Rush Test For Echo Anthem Records **** (out of five)
The title of this, the Canadian trio's 16th (!) studio album, refers to one question that has informed every recent cultural phenomenon from the explosion of the Internet to the return of The Dating Game: "Hallo-o-o-o-o. Is there anybody out there?"
Though it bears a stylistic resemblance to 1991's Roll The Bones, Test For Echo is both warmer and far more varied than that benchmark album.
Two tracks, Driven and Virtuality, kick off with classic hard-rock riffs from Alex Lifeson, while numbers such as Totem and Resist deftly incorporate layers of acoustic guitar work into the mix.
There's even a glint of humor in the uncharacteristically light-hearted Dog Years. Inspired by a column in the New York Times, its chorus is carried along by an absolutely groan-inducing pun: "Dog years - it's the season of the itch." Problem is, Geddy Lee sings that jokey line exactly the same way he sings everything else here: as though the fate of the civilized world depended on his ability to not crack a smile.
Still, that's an exceedingly minor complaint. All in all, Test For Echo does much more than re-affirm this band's ability to soldier on after more than 20 years together.
It stands as their finest work in more than a decade.