This is the successor to Power Windows and you could argue it’s more of the same. At least on first listen.
Synths are definitely more front and centre and on a few tracks, they dominate so strongly, you wonder if Alex Lifeson is on the record at all. Particularly on tracks like Tai Shan which veers heavily into synth-pop/New Wave territory. The band later admitted the song was a mistake. I don’t mind it personally, but it’s not Rush, that’s for sure.
While I said this album is more of the same compared to Power Windows, it’s not the unity that album was. It took me a lot longer to warm to Hold Your Fire. Where the songs on Power Windows individually felt like one eighth of a whole, there’s none of that rhythm here. No space and power together here. Lots of either, but not both.The guitars sound short and sharp and are often buried under all the 80s synths. For the first (and only time) Rush use a female vocalist, on Time Stand Still. That’s indicative of the direction they went here and some fans may have wondered where their favourite hard rock/prog rock band went.
That being said, there are some glorious rockers here, namely Force Ten and Turn The Page. Neil Peart’s lyrics are at their preachiest on any record they’ve made and in a way I’m glad they retreated from the overall vibe of their “synth period” that started with Moving Pictures. It reaches an apex here and the next album, Presto is a far harder, guitar-heavy record.