Styx - The Mission

Styx The Mission cover
Styx
The Mission
UMe
2017
8
Average: 5.8 (55 votes)
Styx is a band that’s seemingly perpetually on tour, has existed since forever and has been perpetually “uncool” but somehow managed several No 1s and platinum album sales, back in the day. Obviously it goes without saying that all of their lineups have been comprised of top notch musicians, which should help to explain how and why they achieved all that…
 
The band was mostly active in the 70s when they released albums literally every year and peaking in the later years into the early 80s when the band broke up after the tensions that arose during the whole “Killroy Was Here” tour based on the eponymous and very successful album.
 
Styx went through two reunions, a death of a member and other personnel trouble and have only managed five studio albums since their reunion plus some live and a covers album. “The Mission” actually is the first studio attempt after 2003’s “Cyclorama”, which wasn’t bad, but did “poorly” along with all other early millennial “Sanctuary” output.
 
It was unclear what one could expect some fourteen years later from Styx. They promised to release an album that could stand up to their classic works and surprisingly enough they seem to have managed just that with “The Mission”, a… (wait for it) concept album about a manned mission to Mars in the year 2033! Well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Styx are doing a “concept” album, but I guess they could have easily slipped into self-deprecation and parody territory and I’m happy to report, that is not the case here!
 
Even without DeYoung, the band manages to create an album that could rival their old works; not that they weren’t capable of such a task… after all Cyclorama was more than a decent offering, but it’s another thing to claim something and quite another to actually deliver on your promises. 
 
“Overture” is, well, an overture – neat and overture like, leading nicely into the proper opener “Gone Gone Gone” a melodic up-tempo number that manages to crub its prog inclinations and encapsulate them in a neat commercial rock format.
 
“Hundred Million Miles” has the signature Styx sound, along with mild wiffs of Boston and is another smooth and catchy (radio-friendly) number, with a more measured tempo and even a talk-box section… (hehe); a superb song with the sweetest vocal harmonies and funky guitars, all polished to perfection with a production that lands just the right side of smooth.
 
“Trouble at the Big Show” begins with some bluesy part – before the classic Styx vocal harmonies, take over, all the while Shaw delivers a cool lead.
 
“Locomotive” that follows up is more psychedelic and smooth, with some neat vocals and keys on display.
 
“Radio Silence” manages to be a bit of a sleeper “hit”… as its tasteful acoustics rival “Space Oddity” in terms of lyricism and easily put to shame half of Ayreon’s cosmic boogaloo.
 
“The Greater Good” is a neat piano led smooth jam… that despite its repetitive nature, feels just right as a part in the flow of the album, that really doesn’t seem to sag or tire at any time, without the need to resort to meandering instrumental passages to keep the story progressing; in fact a prime example of that is the brilliant and warm sounding paean that “Time May Bend” is, which segues smoothly into the sort and smooth outro of “Ten Thousand Ways” that actually leads to one of the albums crescendos, and it’s longest track, at a little more than six minutes.
 
“The Red Storm”, which really changes midway from eclectic and refined to a complete prog geek out with solos a plenty as the protagonist(s) are threatened with their demise against the unforgiving alien elements as they are about to land.
 
“All Systems Stable” is a spoken reassurance of the landing, while “Khedive” is a virtuosic piano piece that leads to the celebratory second crescendo, the very 80s tinged and poppy “The Outpost”, that feels like vintage Styx meets Starship and I mean that in the best possible way and the actual conclusion of the album “Mission to Mars” that keeps the same euphoric tone until it fades away...
 
So far into their career and despite the lack of a key member, Styx deliver a fine concept album of sci-fi themed, AOR tinged prog that’s not mega cheesy. Who would have thought that was possible!

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