The latest album by Styx, The Mission, have been out for about two months now. The Mission is an album that was LONG overdue. After spending some time with this great album, here are a few thoughts.
- I will be totally honest, I did not think the band had it in them to produce new quality progressive rock. Styx was never truly a progressive rock band. For a time in the 1970’s the sounds of progressive rock filtered into the band’s music. I count The Grand Illusion (1977) as one of the best progressive rock albums of the 1970’s. For better or worse the band pretty much dropped the progressive rock sounds after Pieces Of Eight (1978). The music featured on The Mission can best be described as a mix of the band’s sounds from 1977 to 1983. One of the best aspects of The Mission is how modern it sounds. The music may harken back to the sounds of the past, but the album does not sound retro.
- The Mission sounds like a Styx album. The band’s last original studio album Cyclorama (2003), to my ears, did not sound like Styx. I applaud the band’s effort to move forward with new music. But the musical direction of Cyclorama was not what this Styx fan wanted to hear.
- I am extremely happy to hear Lawrence Gowan sing new Styx songs. He stepped into some extremely big shoes when he joined the band. I feel that he does an amazing job on the classic songs live. It was long overdue for Gowan to write and sing new Styx songs.
- One of the more interesting aspects of the album is the strong presence of some of the band’s influences. The sounds of bands like The Beatles, Queen and Pink Floyd appear throughout the album.
- One aspect missing from the album is the presence of the members individual musical personalities. On the band’s classic albums it was quite clear who wrote each song. The songwriter’s personality and individual style was very apparent. That aspect is not present on The Mission. The songwriting is extremely strong on The Mission. The music sounds like Styx, but it feels like Tommy Shaw’s project. Shaw appears to have written a good portion of the album, so his personality shines the brightest.
- The whole band sounds fantastic throughout The Mission. For me the performances of Tommy Shaw and Lawrence Gowan are the highlights of the album. Hearing Gowan sing and play keyboards on new songs is such a treat.
- The only real complaint about The Mission is the length. With fourteen songs clocking in at forty two minutes the album is far too short. The songs vary in length from 1:22 to 6:04. The Mission is so good, but it is over far too soon. Perhaps the album’s subtitle should be Short But Sweet
- I do feel that James Young is a bit underutilized on the album. He only has one lead vocal on the album. There are a lot of voices throughout the album. This is nothing new for a Styx album. What is new is that Young’s backing vocals seem extremely low in the mix. One more lead vocal from Young would have given the album a better balance.
Overall I am extremely pleased with the fantastic job that the band has done on The Mission. Only time will tell, but this feels like one of the band’s better albums. That is a very encouraging thing. The most recent Kansas album is quite similar. The Prelude Implicit (2016) was their first new album in sixteen years. The album also stands as one of their better releases as well. Now, if only we could get the two bands together for The Implicit Mission Tour that would be amazing.