ASIA - Gravitas (Review)

Mon
16
Jun
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BOTTOM LINE
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This is a really painfully slow album to get through. I spoke of the occasional joys of a nice mellow album, but in this case, the songs are simply frightfully dull and lacking any enthusiasm by those performing them. The production and style of the album is as close to classic 80s Asia as you could imagine, but it's wasted on some tepid pacing and dull songs. 

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SCORE
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70%

 

Produced By: 
Asia
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR, Classic Rock
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Monday, June 16, 2014
Categories: 
Asia delivers another new album in pretty quick time following their acclaimed XXX album in 2012. Gone is guitarist Steve Howe and in his place is young gun Sam Coulson.
The band has stuck to its mantra of slick, polished AOR, staying true to their original early 80s style.
Unfortunately the band seems to have slipped back into the slow to mid-tempo slumber that has been an issue in recent albums. The brief sojourn into a more uptempo realm on XXX is once again abandoned in favor of a moped in first gear here.
The production of course is super smooth and multi-layered, but the songs….dull I'm afraid.
Kicking off with what is possible the most annoying chorus in at least a decade, Valkyrie has a nice laid back verse reminiscent of the band's debut album, but that chorus makes you want to stick cacti in your ear.
Then comes 8 minute title track, where there's no sign of life until near the 3 minute mark. Followed of course by an ultra-slow ballad, a painfully slow song followed by the mid-tempo quirk of Nyctophobia which is kind of annoying also.
Russian Dolls is then another slow song before Heaven Help Me Now finally hits second gear.
That's followed by the album's best track – the slightly anthemic (in a mellow way) I Would Die For You.
That's followed by the horribly slow and dull Joe Di Maggio's Glove and the slightly more dramatic Till We Meet Again to close the album.
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Score: 
70
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Comments

Of the 4 post-reunion Asia albums, Gravitas most closely resembles one of the Wetton Downes Icon releases, or even Wetton's own Rock Of Faith album.  This is partly because of the competent but less distinctive guitar playing of Sam Coulson compared with Steve Howe, and partly because of the tempo of the album.  On tempo, I agree with Andrew. 
Where I (respectfully) disagree is with the overall assessment of the album.  Valkyrie is a good, but unspectacular opener, but the album really contains considerable depth from there on.  Gravitas is an excellent title track, although I also wondered about the extended intro.  As track 2, it really disrupts the flow of the album.  The 2 main ballads are both great songs, particularly Joe DiMaggio's Glove, which is wonderfully sung and has a beautiful melody.  Nyctophobia is good fun and I agree with Andrew that I Would Die For You is the best song on the album.  Russian Dolls is awful I'm sorry to say but the rest of the album is very enjoyable, but not in a rocking way.     

Geoff Wetton's picture

Email: 
moonchild2112@alice.it

Of course this new record sounds more iCon than Asia, Howe was a big musical personality and Coulson sounds like stuck by the two boss, but I challenge to find 9 good songs out of 9 in nowadays releases. That's not so frequent, so I like this album a lot, even if it's not a masterpiece as Omega and XXX.
I think the record would be greater just with Sam unleashed, and with 2 more rock/up-tempo tunes. 

Rating: 
59
Email: 
pgborden@hotmail.com

This is a tough one to score.  First, Asia is clearly NOT going to ever again be the uptempo band of its first two albums.  Second, as released, this album IS dreadfully slow as a whole.  However, within many of the songs there are signs of life.  I did some basic editing to Valkyrie, Gravitas, and Heaven Help Me Now and now have three very listenable, reasonable lengthed tunes.  Add to that the decent (though overrated) I Would Die For You, and now half of the songs on this album rate a 7or 8 on a scale of 10 (for me).  In my opinion, Nyctophobia, Russian Dolls, and Joe DiMaggio's Glove simply cannot be saved... they are that bad.  If there had not been so many slow, drawn out songs, I believe Till We Meet Again would have been better received.  Unfortunately, as the album is presented, by the time you get to this track, you're either already asleep or annoyed to the point of lost objectivity.  Because I've managed to edit this album for my own purposes to be a 70, I've come to the final conclusion that this album simply Needed To Be Better.

J.M.D's picture

Just been to see Asia. blew me away. They have a fresh outlook with out Howe {who I love, but "Yes" are lost at the pressent.}
New blood, fresh goals, great band, 85% MARK more realistic.
Give it another spin, hope it grows on you.