy Lee wanted to be Robert Plant when they first started. Listen to Rush's first album. Rush has strong and complex riffs early on, but of course that mellowed some when their sound reached its electronic peak sometime around Power Windows. It is this technical emphasis that made Rush develop alongside bands like Genesis, Kansas and Yes in the progressive movement later on.

Metal is three things: distortion, aggression, and virtuosity. The distorted sound of the electric guitar is arguably what created "rock", and I think that "metal" is ultimately just an exaggeration of that. Metal music sounds "heavy" because it is distorted and low. Metal means aggressive music. And virtuosity has long been its defining characteristic that separates it from its similar-looking-but-entirely-different cousin, punk.

So: is Rush metal?

To come back to my original statement, yes, of course Rush was metal, in the 70's. Like Zepplin, Sabbath and Cream, Rush had heavy distortion and played with great virtuosity. They were not particularly aggressive, more imaginative, but the fiercely independent lyrical voice of Neil Peart creates several angry moments in their corpus.

Rush's first few albums are decidedly 70's metal, and they continued to produce "metal" music throughout their career, even if their overall focus was elsewhere in progressive rock.

After all, look at Rush's most immediate successors: Queensrÿche and Dream Theater. That umlaut in Queensrÿche metal enough for you?

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.