Label: ALPHA DOG 2T/UMe
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Reviewed by: Todd “Toddstar” Jolicoeur
Styx went into new and familiar territory at the same time with their first release in 14 years... The Mission. This disc takes us back to the day of a disc that actually tells a cohesive story from first note to last. These guys are no stranger to storytelling albums and this disc is another gem in their catalog, with songs that range from orchestral to rock to prog. Disc opener "Overture" shows glimpses of the bands direction with a prog heavy opening that also features the familiar keyboard and guitar attack of Styx classics. "Gone Gone Gone" comes screaming at you and this song is one of my favorites on the disc. The mood and vibe of the track showcase the bands live show. Listening to this track, I can see the band roaming the stage and bringing their best rock attitudes to the masses. "Trouble at The Big Show" takes a side trip from the rock path cut by the previous track, but this song has depth and great vocals from James "J.Y." Young. The guitar work on this track is beautifully offset by the thumping bass lines. "Radio Silence" is an acoustic driven track that peppers us with familiar sounds while coming off as lighter than most Styx material... until the chorus kicks in. The song unfolds and grows after that adding a different texture to the disc. "Time May Bend" opens leaning into a new direction for the band and the disc, with a keyboard driven sound that takes on a darker feel, but soon shifts over to a prog rock driven rocker. "The Red Storm" is a moody track, from the lyrics to the contrasting sounds from the guitars, keyboards, and bass. While working in tandem, each offers a different feel, creating a cool vibe that draws you in. Top it off with some cool drum fills and you have an ambitious track that pays off. "Khedive" opens as a piano solo, but soon features a monotonous bass line, typical layered vocals, and a different sounding guitar that twists the feel of the song.
"Hundred Million Miles" is another song that digs up some of the classic Styx vibes while twisting in a fresh feel and groove. Tommy Shaw's vocals are as rich and rocking as they have ever been. The musical and vocal breakdown at the bridge elevates this song. "Locomotive" takes a mellow route through the musical station that is The Mission. This song brings a chugging sound and sensation that starts off slowly and builds steam through the verses, chorus, and bridges. The vocals really add emotion to the lyrical content. "The Greater Good" takes us in a slightly different direction than the 'common' Styx fan is used to. While Lawrence Gowan kicks this melodic track off vocally, trading off later with Shaw on the second verse with the duo swirling in the mix, giving more depth to the sound of the track. This song also features solid, yet not overpowering drumming from Todd Sucherman that emphasizes the vibe of the track. "Ten Thousand Ways" is a cool transitional piece that allows a beautiful piano piece to merge and swirl with an acoustic guitar and then soon seems to rocket into a heavier groove that features layered vocals and some great guitar sounds. "All Systems Stable" is an instrumental track that bridges two very different tracks with different sounds, moods, and vibe. "The Outpost" kicks off as a prog rock track that swirls and sways from open to close, but shifts gears between prog and classic rock sound. The drums are solid and fill the bottom end of the mix, while the guitars soar and sail through the choruses. Closing out the disc and story, "Mission To Mars" is a keyboard-filled track that accentuates Sucherman's talents behind a kit, while the vocals float across the mix. The guitar work from Young takes flight while Ricky Phillips' bass anchors the track. Listening to Gowan and Shaw trade off vocals is never a bad thing. This disc, while different from the 'typical' Styx fare, is a great addition to their catalog and my collection!
Tracklisting: Overture - Gone Gone Gone - Hundred Million Miles - Trouble at The Big Show - Locomotive - Radio Silence - The Greater Good - Time May Bend - Ten Thousand Ways - The Red Storm - All Systems Stable - Khedive - The Outpost - Mission To Mars
Band: Chuck Panozzo (bass, backing vocals) - James "J.Y." Young (guitar, backing and lead vocals) - Tommy Shaw (guitar, lead and backing vocals) - Todd Sucherman (drums) - Lawrence Gowan (lead and backing vocals, keyboards) Ricky Phillips (bass, backing vocals, guitar)