Third studio album of original songs from the current Styx lineup since they parted ways with Dennis DeYoung more than twenty years ago, a formidable showcase of Pomp Rock.
Written by: Dave T
ALBUM: Crash Of The Crown
SERIAL: B0033182-01/02 (LP/CD)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: LINEUP: Tommy Shaw – vocals, guitar * James ‘JY’ Young – vocals, guitar * Lawrence Gowan – vocals, keyboards * Chuck Panozzo, Ricky Phillips – bass * Todd Sucherman – drums *
Additional Musicians: Will Evankovich – guitar, mandolin, synths, percussion, vocals * Steve Patrick * piccolo trumpet (07) * Michael Bahan – tabla (12)
TRACK LISTING: 01 The Fight Of Our Lives * 02 A Monster* 03 Reveries * 04 Hold Back The Darkness * 05 Save Us From Ourselves * 06 Crash Of The Crown * 07 Our Wonderful Lives * 08 Common Ground * 09 Sound The Alarm * 10 Long Live The King * 11 Lost At Sea * 12 Coming Out The Other Side * 13 To Those * 14 Another Farewell * 15 Stream
WEBLINKS: Official Site
Third Styx studio album of original songs since the band parted ways with Dennis DeYoung back in 1999, not counting 2005’s cover versions album ‘Big Bang Theory’. For current business standards, this is a quick follow-up to 2017’s ‘The Mission’.
I was caught off guard by the opening one-two of the introductory, two-minute long upbeat ‘The Fight Of Our Lives’ followed by the haunting message of the Tommy Shaw-sung ‘A Monster’ (‘a monster chasing its tail’) that features a fine Young guitar solo.
Said songs set the tone of this 43-minute-long, 15-track album of concise songs, including two brief interludes, namely, ‘Lost At Sea’ and ‘Another Farewell’. This is Pomp Rock firmly rooted on the classic era of the style featuring three-to-five-part vocal harmonies, vintage 1970s synths/keys, deep acoustic guitar passages and enough electric power chords to fill your rocking needs.
I say Pomp Rock because the constant proggy leanings are framed by immediate melodies and instrumentation. The whole album is immediate in this sense, yet it requires further listens to capture all that’s going on behind that apparent immediacy.
‘Reveries’ is a favorite for its Beatles trademark vocals a la John Lennon courtesy of Gowan and those dreamy keyboards carved among the acoustic guitars.
Gowan and Shaw share vocals on the ode to personal freedom that is ‘Hold Back The Darkness’ where a rotating effect gives the guitars a strong personality. Shaw’s vocals (that does not seem to be affected by age whatsoever at 67) lead the dark message conveyed by ‘Save Us From Ourselves’, stressed by snippets of Winston Churchill‘s most famous speech, just as Maiden had done before for their song Aces High.
Two more favorites follow. The three main singers trade vocals on the title track, one that summarizes all the highs already pointed out, be it harmonies or instrumentation, with bombast. There’s even a brief nod to Mr. Roboto by way of vocoder-filtered vocals
Conversely, the slightly understated yet shiny, upbeat and gorgeous overall ‘Our Wonderful Lives’ features a banjo plus a piccolo trumpet solo reminiscent of The Beatles to accentuate its message about overcoming depression, one that is clear if you pay close attention to the lyrics: ‘Monday morning I’m sleeping in again but I’m not giving in to those old feelings’ .
Up to this point, although there’s a certain Queen flavor on a few vocal harmonies and some harmonized guitar instances as well plus a slight Pink Floyd vibe to the acoustic guitars at times, I believe there’s a similarity to vintage Kansas circa 1976/7 in the treatment of the overdriven guitars. Ultimately, this sounds a hundred percent Styx, influences aside.
Styx continues to provide a classic performance adding a handful of more contemporary sounds for the B-side of the vinyl, or the second part of the CD if you will. ‘Common Ground’ is the longest track of the album at exactly four minutes and another strong statement it is, including a powerful brief drum solo.
The uplifting, acoustic-meets-orchestral ballad ‘Sound The Alarm’ contrasts with the more modern feel and political message of ‘Long Live The King’. Also slightly more contemporary is the piano-driven ‘Coming Out The Other Side’, preluded by the Beatlesque interlude ‘Lost At Sea’.
Styx returns to the bombast and vintage for ‘To Those’ where Gowan shines on a glorious chorus. Finally, the orchestral short piece ‘Another Farewell’ quickly becomes the dreamy last song ‘Stream’, with a few psychedelic hints.
Great Styx album. That’s easy. It takes you back in spirit to past times where the bison roamed the North American prairies free from the curse of white men and also to more recent yet seemingly forgotten times in which we as listeners were free from the autotune and loudness war curses.
Poetry aside, I dare say Crash Of The Crown stands proud among the best Styx albums ever, consistency-wise.
Crash Of The Crown
Our Wonderful Lives
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