Snakes and Arrows is a 2007 studio album by the Canadian rock band Rush. It was their 18th full-length studio album and their first studio outing since 2004's Feedback. It was also their first complete studio album since Vapor Trails in 2002. The album was recorded in 5 weeks between November and December 2006 at Allaire Studios in New York’s Catskill Mountains and mixed and mastered at Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles, California. Snakes and Arrows debuted at #3 on the The Billboard 200 chart where it remained for 14 weeks. It was certified gold in Canada in September 2007. The track "Malignant Narcissism" was nominated for a Grammy Award under the category Best Rock Instrumental Performance. The album was named as one of Classic Rock's 10 essential progressive rock albums of the decade.
According to drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, inspiration for the title of the album was conceived after considerable research from several sources; the 2000-year-old Buddhist game called "Leela, the Game of Self Knowledge," the related children's game Snakes and Ladders (also known as Chutes and Ladders), and Hamlet's quote "slings and arrows". This information helped convince bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson to adopt the original painting of the age old game board as the cover for the new album.
Writing for Snakes and Arrows began in January 2006 with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson working at their home studio in Toronto. During this process, Neil Peart wrote preliminary lyrics for the songs, a creative method the band has frequently employed on their earlier works. By March 2006, rough versions of 6 songs had been completed. The three band members met in Quebec to listen to the material recorded thus far. In May 2006, they refined the songs in a small professional studio in Toronto. After the first 6 songs were recorded, the band set out to write and record additional songs in September. American producer Nick Raskulinecz, who worked with Foo Fighters, was hired to assist the band in producing the album. Raskulinecz, a self-proclaimed fan of the band, volunteered to work on the album after hearing about its production on the internet, and two months later was invited to meet the band. Raskulinecz reportedly encouraged the band members to explore the limits of their renowned talents and enthusiastically encouraged the band to incorporate the complex rhythmic and melodic patterns that characterized their earlier works. According to Alex Lifeson, musical themes for the album were written and developed using acoustic guitars to work out the major parts. These parts were ultimately recorded using acoustic or electric guitars, or other instruments. Both Lifeson and Lee used this as an alternative to more traditional methods of song development, which saw the use of amplified electric guitars and the assistance of electronic instruments. The final tracking of the album was recorded at Allaire Studios in Shokan, New York; mixed by Richard Chycki at Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles, California and mastered by Brian Gardner. This album contains multiple instrumental tracks: "The Main Monkey Business", "Hope," and "Malignant Narcissism". Neil Peart's customary essay on the writing and recording of the album, called The Game of Snakes and Arrows, has been released on the Rush website.