Like many of the bands we loved when we were younger, ASIA has created a signature sound and expectations that can hinder growth or success. Since the reformation of the classic lineup in 2006, ASIA has added to their musical legacy with their latest release, Gravitas, on Frontiers Records.
Featuring the core of John Wetton (bass/vocals), Geoff Downes (keyboards) and Carl Palmer (drums) the band is rounded out with new guitarist Sam Coulson (who replaces Steve Howe), ASIA 2014 has created a new musical path for themselves not dependent on their amazing past.
Kicking off the album is the first single 'Valkrye', an incredible song that prepares the listener for the next almost hour of escape. Right away you hear how Coulson's riffs and soaring solo add a new layer to ASIA's wall of sound, not unlike Mandy Mayer did in 1986. The next song is the epic title track complete with beautiful melodies and trademark ASIA backing vocals.
As you dive in deeper and listen to the entire disc (and then go back for another listen) you won't hear that blazing song or hard crunching tune you may be expecting, but you will get ear candy like 'Nyctophobia', 'Russian Dolls' and the dusted off 'I Would Die For You' that are charming and at times quirky and show where ASIA is today.
'Gravitas' is an album that takes a few listens to get fully into. Musically, ASIA is on top of their game thanks in big part to the tapestry woven by Geoff Downs. Although Carl Palmer doesn't let loose like I would want or hope, the songs are solid, the production is top notch and John Wetton is singing and playing better than he ever has.
For a frame of reference I compare 'Gravitas' to the Dire Straits 'Brother In Arms' as far as its tone and musical pacing. This album doesn't overpower you for the sake of showing off, it just entertains on a nice human level.
Matman Rating: 4 out of 5 dragons
To find out more about ASIA go to their official site at www.originalasia.com
To check out the amazing stable of artists on Frontier Records click here