Album Review: Styx – The Mission (2017)

It isn’t often that a group can go through so much drama and so many lineup changes as Styx did throughout the late eighties and nineties and still work as a touring band; it is much less often that they can release new material that isn’t, simply put, horrible by the standards of their former selves. You wouldn’t be outcast for thinking this would also be the case with Styx’s newest concept album, The Mission , especially given their not-so-pretty track record with concept albums in the past, *cough* Kilroy Was Here *cough*.

This, however, is not one of those instances, and one could even argue that Styx as a unit have never sounded better. Their first album since their 2005 covers album Big Bang Theory, and the first of original material since 2003’s Cyclorama, The Mission is about the first manned mission to Mars, and sounds a lot more like vintage seventies Styx than a pointless shot at redemption, despite the wildly different personnel list. In fact, the absence of Denis DeYoung is hardly noticeable, especially when compared to earlier previous albums after DeYoung’s departure. 

The opening track on The Mission, a short intro track called “Overture”, includes some fun shots and drum fills before fading into the first big highlight of the album and the lead single, “Gone Gone Gone”. Both of these tracks have quickly found their place in Styx’s permanent concert setlist, often played together as the show’s opener, as they are fast, energetic, and demonstrate the band’s ability to seamlessly work as one unit.

 Later tracks in the album like “Radio Silence” and “For the Greater Good” demonstrate both Styx’s tendency to write rock ballads in the best ways possible. “Radio Silence” has some of Tommy Shaw’s best vocals of any Styx song, while the latter has great vocals from Lawrence Gowan and one of Shaw’s best and most emotional guitar solos of his entire career. 

Styx also shows their more progressive side of the concept album with “Red Storm” and “Time May Bend”, largely due to them containing sections working in 5/4 and 7/4 time signatures respectively. “Red Storm” also showcases Todd Sucherman’s prowess behind the drum kit. Another more abstract piece, at least for a rock album, is the piano-solo-y track “Khedive”, which grabs Gowan’s pianist skills and throws them right in your face in a very likable way. 

Overall, The Mission is right up there with Styx triple-platinum classics like The Grand Illusion (1977), Pieces of Eight (1978), and Paradise Theatre (1981); it would undoubtedly be one of the best rock albums of the decade if its success was more mainstream-oriented, as most of the songs are skillful and retrospective to the golden years with DeYoung, but also have a special modern-day feel to them that is not easy to pull off. To spell it out short and sweet, The Mission proves Styx still has not only a lot left in the tank in terms of touring, but songwriting as well.

Overall rating: 10/10

Published by Jeremy Bader

Aspiring writer, film and music lover, drummer.

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