Great year for my personal favourite bands as Magnum, Power Quest, TNT,
Ayreon who all have cracking albums out, with Demon and Judas Priest to come! Add
to this the mightily talented Asia, who have broken with tradition and named
an album that doesn't begin and end with ‘A'. Not only that, but for the
first time since the debut ‘Asia' and its follow-up ‘Alpha', you've got the
same set of musicians in place. Joining founder Geoff Downes and John Payne
(whose been in Asia now since the early 90's) are the powerful drumming of
Chris Slade (ex-AC/DC/Uriah Heep/Manfred Mann's Earthband) and the talented
guitarist Guthrie Govan.
The first thing that hits you is that the songs take longer to sink in
but they are well worth it! Opener ‘What About Love' is possibly the weakest
track on the album, in fact the album gets stronger as you progress which is
unusual as many bands pack their best songs upfront. Another interesting
development is Geoff Downes's use of more Hammond organ and the ‘parping'
keyboards take more of a backseat this time around.
Lyrical wise there is an underlying theme as John Payne's lyrics look at man's destruction of the
world over the past hundred years. ‘Blue Moon Monday' hints at prog rock
from its time changes and it features a glorious chorus line, again
underpinned by Hammond organ. The band rock out on ‘I Will Be There For
You', where again melody is king and if Radio 2 play Dare now, then this
could easily be next. Interesting use of Gregorian style chants on ‘Darkness
Day' and on ‘The Prophet' Guthrie Govan lays down some blissful solos that
never outstay their welcome or take over the song.
Like Magnum, Asia stick to what they are good at - damn fine melodic rock
tunes with a hint of progressive rock. The band has moved away from their
jazz-rock leanings on ‘Arena' (not a very good album) to what they do best.
Good to see another established band back on form and an album sure to
please their fans.