Background and Commentary
The character of the anarchist in the Clockwork Angels narrative represents pure evil and disorder. Where the watchmaker represents order, the anarchist represents the antithesis, disorder. The anarchist is driven by his smoldering anger at life, at the way he was treated when he was growing up.
Neil says he took some cues from Michael Ondaatje and Joseph Conrad in writing this piece, which David Everley of Classic Rock says has “Eastern-tinged flourishes.” Ondaatje is best known for The English Patient, the story of a Hungarian cartographer whose intense affair with a married woman during World War II sets off a series of events that eventually end with him burned beyond recognition and convalescing at a remote villa in Italy, and Conrad is the literary giant whose most important work is probably Heart of Darkness, about the unfathomable depths of man’s capacity for evil.
“The Anarchist” was one of the first songs written for the record, Alex says in a MusicRadar interview. “It goes back a couple of years. So far, the response has been quite strong, which I didn’t really expect. It’s an in-your-face song, and it’s a powerful part of the whole suite. If you listen to the demo and the final version, they’re pretty close, although a couple of things are different. There’s an instrumental melody line that Nick got us to think about that really gives the song its signature. The rest of it is pretty much the same as it was on the demo. It has an Eastern influence, which is somewhere we’ve gone before; it’s something we all feel and like a lot. The way that Neil and Nick approached the drum arrangements was great. Typically, after we’ve written everything, I make copies of songs for Neil with drum programs or click tracks so that he has some reference points that he might want to use or develop. So he goes through the songs methodically, works on his drum arrangements, and he memorizes what he’s going to play. It takes a month or so, and after that we go about recording. This time around, Nick came in and said, ‘I want to record on the first day. Let’s put up a song, and you’ll learn it while playing it. We’ll do a bunch of takes and see where it goes.’ I think it was an incredibly challenging way for Neil to work, but he’s the kind of person who constantly needs new challenges in his life. And he really plays like crazy on the record—he’s very, very free. Of course, he’s got his work cut out for him because he’s got to learn everything to play live.”
The piece “was one of the more satisfying bass tracks, and it will probably be the most difficult for me to sing and play!” Geddy says in a Bass Player interview. “The bass line drives the chorus and is an integral part of the song. When I put the chorus together, it was very much writing the bass melody and then writing the vocal melody to work around that bass melody. I recorded two bass tracks: the first down low and the second doubled an octave above, to give it that 8-string-bass vibe-but recording them separately allows you to control the tone much better than actually using an 8-string bass.”
The “bass melody holds [the] chorus together,” eddy says in a Nov. 12, 2012, Premier Guitar interview. “So that was driving the chorus, and when I wrote the vocal melody it really had more to do with how those lyrics needed to be expressed, and I found to my dismay [laughs] when I came to rehearse them, that they were very difficult to do at the same time. I feared that bass line, and I made sure I went into rehearsal extra early this year. I’m a big believer in the 10,000-hour series—I put a lot of hours into that! . . . It’s the syncopation—or the lack of syncopation. Rhythmically, the way the bass drives and the way the vocal sits on it are really quite different.”
“A sprightly, snaggle-toothed guitar riff leads to a boisterous rocker in which Lee, Lifeson and Peart tumble over one another with calisthenic agility. It’s interesting how few bassists can drive the melodic center of a song without coming off as scenery chewers. Sting is one, and in his own way, Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris is another. Geddy Lee fills the room here, particularly in the chorus, and he’s supported by Lifeson and Peart, both of whom allow him to reach into himself. Not that the other guys don’t get some, too: Peart punches holes in the mix. His approach is, for the most part, free-wheeling and swinging, but every so often he whacks the snare to such a degree that his hits sound like gunshots. And Lifeson turns in a delirious, elastic solo – during one rather grand phrase he reminds one of Eric Johnson, that sweet, tubey violin tone of his. The song ends abruptly, and you’ll probably do a double take as you hear shards of metal clanging and falling, the journey powering forward.”—Joe Bosso, MusicRadar
“Already there is the sense that Clockwork Angels is different; whereas recent albums have been somewhat introvert and closed, this is anything but. Epic on a massive scale, ‘The Anarchist’ continues the trend of more upbeat, faster, and heavier tunes that is beginning to form the musical theme of this record. Here we have the sound of a band relaxed and having an enormous amount of fun. Despite being more in keeping with the modern day Rush compositions, it still fits right in alongside the more classical title track.”—Dominic Hemy, The Digital Fix
“‘The Anarchist’ is aptly named, as it conjures another subtle dimension to the whole [album], and that’s post-punk, Alex and Ged angling their chords and melodies, everything more sour than sweet, Neil jamming, this one with a Vapor Trails vibe. A ringing Beatles chord ends it, which brings up another creep, that of these haunting inter-song bits, which evokes the Shining-like horror of the lone Trader Horne album.”—Martin Popoff, BraveWords
The piece is “driving, forceful and rhythmically insistent.” It has a “wonderful, eastern European melody, including an almost Kansas-like violin line, mixing comfortably with some great riff-play from Alex Lifeson, along with a guitar solo that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Zeppelin album.”—Rob Palladino, Audio Times
WALKING AMONG THE PEOPLE – who are so content, so blind – the Anarchist hears the pedlar’s call, and sneers derisively. “What do I lack? Ah … vengeance?”
Will there be wor1d enough and time for me to sing that song?
A voice so silent for so long
For all those years I had to get along, they told me I was wrong
I never wanted to belong – I was so strong
I lack their smiles and their diamonds; I lack their happiness and love
I envy them for all those things, I never got my fair share of
The lenses inside of me that paint the world black
The pools of poison, the scarlet mist, that spill over into rage
The things I’ve always been denied
An early promise that somehow died
A missing part of me that grows around me like a cage
In all your science of the mind, seeking blind through flesh and bone
Find the blood inside this stone
What I know, I’ve never shown; what I feel, I’ve always known
I plan my vengeance on my own – and I was always alone
Oh – They tried to get me
Oh – They’ll never forget me
By Cedar Redac
Excerpted from Ultimate Guitar.
Tempo: About 160 bpm
The guitar solo isn’t perfect, but I think you’ll get a decent idea. The song starts with one measure of drums.
Riff 2(Bass starts): same progression, but the last two chords are
power chords. Strummed as eighth notes.
Riff 3: Strummed eighth notes
Riff 4: Strummed eighth notes 5 eighths then 3 eighths
Riff 5: E Power Chord held for 8 measures.
I use a tremolo effect set to triplet eighth notes.
Chorus Riff: Eighth notes
For complete tab, go to Ultimate Guitar.
“The Anarchist” guitar cover
“The Anarchist” bass cover
“The Anarchist” drum cover