Styx – The Mission Review

Released by: Universal

Release Date: June 16th, 2017

Genre: Classic Rock

Links: https://www.facebook.com/styxtheband/

 

Line Up:

Lawrence Gowan – keyboards, vocals
Tommy Shaw – guitar, vocals
James Young – guitar, vocals
Ricky Phillips – bass
Chuck Panozzo – bass (Bass on “Hundred Million Miles from Home”)
Todd Sucherman – drums

 

Tracklist:

  1. “Overture”

2. “Gone Gone Gone”

3. “Hundred Million Miles from Home”

4. “Trouble at the Big Show”

5. “Locomotive”

6. “Radio Silence”

7. “The Greater Good”

8. “Time May Bend”

9. “Ten Thousand Ways”

10. “The Red Storm”

11. “All Systems Stable”

12. “Khedive”

13. “The Outpost”

14. “Mission to Mars”

 

I’ll date myself a little here, but my earliest introduction to music was Alice Cooper, KISS, The Beatles, and Black Sabbath, all played on my beat up record player (yes, LP’s.) This was my soundtrack through the 70’s all the way up until 1983. LP’s were my go-to deal (though my collection was small, and was hand-me-down albums from my Dad other than the KISS,) but in 1983 I got my first two tapes: Quiet Riot’s Metal Health and Styx’s Kilroy Was Here. Both albums blew my mind and set me on a dual path of 80′ Hard Rock and began my love of Styx. Though that album divides most people (hardcore fans detest it and fans who came to the band via that album love it.) Lucky for me I got to delve deeper into their catalog. My Dad had The Grand Illusion in his vinyl collection and I hijacked it as much as possible. Slowly, as I built up a massive tape collection I had accrued most of their catalog for myself (the first three albums alluded me for some time, however.) I remain, to this very day, a huge Styx fan. While some abandoned ship with the exit of Dennis DeYoung and though some of their post-DeYoung output has left some fans not feeling it, I have remained ever faithful. When I heard they had a new album of original music (the first since 2003’s Cyclorama) I got super eager to hear it. Then I heard a couple of tracks on Spotify that left me feeling uncertain. I reserved my final thoughts until I heard the whole thing.

The album is called The Mission, and unbeknownst to me upon my first spin, is a full-fledged concept album. They’ve had albums that perhaps went well together and had a common thread through it, but this is 100% a full-on concept album. It deals with a subject that they have tackled before (space,) but is more of an open letter to the planet Earth inhabitant’s that we need to start taking care of our planet before it’s too late. It’s not overtly political, but very clearly is a “save the planet” motif while rocketing through outer space, seeking out a new haven for us in case we don’t do due diligence. I’ll let the listener decide as to whether the subject matter is for them or not. Personally, album subject matter isn’t all that important to me. I can say this with full confidence about the album from a music standpoint: it’s truly brilliant- certainly the best thing they have done in ages. Somehow they tapped into that old school Styx vibe much more powerfully than they have since they were old school. Yet they also managed to hold on to that harder rocking edge they’ve had since the departure of DeYoung. Tommy Shaw and James Young were always more into the rock part instead of the schmaltzy ballads and show tune type stuff Dennis was driving the band towards (I actually managed to like both.) Lawrence Gowan, the man behind the ivories and the vocal portion typically handled by Dennis, isn’t a cookie cutter copy of DeYoung, but has a strong enough voice, amazing abilities on the keyboard, and a great songwriter in his own right, that unless you’re a blind Dennis DeYoung supporter, he has done a more than capable job of filling those shoes.

Shaw handles the bulk of the vocal duties while JY takes more of a backseat in that area, yet both pull out all the stops guitar wise. Without a doubt, these two are my top ten favorite twin guitarists. Both have always been able to create some stunning guitar pieces between the two and work so well off of each other. Also, both guys are completely unique players, making them stand out from the pack. Then with longtime drummer Todd Sucherman, bassist Ricky Phillips, and special guest appearance by original bassist Chuck Panozzo on a track, the band are in top shape and have come up with a powerful collection of new songs that are excellent additions to their already legendary catalog. One song in particular, “Locomotive,” is one of Tommy Shaw’s finest moments. Other standouts are “Gone Gone Gone,” “Radio Silence,” and the understated but wonderful “The Greater Good.”

If you’re not already a Styx fan to some degree, this album isn’t gonna put you on their Fan Club List. If you gave up on them after Kilroy, this may be the one to bring you back, unless it’s Dennis or nothing. Honestly, the album, on first listen, didn’t hit me as strongly as it did on the second and the rest thereafter. I knew it was good, but by the second go-round I got it, and have been hooked ever since. The concept album idea is a lofty undertaking for a band with this history and this late in their career, but they totally nailed it. The Mission is absolutely brilliant and the men of Styx should be damn proud of it.

 

Written by: Chris Martin

Rating: 10/10

 

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