Every now and then, there appears a someone who claims that we should be writing only about progressive rock on our pages, because that’s what the name of this very website suggests. But let’s give it a thought. First off, what is progressive rock today? Is it everything that sounds derivative and reminiscent of Yes or Gentle Giant? Not sure if it’s progressive at all. Progressive music is not stagnant and for that sake it should further evolve and, why not, modernize.
The previous paragraph doesn’t have so much in common with Asia‘s brand new album Gravitas, though I was told that I should not write about them on the website, because they are not prog. Well, they aren’t, but not everything should be… (oh gosh, again that word!). I wasn’t there when Asia originally formed, but I suppose that it was a huge slap in the face for everyone when four guys, coming from the mentioned genre’s most prestigious acts formed a (super)group with an intent of doing classic mellow rock. The 1982′s self-titled debut album went viral in terms of sales, resulting as the best selling album of the year. Maybe that talks that open-mindness in 1980′s was quite far than it’s today (but I think we all know where it comes from).
With original core comprised of John Wetton, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes, the band (faced with several line-up changes over the course of time) went on pursuing a 30+ year long career that resulted in 14 studio releases (including new installment Gravitas). Steve Howe left Asia after the release of 2012′s XXX and was replaced by a youngster Sam Coulson, who previously worked with Guthrie Govan, Paul Gilbert, Tony MacAlpine, among many others.
Gravitas is described as the punchiest and freshest album by Asia since its classic early 1980′s releases. Originally named Valkyrie, Gravitas displays revitalization in sound that particularly manifests through guitar arrangements and solos. The mentioned 1980′s vibe blazes away through the album’s 50 minutes of playtime. It’s very dynamic and challenging. The complexity of Gravitas is mirrored by plenty of vocal arrangements. Wetton is hell of a good singer, and his voice is easy adaptive to whatever a song structure demands. From the down-to-earth singing on album’s opener Valkyrie to the enthusiastic Till We Meet Again, he shows a grandiose arsenal of variety of vocal arrangements. Coulson‘s guitar work definitely brings freshness in the sound, his solos trace the way for the melodic share on the album, while Downes‘ keyboards and Palmer‘s drums give the needed depth to the overall sound.
There is absolutely everything on Gravitas that adorns Asia: theatrical atmospherics, interesting synth and Hammond soundscapes, soulful piano arrangements, up-tempo beats, melodic-filled guitar solos and vocals, hard-edged vibe. Gravitas is an album that could be summarized as a work that showcases everything what has been done before, but it also presents something new. That means that there is something for everybody.
03. The Closer I Get
05. Russian Dolls
06. Heaven Help Me
07. I Would Die For You
08. Joe DiMaggio’s Glove
09. Till We Meet Again
* John Wetton – lead vocals, bass
* Carl Palmer – drums
* Geoff Downes – keyboards
* Sam Coulson – guitars