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Album Review: Asia – Gravitas

2 min read

British supergroup Asia have gone through a revolving roster of personnel since their formation in 1981. After all four original members finally reunited in 2006, changes arose once again in early 2013, as Steve Howe’s third resignation from the band (to concentrate on side project Yes) brought in guitar virtuoso Sam Coulson. Described by band-mates as a “wonderful player” it was hoped Coulson could bring a fresh approach and sound to the band. It is under this new line-up that fourteenth album Gravitas has been born.

Asia-GravitasIf you were to ask someone to describe classic 80’s rock, you could take a fair stab at what they might be thinking. Strong heavy-hitting vocals, smooth solos and a plethora of synthesizers you say? Absolutely. This is the sound Asia became renowned for over the years and with Gravitas, it is clear they haven’t fallen too far from the tree.

This becomes apparent with album opener and first single Valkyrie. Chugging guitar riffs, a powerful drum pattern and the constant ringing of rock organs all get thrown in to the mix to brew up that familiar sound of 80’s rock and roll. Coulson stamps his mark on things with a fantastic solo Slash would be proud of and we end with chants of ‘Valkyrie’ shining through. Things rather tamely follow suit with title track Gravitas, so it’s a welcome change when The Closer I Get begins. It’s a modern take on the standard rock ballad, and singer John Wetton lets his vocal talent take centre stage.

Upon listening, it becomes apparent Asia could very well have made a career scoring music for films and television or even musicals, as tracks Russian Dolls and Heaven Help Me both highlight. The former straying a little from the sound of the rest of the album, but who’s to say a little experimentation is a bad thing? It shows a band as long in the tooth as Asia still have the fire to create. (And if you were wondering, the band have actually composed sound for the moving image – 1999 album Rare was entirely instrumental and created for one of David Attenborough’s nature films). Gravitas returns to a sound we’d expect in the albums closing stages and ends on a high with Till We Meet Again, leaving us in a reflective mood. It touches on the topic of that old revolving roster of bandmates – “I cherish each moment that we’ve spent” and “I say this, that were the best friends around” shed thanks upon past members and bring us neatly back up to the present.

Some are hailing Gravitas as the freshest album since their early 80’s releases, and while this may not be entirely the case, its still worth a spin on your record player. The band knows their sound and knows how to do it well, and sometimes a tried and tested method is something to hold onto.