After “only“ four years, almost to the day, Styx releases their follow-up to the excellent “The Mission” who in my opinion was their strongest release since “Pieces of Eight”. “Crash of the Crown” was preceded by a record store day only vinyl EP featuring two new tracks that didn’t make it to the album.
“Crash of the Crown” is the third album with only new music since the departure of Dennis DeYoung and once again Styx prove that they are just as good without him. They are actually better without him, if you compare this to the albums they released with Dennis after “Pieces of Eight”.
So how does “Crash of the Crown” hold up compared to “The Mission”? Well, in my humble opinion this is an even better album, though no songs are as good as my favorite track, “Red Storm”, from the last album. “Crash of the Crown” is quite short, only 43 minutes, which I like. That would have been a long album in the seventies but compared to most CD’s it’s short. The good thing with short albums is that you long for more music when it ends, contrary to the often to long CD’s. Even though the album is short there are still as many as 15 songs on “Crash of the Crown”.
One of the best things with this album as well as with “The Mission” is Lawrence Gowan’s use of vintage keyboards, which is an important part of the classic Styx sound. Unfortunately, the keyboards where a bit low in the mix on the last album, but that has thankfully been corrected, or at least bettered, on “Crash of the Crown”. Another great plus are the typical Styx vocal harmonies that are all over the album. The music is still pomp rock, but closer to prog than AOR. There are no obvious choices for a single, but I believe that my favorite track, “Long Live the King”, could be a hit if any classic rock radio station dared to play it.
Another thing that I like with this “new” Styx lineup are the rhythm section. I loved the Panozzo brothers, they were an important part of the original Styx style and sound, but Todd Sucherman and Ricky Phillips brings so much more with amazing drums and adventures bass lines to Styx and their new a bit progier direction. However, Chuck Panozzo plays some great bass on two tracks, “Our Wonderful Lives” and “Lost at Sea”. And yes, the vocals by Tommy Shaw, James Young and Lawrence Gowan are just as good as you would expect, not to mention their guitar and keyboard playing.
All fifteen songs on the album are great and If I should grade them, “Our Wonderful Lives” is the least great song, and “Long Live the King” is the greatest song. There are quite a few influences here and there, mainly Queen and Beatles, not to mention Pink Floyd on “Hold Back the Darkness”, but mostly it sounds like classic Styx with a natural new progression which gives the music a freshness instead of just trying to repeat past glories. This is also an album that works best if you listen to it from the beginning to the end, especially with (good) earphones.
Tommy Shaw – Acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, banjo, vocals
James Young – Electric guitars, vocals
Lawrence Gowan – Piano, B3 organ, synthesizers, Mellotron, vocals
Chuck Panozzo – Bass guitar on “Our Wonderful Lives” and “Lost at Sea”
Ricky Phillips – Bass guitar
Todd Sucherman – Drums and percussion
Title: Crash of the Crown
Date of release: June 18, 2021
Time: 43 minutes
Stand out tracks:
Long live the King
Lost at Sea
Coming Out the Other Side
Crash of the Crown