Styx’s ‘Crash of the Crown’ is glorious return for classic rock giants

Photo of Styx project
UMG Recordings/Courtesy

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With 17 studio albums, nine live albums and 16 compilation albums, Styx has persistently shown that it can stand the test of time. Formed in 1972, Styx has already crafted an indestructible legacy for itself, exploring genres including progressive rock, art rock and everything avant-garde in between. Released June 18, Crash of the Crown, the band’s latest endeavor, is anything but a fall from grace — it only reinforces the band as the rock powerhouse that it is. 

Crash of the Crown is modern and operatic, yet sounds as if it was made in 1978 during the band’s prime. The two-minute-long opener, “The Fight for Our Lives,” features the beautiful harmonies and bright guitar sounds Styx was known for mastering during the 70s and 80s. The song, along with the rest of the album, achieves the perfect balance between synths and guitars

What sets Styx apart from so many rock bands is its utilization of the entire band in its harmonies, and “Reveries” is one of many examples of this skill. The main harmony between three lead singers Tommy Shaw, Lawrence Gowan and James Young is phenomenal; their voices blend into one another seamlessly. Not only are the instrumentals arranged impeccably, but the chorus pumps in a beauty that just couldn’t be captured with just one voice.

Crash of the Crown fully encapsulates Styx’s endlessly optimistic energy. Lyrics of resiliency set to upbeat guitars makes up the group’s quintessential sound, and on the album, this formula is familiar without succumbing to monotony — impressive for a band with such a large discography under its belt.

“Hold Back the Darkness” includes an excellent and much anticipated guitar solo, building up slowly and triumphantly. Meanwhile, “Save Us from Ourselves” and the titular track boast arena rock anthem swagger; both are unforgettably catchy and include small quirks to shake things up a bit. “Save Us from Ourselves” is interjected with segments from Winston Churchill’s famous 1940 speech, fitting for a song about the salvation of mankind. But however bleak the message, there still floats an air of hope around the song, the hallmark of Styx’s music.

Despite Styx’s adherence to its classic sound, songs such as “Our Wonderful Lives” and “Sound the Alarm” find the band testing out slight changes to its instrumentals and energy. Taking on a more stripped, soft rock sound rather than the dramatic guitars and drum flourishes that are normally found on the group’s work, these songs provide a foil to some of the more instrumentally grand tracks on the album. “Stream” ends the 15-track album with another cascading tune, steadily working its way up to an excellent minute-long guitar solo to send listeners off. As the last track fades into silence, you can’t help but feel empty yet fulfilled — a sure sign to listen to the record all over again.

Styx has always had the theatrics, the storylines and the talent to propel it to worldwide success. Crash of the Crown is simply another example of the band doing what it knows best and excelling at it. The album doesn’t sound tired — it’s fresh and new, which has become an increasingly difficult goal for classic rock bands attempting to release new music nowadays. Styx has somehow made the hardship of transitioning into modernity look easy.

Every song on the album is electrifying and sure to captivate listeners upon the initial listen. The band members play off of one another effortlessly and have the same magic of the original lineup, a skill surely developed over their long and illustrious careers. Many classic rock bands have quit while they were still relevant, but Styx has put in effort to revamp its sound without losing the characteristics that have made fans love the band for so long.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.