Alpha Dog 2T/UMeStyx sets a course for Mars with their first new album of original tunes in 14 years, The Mission, a sci-fi concept record that tells the story of the first manned voyage to the red planet. The album, released today, casts the group as the crew of a spacecraft that leaves Earth en route to Mars in 2033.

Tommy Shaw tells ABC Radio that the concept for The Mission grew out of a guitar riff he cooked up a few years back that he eventually worked into the album’s final track, “Mission to Mars.” The singer/guitarist fleshed out the music and story with frequent collaborator Will Evankovich, with additional input from Styx keyboardist/vocalist Lawrence Gowan.

Shaw explains that as the tale begins, the crew members are “very excited about [the journey,] but now you’re in that ship and there’s human beings about to just risk everything and leave everything behind. And so, it starts to become about…the different personalities in it.”

Sonically, The Mission is reminiscent of Styx’s classic late-1970s recordings, and founding guitarist James “JY” Young reveals that Shaw used the band’s hit 1977 concept album The Grand Illusion as “a loose template” for the new record.

“There’s elements of Pink Floyd on that record as there are on this record, and there’s bad-ass rockers on this record like there are on that record,” JY tells ABC Radio. “And there’s all points in between.”

So will Styx play The Mission in its entirety live? Shaw says the band eventually may organize a trek featuring a full performance “if there’s enough demand from our fans.” First up, however, Styx will embark on the United We Stand Tour with REO Speedwagon and ex-Eagles guitarist Don Felder starting this Tuesday, June 20, in Ridgefield, Washington.

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