With the Top Ten pop hit "Lady" under their belts, Styx continued to blend interesting conceptual progressive elements into The Serpent Is Rising, their third LP and first band-co-produced offering. Although James "J.Y." Young had contributed significantly to Styx' self-titled debut, his compositions were conspicuously absent from the John Curulewski- and Dennis DeYoung-dominated Styx II, which had been issued only months earlier. Young's upbeat and commanding opener "Witch Wolf" firmly re-establishes him as a formidable writer, not to mention an intricate and skilled instrumentalist. While their progressive leanings would remain prominent in Styx' musical evolution, perhaps eager to build upon the national exposure afforded them by "Lady," much of the disc is less arty and more straight-ahead album rock. "Winner Takes All" bears some stylistic parallels to Queen as both have a flair for the dramatic. "22 Years" unquestionably foreshadows future Styx classics such as "Suite Madame Blue" and "Rockin' the Paradise." The distinctive dual-lead guitars of Curulewski and Young soar on the epic tale of "Jonas Psalter," while the memorable syncopated melody from "The Serpent Is Rising" proves the quintet had not entirely abandoned their prog rock origins. Similarly effective is DeYoung's baroque-flavored introduction to the lithe and limber "The Grove of Eglantine." The unusual ending is a combination of disparate elements. The electronic composition "Krakatoa" is a synthesizer progression from Paul Beaver and Bernie Kraus and was adopted by filmmaker George Lucas as the aural trademark of his THX theater sound system. It incongruously segues into a full 90 seconds of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, proving that the combo were still willing to experiment with their identity and the expectations of their audience.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer