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The Mission

(Alpha Dog 2T/

Universal Music Enterprises)

      Once upon a time, when one discussed the realm best known as 'Classic Rock', thoughts invariably turned to Chicago, Illinois-born icons Styx. Fueled by the hit singles “Babe”, “Come Sail Away”, “Lady”, “Mr. Roboto”, “The Best Of Times” and “Too Much Time On My Hands”, the group was thrust to the forefront of the public consciousness via four consecutive multi-Platinum releases. Generally viewed as more intellectual than many of their like-minded brethren, they deftly blended a refreshingly brand of Pop, Prog and Rock with elements of international musical theater. Although internal strife (i.e. musical and personal differences) would ultimately leave the group bitterly divided, a 1995 reunion led to the release of the under-performing Brave New World (1999), the Glen Burtnik-led Cyclorama (2003) and the spirited covers compilation Big Bang Theory (2005). Fortunately, the group has again returned with the The Mission, their first all new recording in fourteen (!) years.

      On the brilliant The Mission (2016), an expertly assembled fourteen song collection of Progressive Rock, each track, beginning with the hook-laden, Will Evankovich co-penned “Hundred Million Miles From Home” and the acoustic-tinged lament “Locomotive”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Rightfully billed as a 'comeback' (arguably their third when taking into consideration the oft-overlooked “Show Me The Way”-fueled Edge Of The Century), the group drives home each key focal point, without, believe it or not, sounding either forced or dated. Offering a fresh and bright variation of their classic tonality reminiscent of their chart-topping The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight and Cornerstone trifecta even without the once-formidable presence of controversially ousted frontman Dennis DeYoung, the group proves themselves capable of ascending far above nostalgia status.

      Continuing with the towering, emotionally-charged “Radio Silence” and the maddeningly infectious “Time May Bend”, the newly-rejuvenated combination of vocalist/keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, guitarists Tommy Shaw (Damn Yankees, MSFunk, Shaw/Blades) and James 'J.Y.' Young, bassists Ricky Phillips (Angel, Bad English, Ted Nugent) and Chuck Panozzo and drummer Todd Sucherman (Brian Wilson, Peter Cetera, Spinal Tap) steamrolls ahead at what can only be described as a carefully calculated pace. Armed with a 'road-tested' instrumental repertoire that instantly separates them from their scarce remaining contemporaries, the materials reflects the harmonious inner-workings of a stable and healthy line-up. Re-introducing us all of their more-than-considerable compositional and lyrical accomplishments, the group deftly engulfs all parties involved amid a refreshingly multi-dimensional display of soaring vocals, razor-sharp riffs and imaginatively punishing rhythms.

      Easily the improbably long-running group's most thoroughly satisfying post-Paradise Theater (1981) effort, other standouts, including the “Space Oddity”-inspired (or so it would seem) gem “The Red Storm” and the impressively Electronica-propelled “The Outpost”, offer a veritable wealth of further sonic evidence in support of the group's well-deserved reputation as bona fide legends within the confines of the Progressive Rock genre. Despite this, what separates the mighty The Mission (and, as a result, the collective members of the group itself) from the 'Sturm und Drang' of both it's most recent predecessors and competition is an overall emphasis on recreating the unmitigated magic of that once propelled them to the dizzying heights of international acclaim. Accomplishing this undeniably monumental feat without brow-beating the average listener, the end result(s) of their gargantuan maneuvering represents the dawn of a bold and daring new chapter in their long, storied métier.

      Believe me; I know what you're thinking. Is The Mission truly worthy your time and, more importantly, your hard-earned financial resources? Absolutely! With the majority--if not all--of the decidedly 'noteworthy' wares contained herein seemingly guaranteed to appeal to both die-hard completists and clueless newcomers alike, the end result(s) of their more-than-considerable efforts are indeed nothing short of extraordinary. An genuine must-have for any true Styx aficionado--particularly those not enthralled with the disaffecting Cyclorama (2003) or the spirited 'covers' compilation Big Bang Theory (2005)--The Mission is a rare Classic Rock return-to-form that simply does not disappoint. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a reprieve from the painfully blasé, Pop and Hip-Hop-fueled din and clatter that is so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane counterirritant for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

Select Discography

The Mission (2017)

The Grand Illusion/Pieces Of Eight Live (CD/DVD) (2012)

Big Bang Theory (2005)

Cyclorama (2003)

Brave New World (1999)

Greatest Hits (1995)

Edge Of The Century (1990)

Caught In The Act (1984)

Kilroy Was Here (1983)

Paradise Theater (1981)

Cornerstone (1979)

Pieces Of Eight (1978)

The Grand Illusion (1977)

Crystal Ball (1976)

Equinox (1975)

Man Of Miracles (1974)

The Serpent Is Rising (1973)

Styx II (1973)

Styx (1972)               

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