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Styx

The Mission

Review by Gary Hill

I know that Styx fans have fallen into two camps, the DeYoung people who claim that this version of Styx isn't really Styx and those  who support this lineup. Well, I've never been a huge Styx fan, but I've always liked the band. I have to say that I think this lineup of Styx is better than the band ever was with DeYoung. I say that in part from seeing them live, but that feeling is definitely reinforced with this amazing new album.

 

This is an ambitious effort, a concept album about a mission to Mars. It features various characters voiced by different members of the band. This is decidedly progressive rock. It has parts that are trademark Styx, but I can hear things like Spock's Beard and modern Yes in the mix, too. This is one of the finest albums this band has ever produced. I can say that it's almost a lock to make my "best of 2017" list. If you have ever liked Styx (and who hasn't) do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It's a masterpiece.

 

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Overture

Coming in dramatic and bombastic, this is a full on prog rock jam from the start. It works through some shifts and changes. It's trademark Styx, but it even feels just a bit like Yes in some ways. There are a few processed vocals on this, but overall it's more of an instrumental.

Gone Gone Gone

They bring it into hard rocking territory here. There are hints of Southern rock on this thing. It also has some trademark Styx sounds. This is a powerhouse stomper.

Hundred Million Miles From Home
A mellower cut, this has some killer powered up sections. It's catchy and more of a straight-ahead rocker. Still, there are proggy things here. They just happen to be more AOR.
Trouble At The Big Show
There is a bit of a blues rock vibe as this opens. The vocals come in over the top of that arrangement. This is slow moving and builds slowly. The chorus section is more in line with the AOR prog side of things. I love the guitar soloing on this piece. There are some bits of conversation in the background later in the track as the music has wound down.
Locomotive
Keyboards bring this into being. Then some acoustic guitar is added to the mix. After it moves forward in that format for a while we get a bass guitar led segment that's more purely proggy. I love the keyboards that come over the top of that. This drops way down from there, and we are taken into a cool section with layers of non-lyrical vocals added to the backdrop for the next vocal movement. It works out to a smoking hot instrumental section from there. When it resolves out from there we have another full prog treatment, but it's less AOR oriented. There is a drop back to more sound-bite driven effects after that.
Radio Silence
Keyboards dominate the early arrangement here. This is a very prog oriented introduction. It drops to more of a ballad-like arrangement for the vocals. As this powers out into the chorus, I'm again reminded of Yes a bit. Sure, it has a trademark Styx sound at the same time, but Yes is a clear reference point. They take us through a number of shifts and changes. This is hard rocking, but distinctly prog rocking at the same time.
The Greater Good
This starts with voice and piano. As the cut grows outward it has some Beatles-like elements built into it.  There are some cool vocal harmonies on the chorus. I love the interplay between the two voices on the later verses. This is another that's definitely a prog rocker.
Time May Bend
The killer jam that opens this is about as prog rock oriented as you could ask it to be. It drops to a more electronic element for the vocals, but powers upward from there for the next section. This thing has a number of changes and really rocks. It has some Styx trademarks in terms of the vocal arrangement and hooks, but it's a new direction for the band at the same time.
Ten Thousand Ways

This is a melodic prog rock piece.

Red Storm

The story is moved forward via some spoken sound bits. The cut works forward This is a powerhouse cut that's dynamic and diverse. this is a complex and powerful piece of music. The wall of vocals on this is trademark Styx. This is a full prog rock treatment for sure. It gets quite heavy at times. This is just such a brilliant piece of music. Some of the parts of this make me think of Spock's Beard. Sound effects serve to drop it back and piano brings it back up from there.

All Systems Stable

This is a short theatrical bit.

Khedive

I love the complex, nearly classical music that makes up this cut. Vocals soar over the top of a piano backdrop. Keyboards, and particularly piano, makes up the bulk of this piece.

The Outpost
This comes in with a rather electronic music element. The vocals come in over the top of that as they bring it forward. Styx and Yes seem to merge when it powers up from there. This is another cut that's quite dynamic. At times it's extremely heavy. At other times it's mellower. It's full on progressive rock. I love the complex vocal arrangement.
Mission To Mars
Keyboards bring this into being. They launch out from there into another jam that's part Styx and part Spock's Beard. Again, I love the vocal arrangement here. Another that works through a number of shifts and changes, this is a great way to end things in style.
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