If you’re a STYX fan but haven’t thought about the ’70s rockers in a while, 17th album Crash Of The Crown will bring memories rushing back. Their classic rock sound remains intact, mixed with some light medieval twinkling and a message about overcoming the depressions of life in America. The album is inspirational and although written pre-pandemic, the lyrical themes fit perfectly into the world we live in. STYX must have been struck with a stroke of prescient ingenuity, as the album references sheltering with loved ones, protesting in the streets and finding hope in dark times. Maybe when you’ve been writing rock since 1975, you can see a few things coming.
The album starts out with “Fight For Our Lives,” an incredibly appropriate title for a song that could have been the anthem for 2020. “We will not give in, the game is our to win,” they sing. Written by guitarist-vocalist Tommy Shaw, the song speaks of the here and now, but the sound throws back to 1970s rock ballads. “A Monster” follows with a more serious tone and message about living in a world where what goes around comes around.
“Reveries” is a light song, beginning with an upbeat acoustic guitar, picking up in the middle with an impassioned guitar solo. “Here I’m running with the elephants, fighting all the elements, in this crowd,” they sing of giving up dreams and becoming dedicated to those around them. “Hold Back the Darkness” is a contemplative tune, beginning with the light patter of rain, ambient sounds and an acoustic guitar. The song follows a young person leaving home for the first time and looking for freedom. “I’m trying to break free from these chains, won’t you give me a break/ You just gotta give me a chance to make my own mistakes,” Shaw sings, challenging a younger perspective.
“Save Us From Ourselves” is perhaps STYX’s most impressive prediction of 2020, as the lyrics address protests and appropriation: “One nation, indivisible, heads in the sand ’cause we weren’t invisible/ Same prayers, we could all use a miracle now, to save us from ourselves.” It brings listeners back to the wild, powerful moments of nationwide clash and protest. “Crash of the Crown” is a pretty rockin’ and inspirational track, complete with a piano breakdown leading to the bridge. STYX suggest we fight through the darkness “’til the walls come tumbling down.”
The playful and breezy “Our Wonderful Lives” is a joyous celebration, yet it deals with fighting depression: “We won’t give in yet, we shall not forget, we still have our wonderful lives.” “Common Ground” makes a plea to remember our youthful inability to empathize with others’ opinions.
“Sound the Alarm” is the strongest ballad on Crash of the Crown, with advice to “Take shelter with the ones you love/ Maybe someday we can rise above and all be safe from harm.” STYX should have written all of last year’s PSAs. “Wear a Damn Mask” would have been the incredibly useful smash hit summer 2020 needed…
“Long Live the King” has a modern vibe, both in lyrics and sound. I can’t help but feel there’s an allusion to the former U.S. President, with an army of people feeding off his every word.
“Coming Out the Otherside” starts out with an Eastern sound, using a sitar, then quickly returning back to STYX’s signature American appeal. The mournful “To Those” still offers up upbeat percussion and airy guitar riffs. “To those of you survived, find beauty in your life/ Don’t be afraid of love/ Stand up and rise above,” the band sings, suggesting that if the young sent the old to war, there would be permanent peace. That band then throws in a slight suggestion to eat the rich, making for one of the most epic songs on the album.
“Another Farewell,” clocks in at just 25 seconds and gives the impression that a symphony broke into the studio and played for a brief moment, before being escorted out by security. “Stream” ends the album with a dreamy chorus and a feeling reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe (In the Air).” “Please don’t wake me from this sweet dream, floating on a stream/ Sunshine beaming down on my face, staring into space,” the band sings. The future seems bright, fight the power and your own depression, you can always call home for help, but the time is now to be free, STYX seem to suggest.
Crash Of The Crown is a supportive rock assembly and what people of a certain generation might be yearning for, sound-wise. It’s a throwback to ’70s rock but addresses modern complications. What more could want from STYX in 2021?
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