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Styx - The Serpent Is Rising CD (album) cover




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3.00 | 107 ratings

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3 stars The third Styx album, entitled 'The Serpent Is Rising' is an album that aims high, and I mean very high, but it doesn't fully come off. And for trivia's sake, James Young actually pens some of the more progressive songs, while the more appreciated dudes like Dennis DeYoung and John Curulewski pen some of the lighter, Rock and Roll numbers, but they get James to sing them! Also, this was the first of two Styx albums where outside writers were brought in to help with the song writing, maybe the boys had some writers block? Some names you might notice include 'Lofrano', 'Brandle' and JY's brother, Rick Young, co-wrote Young Man.

The album starts off with three very good songs that are actually quite complex, as far as Styx goes. I mean their not 'Suppers Ready' but these songs are as progressive as say 'The Moody Blues', only rocked up more than the Moodies. The first is James Young's 'Witch Wolf', a hard-rock song, but respectable in a prog way, then there's 'Grove of Eglantine' and this is also a fairly complex song; unusual time signature (or at least they make it seem that way), interesting instrumentation, sounds a bit fantasy, and nice vocal harmonies, then the opus of the album, 'Young Man', a rather complex hard rock song with quite a few passages of music and some really good organ. Then the acoustic ballad 'As bad as this' is also fairly good, though I wish Curulewski would have done more with it. It doesn't go for the advertised six minutes, it only goes for three and a half. Then there's 'Plexiglass Toilet', which is a comedy song full of schoolboy jokes and parody Mexican accents! I don't mind this song, but it's totally out of tone with the first four songs, it's like those songs were so serious and so ambitious and this song was so light-hearted and fun-loving.

'Plexiglass Toilet' is followed by two very light hearted rock n roll numbers 'Winner Take All' and '22 years', which kind of fit with 'PT' but not the rest of the album. These songs are so enthusiastically sung by James Young (the second is a duet between JY and Dennis) but whoever sings these songs didn't write them. I don't mind these songs at all, I quite like them, but they just don't seem to fit Then the album gets more complex, while remaining true to hard rock, with 'Jonas Psalter'. Again this is a song sung by James but Dennis wrote it. I like the synthesisers near the start and the vocal harmonies are just excellent towards the end of the song. The album concludes with 'The Serpent is Rising', 'Krakatoa' and 'Hallelujah Chorus'. I like 'The Serpent is rising' a bit, I think John may have heard '21st century schizoid man' before penning this, has the same vocal effect and similar intro. It's definitely one of the more complex songs Styx had done, and it isn't just an imitation of '21st...', I mean there's no wonderful instrumental sections or jazzy interludes, but it has a good, sinister chorus and a fiery lead guitar solo in the middle of the song, not bad. Still, this is not really a favourite of mine. My favourite thing about the song is John's lead vocals, which are kind of bizarre and dramatic, not in a way that rock vocals usually are. The remaining three minutes are 'Krakatoa', and 'Hallelujah Chorus'. This is my point on the album 'Styx II', Styx always flesh their albums out with un-nessary stuff, like these two songs. Wouldn't this album be better if we had taken out 'Krakatoa' and 'Hallelujah Chorus' and placed a good song in there? That said, these two songs are an interesting concept by Curulewski, one that doesn't work but somehow respectable in the sense that he was trying to do something different. Did I mention 'The Moody Blues'? Well Krakatoa is a monologue, only this is a lot more mellodramatic than a Moody Blues monologue. It would be better if it were easier to understand what is being said. There is a striking synthesiser effect and then there's the Hallelujah chorus. You know, I just wish there was more Curulewski to go round. He seems so full of ideas, even if some of them are poor, at least he had ideas.

The reason I am giving this album 3 stars is that there are a lot of good songs on here, some quite ambitious for Styx, but the album is horribly disjointed and uneven, sounds like one album with another album (or even band) shoved in the middle. Also, there are a couple of moments where the album has weaker songs or songs that don't really add to the overall listening experience. So three stars is about right.

Brendan | 3/5 |


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