Their musical style has changed greatly over the lifetime of the group. Albums prior to 1980's Permanent Waves are a mix of heavy metal and progressive rock similar to Yes or Genesis, and visually sometimes demonstrating their birth within the short-lived era of glitter rock[?] bands, such as Iggy Pop or Ziggy Stardust, wearing flashy (or ridiculous, depending on your point of view) costumes and stage shows. The lyrics of that time were heavily influenced by science fiction, as exhibited most prominently by 1976's 2112.
Permanent Waves changed things dramatically. Although the music was still based on heavy-metal style, more and more keyboards were introduced. The themes of the songs changed dramatically, and became far more in common with alternative rock than prog-rock. One song in particular, Spirit of Radio (named for the Toronto-local groundbreaking radio station, CFNY), went on to become a huge hit on the alternative circuit. Another favorite on American "Classic Rock" stations to this day is Tom Sawyer from 1981's Moving Pictures[?]. From that point on their albums of the 1980s tended to follow this lead, although recordings in the later 80s and 90s have sometimes been derided as boring, or mainstream.
Each of the three individual artists has successfully produced & released work independent of the band's structure.
After a six-year hiatus (the longest in their career) mostly induced by tragedies in Peart's personal life, the band returned in 2002 with a surprisingly heavy Vapor Trails album, the first entirely without keyboards in a over twenty years.