Release Date: 21st March 2014
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
In the heat of the moment you may be surprised that these constant melodic progressive rockers are still going, but here they are with the follow up to their 'XXX' album from 2012.
Elsewhere, I reviewed that album and bestowed plenty of positive sentiment in its path, but what does this latest album have to offer? Well I'm still trembling and sweating at night as I try desperately to get some much needed sleep due to the infectious and highly repetitive harmonious chorus to 'Valkyrie' spinning with devilish intent around my cranium!
'Valkyrie' was given the editing treatment and unleashed as a promotional single prior to the release of 'Gravitas'.
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Three out of the four original members of Asia that brought us their 1982 debut album, which ended up being the biggest selling album of that year, are present and correct here with 'Gravitas' which to some is a great omen.
Joining Geoff Downes on keyboards, Carl Palmer in the hot seat for the drums and John Wetton admirably tackling bass and vocals is Sam Coulson on guitars. Coulson was spotted on YouTube of all places showing dexterity with the guitar and brought into the fold to replace previous guitarist Steve Howe.
The title track is perhaps too long as it busts the eight minute barrier and pushes an uninspired chorus by repeating the word "gravitas" with those soothing and polished harmonies. Don't let that put you off though, as 'The Closer I Get To You' showcases some high quality melodic rock, with vocals climbing a ladder in to the clouds in order to reach a really beautiful zenith.
Accompanied by strings and some sublime tender keys sprinkled liberally during the verses, this track is one of numerous highlights.
Do you suffer with a fear of the dark? If so, the track 'Nyctophobia' may leave you encased with a cold sweat as it casts a spell with the chorus circling the ears until fizzling out and finally disappearing. 'Russian Dolls' feels a little lost as it meanders from start to the finish line, pleasant but without a strong sense of direction. There's an elaborate opening sequence to 'Heaven Help Me Now' which results in some orchestral drama before the song settles.
Listening to the production on 'Gravitas' makes you appreciate how intuitive John Wetton and Geoff Downes are, with mixer John Mitchell adding his experience to the process. The clarity and sheen given to these songs doesn't save some of them from being mediocre in my humble opinion, but nevertheless, once songs like 'Heaven Help Me Now' get going there's no argument about what these guys can still achieve when it comes to quality arrangements and songwriting.
'I Would Die For You' has little in the way of excess musicality and shows Asia in a very good light. It happens to be the shortest track amongst this new set. Regarding a tenuous link in connections during the next track, or perhaps that's too mean. Maybe I should be commending the guys for originality instead?
They compare the tenderness and love from the heart to the glove that major league baseball star Joe DiMaggio used during his impressive career. The song isn't bad, and the same vibes are applicable to album closer 'Till We Meet Again'.
To summarise, Asia are a fabulous band with some impressive moments throughout their back catalogue and for me with 'XXX' I thought we were about to witness an impressive run of consistently great material. My expectations were somewhat premature. This album has some good moments which will last with me for ages, but it's a let down at times.
The Closer I Get To You
Heaven Help Me Now
I Would Die For You
Joe DiMaggio's Glove
Till We Meet Again