Monday, February 17, 2014

ASIA - "Gravitas"


Label: Frontiers

Review By: Alan Holloway

Some of you may remember that a couple of years I went a bit mental over Asia’s “XXX” album, a fantastic piece of work that resulted in much singing along and many embarrassing Google searches. It was, to be honest, an almost perfect album, full of pace and melody, the best , for me, since “Astra” way back in the Eighties. Understandably I’ve been waiting for the follow up with baited breath.

One of the problem’s I have had with Asia in the past is their propensity for releasing albums full of mid paced, samey songs. This is one of the reason’s I loved “XXX” so much, as it really rolled along and showcased varying speeds and styles. “Gravitas” does not do this, not even a tiny bit. Opening track “Valkyrie” will have you singing along, but only because John Wetton sings that very word over and over. Next is eight minutes of “Gravitas” that feels more like fifteen, with a dull two minute intro (to build gravitas, I suppose) and a nice opening riff that dissipates into five more minutes of mid paced averageness that threatens to be good but never quite makes it. It only wakes up at the end when we finally get a sweet guitar solo. The most interesting track is “I Would Die For You”, which rolls in at just over three minutes and has absolutely no flab on it anywhere.

“Gravitas” is a rather uninteresting album overall. If a few of these slow tracks, like “Russian Dolls” and “Nyctophobia” had been part of a pacier album then they would have been fine, but when the vast majority of an album is so unchanging and mediocre it does begin to grate. There’s no real flow to many of the tracks, no sense of urgency, none of the passion of “XXX”.  In short, “Gravitas” is boring. It’s not Prog-boring, as Asia have never really been a Prog band, it’s just dull in a generally dull way. I have a feeling this will be the biggest disappointment of the year for me, and that sucks. 

1 comment:

  1. Reading this review, and hearing comments from a couple other people (fans of the band) who have heard it, I've figured out Asia's problem: It is (has probably always been) it's fanbase. If Asia has a record that's popular, and their next record isn't like their last record - they get criticized! .. And by some people, lambasted. The same thing happened (by several people) to their second record, in 1983, after the first record. {When (with the exception of "Don't Cry") song-wise Alpha was a clear progression, from Asia I .. if not production-wise} ... And it's about to happen again.
    I don't think the record is dull .. It has more slower songs, but that doesn't = dull, for me ... I like them; they're deep, and very well done. ... Perhaps they could have utilized their new guitar player more, but there are songs where guitars are a loud, constant instrument - like "Till We Meet Again".
    The lyrics of the songs are excellent, and well thought-out (with maybe the exception of "I Would Die For You", which is your standard '80s-style rock love song) ... moreso than those of the last two albums.
    There are no really cheesy lyrics such as the lyrics to "Faithful", "Emily", and "Shadow Of A Doubt" (a horrible song on the Phoenix CD).
    "Valkyrie" could have been faster-paced, I'll give you that - because it's the single. It's as though they played with a click-track, doing the basic tracks ... and the tempo was just wrong. But, I like the chorus of it, simple as it is.
    There are some amazing songs, though, that sound like things Asia wouldn't even do! - in a good way. The second part of the chorus of "Joe DiMaggio's Glove" sounds like "Take the Long Way Home", from Supertramp, which is interesting.
    I could do without "Nyctophobia", but then I've never been one for Asia's 'fun' songs ... like "Summer (Can't Last Too Long)" ... But "Russian Dolls" is spine-tingling, and "Heaven Help Me" has a great Trans Siberian Orchestra vibe. Better production on the drums, than on X X X, helps as well.

    It's a completely different animal than X X X, but I don't think it's a worse album. But it is a transitional album ... I look forward to hearing a record done after they've played live, for a year ... and with the guitarist contributing to the music-writing.
    Sounds like we do agree though that Astra sure is a good record. - Darrien