ASIA – Omega

ASIA_OMEGARemember Asia? The band that started out as a supergroup containing members of Yes (Steve Howe, guitar), ELP (Carl Palmer, drums), Buggles (Geoff Downes, keyboards) and Uriah Heep and King Crimson (John Wetton, bass and lead vocals)? In 1981 they released their self titled debut album, had a huge hit with ”Heat Of The Moment” and sold millions of albums. The band’s orginial line up only remained for one more album, the underrated Alpha (1982) before member after member left the band until only keyboard player Geoff Downes remained. Howe was the first to go and was replaced by ex – Krokus guitar player Mandy Mayer, a very unexpected choice. The album, Astra (1983), was very good but failed to repeat the success of its predecessors and soon the whole band was gone, leaving only Downes as the remaining member. Downes and bassist / singer John Wetton’s replacement John Payne then ran the band for many years, released a bunch of really good records, but never got the recognition they deserved. So, in 2008 Downes reunited with original members Wetton, guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Carl Palmer and released the slightly disappointing CD Phoenix. Not a bad album at all, but it left quite a bit to be desired. However, the reunion raised quite a few eyebrows, much because of the bad blood that had been running between the member through the years and gave the reunion well needed publicity. So, now the so important follow up is here. Despite the fact that Phoenix got some mixed reviews from both fans and press, there will always be somewhat high expectations when a band like Asia releases a new record.

The album opens with ”Finger On The Trigger”, the first single. It’s a great song, a bit rockier than were used to with Asia, but other than that it holds all the AOR goes prog ingredients that are Asia. “Through My Veins” is a middle paced tune with a fine melody, but a bit unforgettable and the chorus goes nowhere. “Holy War” is much better, a bit faster and it reminds me of their debut. However the verses are better than the chorus. “Ever Yours” is a ballad, unfortunately the sleepy kind. I know that these guys can write a killer ballad, however this is not one of them. “Listen Children” is much, much better. A big pop tune with a contagious melody, the kind that Wetton and Downes can write so brilliantly. “End Of The World” is brilliant. It’s darker – as the title might suggest – but it has this big, epic prog feel that Asia like to sneak into their pop songs. “Light The Way” is an uptempo pop-rocker with a striking melody and the kind of tune I’d like to hear from this band – wonderful! ”Emily” is more pure AOR and has a bit of Foreigner over it – a catchy vibe that has single potential. “Still The Same” is an uptempo pop song that has an obvious Beatles influence and usually that’s a good thing, but the song is somewhat mediocre so the Beatles thing gets lost, I’m afraid. “There Was A Time” is an ok ballad, but I have a hard time to keep my interest up for the whole song. Steve Howe’s mix och classical and jazz guitar playing is brilliant, though. ”Believe” sounds like a classic Asia tune and I would have loved more of that stuff. I mean, it is an Asia record and want it to sound like Asia all the way, even though I’m open for experimenting as long as the experiment don’t take over. The closing track “Don’t Wanna Lose You Now” is another ballad, but this time it works well. It’s on the cheesier side, but in agood way. I’m thinking about the album Alpha here. But there are also segments in the song that reminds me of Aerosmith’s and Bon Jovi’s early 90’s ballads. Some of them were really awesome, so I guess it’s a good thing.

Even though this is a good album, I can’t find the classic Asia sound on too many of the songs, which is a bummer. So, a good album, but pretty far from the greatness of the two first albums. But with Omega the members feels more relaxed and this CD is a lot more even song wise than its predecessor. Of course, the guys in this band are all brilliant musicians, but I get the feeling that this record is played a bit safe, I would like them to, while keeping their sound and melodies, think outside of the box a little more. As for now, I miss the Asia sound on too many songs, but it’s not like they have gone out of their way to make something different, it’s just pop. Quality wise, there are too many songs that doesn’t hold up all the way through for a higher grade than what I have given it. This album is a step up from its predecessor, but it doesn’t go all the way. I’m hoping that the band stay together for real this time and that next time they might end up giving us another Asia classic.

6/10

Tracklist:

1. Finger On The Trigger
2. Through My Veins
3. Holy War
4. Ever Yours
5. Listen Children
6. End Of The World
7. Light The Way
8. Emily
9. Still The Same
10. There Was A Time
11. I Believe
12. Don’t Wanna Lose You Now

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