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Styx - Cyclorama CD (album) cover




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3.20 | 70 ratings

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4 stars To paraphrase a famous commentator, rumors of Styx' demise are complete crap. These melodic rock / pomp stalwarts followed their surprisingly strong, coherent reunion effort, "Brave New World," with this even more surprising, even stronger, far less coherent disunion effort, "Cyclorama."

Whereas "Brave New World" fused Styx principals Tommy Shaw, James "JY" Young, and Dennis "DDY" DeYoung in a welcome revision of the classic Styx sound, "Cyclorama" is (controversially) the first Styx album without mainman/ keyboardist/ singer DeYoung. DDY's soaring vocals are missed, but all other essences of Styx are retained by the impressive new lineup, which also features Glen Burtnik on bass guitar and well credentialed newcomer Lawrence Gowan on keyboard. From somewhere within the band's roster comes not only the chemistry and rock guitars that fans expect (credit Shaw and JY) but also the flashes of keyboard brilliance and dramatic pomp / rock songwriting that might have evaporated from Styx in DDY's absence. The result is a new Styx sound that reflects both energetic novelty and Styx' cornerstone elements. Indeed, listeners need to return to Styx' "Cornerstone" years for Styx output that rivals "Cyclorama's" standout cut "One With Everything" for pure hard pomp power.

Nonetheless, "Cyclorama" is a new sound, in large part because it is no single sound: It sprawls all over the stylistic map, from compact, introspective classic rock ("Waiting For The Time"), to pop-punk-touched workouts ("Kiss Your Ass Goodbye"), delicate guitar ballads ("Yes I Can"), radio-ready hard guitar pop ("Do It My Way"), classic Stygian light-pomp drama ("These Are The Times"), classic JY-voiced melodic metal ("Captain America"), and deep, sweeping ballads ("Fields Of The Brave"). The disc can be played in random order (shuffle mode) with almost no loss of impact.

Yet the disc does make a lasting impact: Although the band has not yet found a focus, they have found the core of a sound to distinguish them and unite the album's myriad styles. Moreover, they can still write great songs, and although few "Cyclorama" cuts are outright killers, all are impressively memorable with deep, resonating power -- especially for longtime fans who might have feared that Styx would never again release a record with this much pure artistic merit. Ultimately, "Cyclorama" is easily the best Styx album since "Paradise Theater" (maybe since "Pieces Of Eight"!), an absolutely essential purchase for Styx fans, and an enormously worthy discovery for anybody into convention-busting vision in melodic rock music. It is not their most immediate or accessible album, but it is among their most rewarding.

| 4/5 |


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