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July 23, 2024

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Cyclorama (Sanctuary Records)

By: Vinnie Apicella

Three years in the making, the revamped Arena-rockers come out with a revitalized form that embraces their storied past and focuses to the future. "Cyclorama" is Styx full circle, arriving some thirty years after their self-titled sleeper, and it's an album that boasts the confidence of top-level talent and also an unlikely continuity that's rarely plausible when so many new elements enter the equation. Styx now sports an unprecedented four lead singers and features the team of Burtnik and Gowan, each of whom role-play, if not replace, the dearly departed Dennis DeYoung and the difficult to overcome operatic integrity that defined a large measure of their sound. Because of their ability to change from song to song, album to album, member to member, really, Styx can survive change better than most and lose little integrity in the process. "Cyclorama," if not a wry inclination toward promoting essential health benefits of a beta carotene rich diet, is a highly photogenic glossy paged comeback record by a band with a point to prove and not in the slightest means low key. The songs range from the typically uptempo Rock tracks like the optimistically self-indulgent "Do Things My Way" and catchy first single "Waiting For Our Time," to the anthemic uprising of "Fields Of The Brave," and the surprisingly sharp "Kiss Your Ass Goodbye," and their usually well bred blend of soulful ballads that in many cases run synonymously with graying temples, though here, a customary norm since day one. The additions of Burtnik and Gowan make the post-DeYoung era a smoother transition than could be expected considering the former's unmistakable croon, and together with the greater vocal influence of Tommy Shaw, make an impressionable singing team that stays true to their history-rich harmonic unity. JY, the usually grounding force behind the otherwise soaring nature of the Styx grandeur, remains faithful to the guitar as a weapon ideology with his noticeably heavier presence now and again, particularly impressive on album highlight, "Captain America." "Cyclorama" does not escape completely unscathed from the empty room of reticence - "Yes I Can," "Killing The Thing That You Love," and one might suggest a greater degree of urgency in a chorus like on "These Are The Times" or a sharper hook or "Together" to break free from the occasional chain of the mundane. When all's said and done, "Cyclorama's" got more legs than most for a band their age and platinum-selling past to live up to. Most veterans come away too predictable and play it safe at every angle, venturing, if at all, into little more than the relaxed atmosphere of Vegas-staged stool sitters that rise barely above their own acoustics. Where 99's "Brave New World" was more immediate as the actual "comeback" album, "Cyclorama" extends the band's sound parameters and offers a well blended mixture that thrusts the idea of classic-era "Grand Illusion" to a new dynamic of contemporary progressivism.
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