Between A Rock And A Prog Place: DENNIS DeYOUNG Declares “STYX Was A ‘Fake’ Prog Band”

June 10, 2021, 5 months ago

By Greg Prato

feature heavy metal hard rock styx dennis deyoung

Between A Rock And A Prog Place: DENNIS DeYOUNG Declares “STYX Was A ‘Fake’ Prog Band”

What truly is progressive music? Each month BraveWords will aim to dissect that answer with a thorough overview of the current musical climate that is the prog world. Old and new, borrowed and blue. A musical community without borders. So watch for a steady and spaced-out array of features, current news and a buyer’s guide checklist to enhance the forward-thinking musical mind. So, welcome to BraveWords' monthly column appropriately titled, Between A Rock In A Prog Place. 

Since 1972, the unmistakable vocals of Dennis DeYoung have been regularly featured on albums – either with Styx (up until 1999) or solo. And his latest solo offering, 26 East, Vol. 2, is being billed as the last-ever album of his career. This month, he discusses prog and his career:

Did you purposely set out to recreate the bombastic prog glory of ‘70s era Styx with the track “Isle Of Misanthrope”?

“As always I set out to write a good song first. After that, arrangement which by the way is not songwriting can be addressed. For instance different instrumentation can allow the song to be perceived in a myriad of ways. If the opening ostinato on ‘Misanthrope’ had been performed on grand piano, the perception would change, as would it if it were played on nylon string guitar, accordion or tuba. The chords and the melody will not be altered but the listeners experience would be quite different. Dynamics as well can be accentuated or diminished. Salt to taste. Let’s assume when the band kicks in on ‘Mis.’ with rock guitars, drums and B3 that instead a children’s choir sings and synth strings and Yamaha DX electric piano are introduced, I wonder if would it be called ‘prog’? Some may even claim say it isn’t. Who you like it? To answer more directly, my song ‘Suite Madame Blue’ from Equinox was what I was thinking when writing ‘Mis.’ because ‘SMB’ is Styx’s most listened to song on YouTube that was not a single.”

What made you decide that 26 East, Vol. 2 will be your last album? 

“The music business model that so many of us were successful in has disappeared. Rock radio is mostly a memory. Plus, a schmuck is someone who pays for something they can get for free. Money was never my goal, but finding a like-minded audience to communicate with sadly that too has been lost mostly by the age of the audience and lack of radio. Searching for music on the internet is too much like homework.”

Which ‘70s Styx track would you consider the band’s “prog masterpiece,” and why?

“I’m not sure we actually had a ‘prog’ masterpiece as per the folks who define such stuff. There is only one way to define music and that’s the kind you like and the kind you don’t. I recently said in an interview that Styx was a ‘fake’ prog band because at its core, we were an American rock band with Marshall stacks who weaved in ‘art rock’ (as it was once called) elements. We had success at many different styles of music and this fact makes me the most happy. We wrote lyrics that were less mystical and much more practical than typical prog. In the beginning, I was influenced by some of the art rockers, but lost interest when it became less about songs and more about individuals’ technical prowess. Songs first, singers second.”

Between A Rock And A Prog Place News Blast

Dutch symphonic metallists Epica are offering their first-ever streaming event on Saturday, June 12 at 12:00 PM PST / 3:00 PM EST / 9:00 PM CET. Entitled Ωmega Alive, the event will include songs from the Ωmega album being performed for the first time ever, along with the band’s most popular songs…and other surprises. Tickets can be purchased here. Tech-metal drummer Hannes Grossmann has shared a new single, ‘The Great Designer,’ from his upcoming solo album, To Where the Light Retreats.

Amorphis guitarist Esa Holopainen has recently issued the album Silver Lake, which is described as “a world of catchy, progressive metal masterpieces that breathe the beauty and melancholy of Finland,” and can now be ordered. Portuguese prog metallists, Sullen, has unveiled a new ‘live in the studio’ video for the track ‘The Mounder’ – experience all 7 minutes and 28 seconds of it here. If you long for the vintage German krautrock sounds of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, then the mysterious Trees Speak is sure to please your earholes – especially the song/video combo for the tune “Elements Of Matter,” which you can experience below.

Just when you didn’t think Sabaton could out-do themselves video-wise, the Swedish history buffs managed to accomplish this impressive feat, with an over-the-top cinematic clip for ‘Defence of Moscow’. Italian symphonic metallists Rhapsody Of Fire have returned with a new EP, I'll Be Your Hero, which also features rare tracks and can now be ordered. It’s hard to decipher if Icelanders The Vintage Caravan are stoner rock or prog rock. We’ll let you be the judge after experiencing their clip for the tune ‘Sharp Teeth’.

It’s not often that a band is described as “Ukrainian psychedelic prog-rockers,” but it turns out that it is indeed a fitting explanation of the trio Sinoptik, who have issued a video for their almost 10-minute long epic, ‘The Call’. Canadian proggers The Wring recently issued their latest album, The Wring² Project Cipher, which features a variety of special guests, including  Marc Bonilla (Keith Emerson Band, California Transit Authority, Glenn Hughes), Bryan Beller (Joe Satriani, The Aristocrats, Dethklok, Steve Vai), and Thomas Lang (Robert Fripp, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Williams), among others. Check out the video for one of their new tunes, “Cipher,” here. Chicago-based prog metal instrumental trio Aziola Cry have issued a ‘making of’ video concerning their latest album, The Ironic Divide, which can be viewed right here.

Swiss-Italian progressive metallists Virtual Symmetry will be releasing the live album Exoverse Live: Out Of The Shadow on June 30, which was recorded in October 2020 during a show at Teatro Plaza in Mendrisio (Switzerland), and features several guests (plus backing singers, two choirgirls, and a string trio). The album can be ordered here. Portugal’s Moonspell have announced vinyl reissues of two earlier albums, 2015’s Extinct and 2017’s 1755, which will be released on July 2, 2021 via Napalm Records and limited to 100 copies each. As reported last month here, The Polyphonic Spree has included a cover of the Rush classic, “The Spirit Of Radio,” on their new all-covers album, Afflatus. And now, a video has been assembled for the tune…

June New Albums

June 1, 2021:
Hannes Grossmann – To Where The Light Retreats (Bandcamp)

June 4, 2021:
Rhapsody Of Fire – I’ll Be Your Hero EP (AFM)

June 11, 2021:
Sinoptik – The Calling (OneRPM)

June 18, 2021:
Helloween – Helloween (Nuclear Blast)
Pharaoh – The Powers That Be (Cruz Del Sur Music)
Timo Tolkki's Avalon – The Enigma Birth (Frontiers)

June 25, 2021:
Pestilence – Exitivm (Agonia)

June 30, 2021:
Virtual Symmetry – Exoverse Live: Out of the Shadow (Independent)

Classic Clip

Although Mr. DeYoung earlier stated he never considered Styx to be a true prog band, their early epic, ‘Suite Madame Blue,’ comes mighty close. Here is a rendition of the tune from 1996:

Featured Audio

HYPOCRISY – “Children Of The Gray” (Nuclear Blast)

HYPOCRISY – “Children Of The Gray” (Nuclear Blast)

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