Alpha Dog 2T/UMe Records
Release Date: June 16, 2017
By: Thom Jennings
Styx surprised their fan base with the announcement of their first album of new material in 14 years. The Mission is an ambitious concept album that is the band’s best effort since Kilroy was Here, the last album by the band’s classic lineup.
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Styx’s breakthrough album The Grand Illusion which was their seventh album released on 7/7/77, and thus it seems appropriate that Styx has marked the anniversary with a solid new album.
The Mission has elements of the group’s progressive rock phase which culminated in a pair of the group’s iconic releases, Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight. The group continued with concept albums after that period but moved away from prog in favor of more succinct and radio-friendly songs.
If you have any knowledge of the bands Wooden Nickel era albums you may be struck at how The Mission seems to perfect what the band was doing back in the days before Tommy Shaw joined them and changed Styx’s trajectory forever.
From the opening notes of the first cut “Overture” it is evident that you will be in for a great ride. The first cut “Gone Gone Gone” is a short, energetic track that sets the stage for the subsequent tale about a mission to Mars. Lawrence Gowan’s vocals on the track and the rest of the album are special, and the track would be an ideal opener for their shows because it is instantly likable.
The rest of the album is filled with nuggets, and while The Mission is an album that should be listened from beginning to end, songs like “Radio Silence” and “Red Storm” are standout tracks that should wind up on your Styx playlist.
To sum all that up, The Mission is not an album of individual songs strung together haphazardly, it’s an album with a logical sequence of songs and a concept that is intriguing and easy to follow. The Mission has elements of early Styx albums like the often maligned The Serpent is Rising and the revered Equinox album that bridged the proggy Wooden Nickel catalogue with the A&M era. In many ways the album refines and perfects the early Styx sound with respect for the group’s early sound and Styx’s Important place in recorded music history.
At time The Mission sounds like classic Pink Floyd with hints of Canadian prog greats like Saga or Rush. The Canadian influence may be the result of Lawrence Gowan’s input, whatever the case it works incredibly well because while the album is complex, it is not filled with excess.
The Mission is an album that is worthy of many listens, and even after only four times through I have grown to appreciate the album more each listen. Hopefully there is enough support of the album to warrant it being performed live in its entirety.
02. Gone Gone Gone
03. Hundred Million Miles from Home
04. Trouble at the Big Show
06. Radio Silence
07. The Greater Good
08. Time May Bend
09. Ten Thousand Ways to Be Wrong
10. Red Storm
11. All Systems Stable
13. The Outpost
14. Mission to Mars