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Styx - 2017 The Mission

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ALBUM: The Mission
LABEL: Universal Music Enterprises (Ume)
SERIAL: B0026466-02
YEAR: 2017


LINEUP: Tommy Shaw, James Young - lead vocals, guitars * Lawrence Gowan - lead vocals, keyboards * Ricky Phillips - bass, guitar, backing vocals * Chuck Panozzo - bass, backing vocals * Todd Sucherman - drums, percussion

TRACK LISTING: 01 Overture * 02 Gone Gone Gone * 03 Hundred Million Miles * 04 Trouble At The Big Show * 05 Locomotive * 06 Radio Silence * 07 The Greater Good * 08 Time May Bend * 09 Ten Thousand Ways * 10 The Red Storm * 11 All Systems Stable * 12 Khedive * 13 The Outpost * 14 Mission To Mars



The official comeback is now underway; with 'The Mission' being Styx's first proper studio album since 2003's 'Cyclorama'. Yes, they did release a covers album in 2005 'Big Bang Theory', but that doesn't really count, does it? I've since had a decade to refamiliarise with these Chicago greats, even if the band members are now scattered across the country. The travel distance might seem great, but nothing compares to the topic and the theme of this album: a trip (or as per the album title - a mission) to Mars. It may seem odd that Styx have gone sci-fi as their source of inspiration for this album. Let's not forget, we've had the recent Mars landings, we've had fly-by jaunts from some of the NASA missions, Elon Musk and Dr Stephen Hawking reckon it's only a matter of time before we have to depart Earth for Mars. Plus we've had movies and TV series all based around Mars as its central pivot-point. So, to keep the theme rolling along, we now have Mars front, back and center in the melodic rock world. What better way to wake up the Neanderthal brains of hard rockers world wide?

The Songs
You can see right across the song-titles just how far Styx are taking us along for the ride. The first single 'Gone, Gone, Gone' was aired on YouTube a few weeks back, and by the looks of things, the band have not lost their trademark signature. Like anything though, some of these new songs are superb while others miss the bullseye. What I do like, is how the band manage to keep a legacy sound intact on the songs. Whether it's the vocal harmonies, or Larry Gowan's synth/organ work taking us back to the timeless 70's, it really does feel like a trip down memory lane, even if we are fast-forwarding into the future. A number of the tracks are quite short in time/length, at least seven of them are two minutes or less, so don't be daunted by the fact there are fourteen songs onboard.

One or two songs do refer to the back-catalogue, for instance the ideas from 'Man In The Wilderness' are repeated on 'Radio Silence', gotta love the adventurous 6 minutes of 'The Red Storm', coupled with the Queen like bombast 'Khedive' (initially a classical piano extension), Styx are truly in new territory. 'The Outpost' along with 'Mission To Mars' is an exciting conclusion, full of modern sounding synth parts and typical classic rock arrangements.

In Summary
It's good that Styx have returned with a project that is both interesting and topical, considering the planet is on the verge of discovery, both in terms of disclosure about humanity's role in space exploration, and about our current (and poor) stewardship of Earth. Maybe 'The Mission' isn't so much about getting to Mars. Maybe our mission should be about getting our act together and taking responsibility for cleaning up the current 'Rock' we currently occupy. Thank you to Styx for the timely reminder.

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