The Serpent is Rising (1973)

1.Witch Wolf 2.The Grove of Eglantine 3.Young Man 4.As Bad as This 5.Winner Take All 6.22 Years 7.Jonas Psalter 8.The Serpent is Rising 9.Krakatoa 10.Hallelujah Chorus


After the flop of Styx II, Dennis DeYoung became convinced that the band was going in the wrong direction. Although history would show that he was wrong, he then directed the band into producing songs that were not really from the heart, but merely what he thought that people were expecting of them. Hindsight being 20/20, it's easy to see that this was erroneous thinking, but when a great song like Lady went totally unnoticed, well...

The band was now focusing on themes such as Greek Mythology and Roman Catholicism, and they still could not find much of an audience to connect. Like most of the other Wooden Nickel releases, this one also seems misguided and lacks any clear direction or focus. Although the real fan can see slight growth and improvement, but only if they look hard enough. Real hard. Consider the opening track Witch Wolf written by James "JY" Young. This song stands out above most of their early material with it's electric hard guitar driven riffs and its Steppenwolf "back of the Harley" driving force. JY never dominates much of the album's writing credits, and this one is one of his best. Ironically, the lack luster John Curelewski contributes his finest song on this album, 22 Years that would remain in the concert set list as an encore for a few years after his departure. Sadly, it's really the only memorable thing that he ever did with the band. Also in the "worth mentioning" category is another JY rocker Young Man which he would actually re-record on a solo album more than 20 years later.

The rest of the album is mediocre at best. Dennis DeYoung who usually leads the bunch with inspiration has nothing significant here, and he would later state he felt this was the worst record the band ever made. He, again, would let JY sing lead on some of his tunes such as Winner Take All and Jonas Psalter. He does handle lead vocals on The Grove of Eglantine which is at least listenable. Curelewski's other contributions include the sedate, depressing As Bad as This and the spoken demonish Krakatoa which would make a good Introduction to a Drama monologue that focuses on the real river Styx, but it really has no place on a Styx album - or any album with music for that matter.

Then in the "Look at what I can do Mom" category, the band closes the album with a rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. This is actually good with all vocals being done by the band members themselves. It's just very out of place here and entirely without purpose. The band does include a stab at humor with a track that is not even listed on the album: The Plexiglass Toilet that closes side one of the album. It's cute and funny in places. Sadly though, this little ditty is one of the high points of the album.

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