Musically, the piece is upbeat, with an attractive Rush guitar sound, but the lyrics, like virtually all of the lyrics on Victor, are rather dark. As with his few forays into lyric writing with Rush (most notably “Lessons” on 2112), Alex’s lyrics in “Promise” are enigmatic, but they evoke vague feelings of unresolved conflict. The narrator appears to be releasing frustration with a significant other, but it could also be read as a frustration with himself. “One more glass / A million more days / One more smoke / Release me from my ways.” Alex says he recorded a version of the piece with former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach, but for the album he went with Edwin from I Mother Earth to give the album a consistent sound.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault
“When we first wrote ‘Promise’, Sebastian was in town for Christmas. He’s from fairly close to Toronto. He popped by my place and put a vocal on that song. The problem was that as things developed, and as I wrote the rest of the material for the record, I really wanted to have one single voice on there—one single male voice. So, when I talked to Edwin about working on the record and we got focused on all the songs, I decided to go with him. The take that Sebastian did on the song was really, really great, and Sebastian is a fabulous singer. Talk about energy! The whole studio at home was shaking when he was out there jumping around, bouncing off the walls doing it. I really felt really badly about not using him on the record, because I know that it meant something to him, and he really enjoyed working on it. Unfortunately, I had to make that call, and I did.”—Alex in a January 1996 Rockline interview.
“‘Promise’ begins with a nice Rush-esque riff, a bit reminiscent of the ‘Fly by Night’ kind of sound. It’s a nice counterpart to the heavy opener, ‘Don’t Care.’ Edwin (vocalist from I Mother Earth) is really great on this track, hitting the notes perfectly and shining during the chorus. If I’m not mistaken, the breakdown during the chorus is in 9/4.”—Cygnus X-2 on Prog Archives.
“‘Promise’ is one of my favorites. This is an uptempo tune that reminds me instrumentally of Rush, with a screaming guitar solo four minutes in before we get back to the catchy melody.”—Mellotron Storm on Prog Archives.
“Rush’s style can be heard in ‘Promise.’ The riff could be in some of their last efforts.”—The Crow on Prog Archives.