Styx - 'The Mission'

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Styx - 'The Mission'

A very welcome return from these Pomp legends.

To be brutally honest, I fucking hated this album when I first heard it! Expectation is a double-edged sword; it leaves you waiting with bated breath for something to come out, and when it does, it can either joyously meet them or utterly disappoint. After five play throughs, my opinion hadn't changed much, but listening to it a further fifteen or so times (yes twenty in total – there's dedication for you), changed my mind completely. I still think there are a couple of clunkers (thanks, Phil Ashcroft for this description) but the bulk of this new material is pretty much a Pomp Rock fans wet dream.

'The Mission', a concept album, is a bold move for a band to make their studio comeback with. It deals with a mission to Mars and beyond, with Tommy Shaw, James "JY" Young and Lawrence Gowan taking the vocal parts of various astronauts to tell the story. Gowan has been let loose on this album and it's his keyboards that Pomp everything to the Nth degree, whilst the guitars of Young and Shaw are as dynamic and melodic throughout the fourteen tracks as they ever were. It's also wonderful to note that none of the Styx singers have lost their vocal prowess over the years, and their wonderful voices are used to great effect during the entirety of 'The Mission'.

The opening few songs 'Gone, Gone Gone', 'Hundred Million Miles From Home', 'Trouble At The Big Show' and 'Locomotive' are all classic Pomp cuts that you can revel in, and the classy sounding production from Will Evankovich (who also co-wrote the story and most of the songs) only enhances them. We then come to my own personal favourites which are 'Radio Silence' where Shaw is given the opportunity to really show off, the awesome 'The Greater Good' with Gowan putting in a killer emotion-filled vocal performance and the Heavy Rocking 'Red Storm'.

Why this album didn't click at first is a mystery, or maybe it's because 'The Mission' is a Sci-Fi concept album with a story that's been done to death over the years; as a huge fan of old, I just wanted some new songs without all that story stuff tagged on. For whatever reason, this album is my most played of 2017, and while I have heard better this year, this is still a very welcome return from these Pomp legends.

Ian Johnson

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