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Styx - The Serpent Is Rising CD (album) cover




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3.00 | 113 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The early proggy one

After the DeYoung dominated second album flopped as badly as their first, Dennis began to suffer some self-doubt as a writer. Likely for this reason, the unpredictable John Curulewski took the reins in the creation of Styx's weirdest, least celebrated album. The result was the album Dennis DeYoung calls their worst, but in reality is the least Styx-like album and a truly interesting hard-prog album with plenty of surprises. Serpent is filled with hard rock, blues, baroque pop, Zappa-esque humor, sexual lyrical references, electronic music, and classical interludes. It's so bizarre and unrestrained that it actually works pretty well if you like heavy but loose prog albums and you have a sense of humor. The fact that Dennis DeYoung hates it should be enough to pique the interest of latter day Styx haters. The album's production is an issue for some and it was another commercial failure, but the album's heavy rock meets hallucinogenic ride makes it an interesting listen to me, quite enjoyable. Curulewski and his camp in the band were experimenting heavily with hallucinogenics in this period, according to some, and his desire to be weird was now creating palpable friction with DeYoung. Serpent is really John Curulewski's most defiant statement and the beginning of the end for him in Styx.

It's a shame Serpent has such a horrible reputation because it really is a fun record and a favorite of mine from the Wooden Nickel era. The title track, Young Man, Witch Wolf, and 22 Years provide the typical James Young/John Curulewski blazing rock, with some awesome heavy riffing on Serpent. DeYoung has one winner with "The Grove of Eglantine" which features a harpsichord and has something of a medieval feel, with a nice saucy chorus. "As Bad As This" is a slow acoustic blues bit with a secret ending, as JC delivers the Zappa inspired "Plexiglass Toilet" song, a sing along about wiping your butt performed by the wives, girlfriends, and friends of the band. It's a bit silly but lends the album personality in my opinion, something too many people forget about in these days of perfectly produced musical product. Rock albums used to be fun, remember? The album ends with a bang called "Krakatoa", JC's electronic mind-frak which sampled the same sound effect pattern George Lucas later used for his THX theater demonstrations. This leads into Handel's Messiah chorus, naturally, as the perfect bow atop Styx's long derided bastard child. Lots of chances taken on this album, the results are not always pretty but they do provide the wildest ride of the Styx catalog.

"I am confused, why is this getting such a bad rap here? I have heard 1000 x worse albums. I don't really know anything about Styx (they were never big here in the UK) so I guess I'm missing some kind of prejudice that some people must have developed. "Young Man" rocks like hell, the production is great and the music is tight and varied. There are times when a little knowing pomp and ridiculousness is welcome if it's done well, like on this album." -r0b0c0p, RYM

Not to be missed. Grab some beers or whatever you enjoy, head to the garage, and hear the album Dennis would sack if he could time travel. 3 stars.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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