Styx is back with “The Mission” their first new studio album of all original material since 2003’s “Cyclorama.”
“The Mission” finds the band returning to the concept album format which served them well with 1981’s “Paradise Theatre” and 1983’s often maligned “Kilroy Was Here.” “The Mission” tells the story of a mission to the planet Mars in the year 2033.
The storyline for the new album was the brain child of singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw and musician Will Evankovich who also shares co-writing credit on 10 of the 14 tracks. The long player kicks off with the instrumental “Overture” which harkens back to the great 70’s era of the band and then erupts into “Gone Gone Gone.”
“Gone Gone Gone” features long time member Lawrence Gown on lead vocals he absolutely kills it! The song contains amazing harmonies and we are off and running with the return of the classic Styx sound. Next up Tommy Shaw takes the lead vocal on “Hundred Million Miles From Home” which also features original bass player Chuck Panozzo who seems to have the luxury of play and recording with the band whenever he feels like doing so.
Lone founding member James JY Young lends his muscular vocal style to track 4 “Trouble At The Big Show.” Once again the harmonies are back and JY wails on the guitar with some crunchy guitar licks.
Shaw returns to the mic for the next two tracks “Locomotive” and “Radio Silence” a pair of mid-tempo atmospheric rockers. When “Radio Silence” finally kicks into high gear you’ll swear it’s 1976 again as Tommy Shaw’s voice sounds exactly as it did when he joined the band.
“The Greater Good” begins with Gowan’s heartfelt vocals on the first verse then Shaw picks up the second. The two sing together throughout as well and it’s great to hear Gowan sing on a Styx album again. Gowan is a champion during the LIVE shows for almost 20 years. He’s never tried to just be a mimic of what Dennis DeYoung did in the past instead, Gowan brings his own personality and range to everything he touches with Styx.
Of the 14 tracks 4 are basically interludes or instrumentals. Of the 10 remaining tracks there are definitely a handful of standouts but I’m not sure if the other tunes stand on their own outside the space travel story line. This might be a problem for listeners who don’t have the time or energy to listen to “The Mission” in its entirety every time they push play.
This is definitely a tough one to review because as previously stated Shaw, Young, Gowan, drummer Todd Sucherman and bassist Ricky Phillips sound incredible on this disc. The downfall for me is this being a concept album with a storyline I just can’t get into. Overall “The Mission” does contain a few tracks that can stand alone but not as many as I would have liked. The band is on the right path as far as singing, playing and production is concerned I just hope the next time they abandon story telling for some good old fashioned rock and roll.