While 2017’s concept album The Mission embraced progressive rock, the new Styx album has even higher ambitions. Returning to their guitar/keyboard-fueled ’70s style, the band takes prog’s grandest elements and condenses them into punchy songs – no question, that classic Styx crunch is present.
Tommy Shaw’s warm electric, bright acoustic rhythms, and distorted slide solos blend with James “JY” Young’s Hendrix-inspired guitar attacks and the myriad keyboards of Lawrence Gowan. Bassists Ricky Phillips and Chuck Panozzo, along with drummer Todd Sucherman, add important components and the spotlight is shared in adventurous arrangements and Queen-like harmony vocals.
Young’s scary solo ends “A Monster,” while “Hold Back the Darkness” and “Save Us from Ourselves” build tension and drama. The title track is a terrifically compact prog gem –Young, Shaw, and Gowan share lead vocals; the prominent rhythm guitar and creamy fills are highlights. Shaw’s yearning vocals soar on the optimistic “Our Wonderful Lives.” The quirky “Long Live the King” is one of the best songs, while “Stream” flows with markedly different guitar parts. “To Those” rocks the heaviest. Fans of early Styx have been waiting for an album like Crash of the Crown.
This article originally appeared in VG’s August 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.