Friday, June 15, 2012

ASIA: "XXX"

Rating: 10/10
Label: Frontiers 2012
Review by Alan Holloway

First up, I should say that I’m not a massive fan of Asia, a band whose original members came from various big ass prog rock bands, yet together they made more of a melodic rock sound. Mind you, this hasn’t stopped people labelling them as a prog band for thirty years now. Personally, I like their first three albums, but when vocalist John Wetton was replaced by John Payne I felt they lost something in their sound and never really enjoyed an album from start to finish, although there were several good tracks here and there. Even though the four original members reunited for 2008’s “Phoenix” album, plus 2010’s “Omega”, even these albums were patchy, although better than much that came in the Payne era.

Named to mark the band’s 30th anniversary, “XXX” will play merry havoc with your internet search history, as anyone inputting “Asia XXX” will get plenty of results, nearly all of them pornographic. Well done, lads! The cover art has been provided by the ever present Roger Dean, and it’s pretty cool, but it’s when you listen to the music that “XXX” impresses most (as it should be).

The only bugbear I have with this album is at the start. Now I hate the trend for album intros, usually a minute or so of crap to set the tone or whatever, but at least I can skip or just delete them. On “XXX” (pronounced Triple X) there’s an intro bolted on to opener “Tomorrow The World” which is a gentle and very dull keyboard piece. Thank feck that once it’s over (after 50seconds) the album opener is classic Asia, reminding me of the excellent “Finger On The Trigger” opener to Omega - fast, melodic and catchy. It sets the tone for the album, as “XXX” is firmly based around tracks with a bit of pace to them, rather than ballads.

Just nine tracks are here, and every single one is up there with anything Asia have done before. I have had this album for weeks now, and it gets listened to every single day, usually more than once. As I said, I’m not a rabid Asia fan, and to be honest I hated Yes and their ilk for the most part. The tracks manage to combine keyboards, slick guitars and the unique vocals of John Wetton incredibly well. The best track, for me, is “Bury Me In Willow”, a very catchy and quite haunting song that follows up “Tomorrow The World” perfectly and showcases Wetton’s voice perfectly. “No Religion” follow it, and is yet another upbeat, well paced track with a chorus that sticks in your head like glue.

Even when we get a ballad, the excellent fourth track “Faithful”, it morphs into an upbeat track two thirds through. Throw in the catchy single “Face On The Bridge”, another mid paced, catchy track “Al Gatto Nero”, the guitar heavy and chorus led “Judas” and the mid paced “I know How You Feel” and you’ll realize that this isn’t an Asia album for the soft hearted. “XXX” screams melodic rock at the listener, and not slow, heartbreaking ballad heavy melodic rock either. Every single song has a singalong chorus, and every single track has cool guitarwork as well as creative keyboards. It’s all rounded off with a second quasi ballad, “Ghost Of A Chance”, which again goes all upbeat two thirds through with a nice orchestral arrangement that closes the album as well as anything could, coupled with a great Steve Howe solo.

Up to now, I thought my album of the year was going to be Halestorm, but with “XXX” the old guard have delivered the best Asia album in a thirty year career, and what will almost certainly be the best album of 2012, and yes I do know there’s a Rush one coming out!
Website

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment