Gravitas (2014)

1. Valkyrie 2. Gravitas 3. The Closer I Get To You 4. Nyctophobia 5. Russian Dolls 6. Heaven Help Me now 7. I Would Die For You 8. Joe Dimaggio's Glove 9. 'Til We Meet Again


The reunion of the classic lineup of Asia actually lasted a lot longer than when they first formed the band back in the early 1980s. With this record, however, they were once again defunct. Steve Howe, once again, exits the picture. Why? I honestly have no idea. It should be pointed out that he was also in his supergroup Yes full time, but then again, so was keyboardist Geoff Downes. Who knows? Sadly, the more important question is, "Who cares?"

The three albums released since the reunion had different degrees of quality. One was really good, one was good, and one was awful (just my opinion, of course). Regardless, most people simply didn't care, and had these guys put out stellar work, it probably would have gone mostly unnoticed anyway, and you can bet that whenever they played live, they would fill the set list with mostly songs from their first album. So in Howe's shoes, steps Sam Coulson. Supposedly, the guy is an excellent guitar player, but he never seems to be able to (or try to) replicate Howe's distinct guitar playing.

Like their last album, 2012's XXX, this record sounds mostly flat and uninspired, so replacement guitarist or not, I never really seemed to care. The guys still haven't quite learned that long, extended numbers where they repeat themselves lyrically and musically throughout are gut wrenchingly bad. The opening number Valkyrie is a prime example. How often do we really need to hear this one word sang, slowly, throughout the song? A couple of times would have been preferable, but you literally get sick to your stomach hearing them repeat this one word "chorus" over and over again. They make the same mistake with the idiotic Nyctophobia. This song also sticks in your head after a few listens, but not in a good way. I confess I had to look up the word to find out what it even means.

Strangely, they actually do pull a rabbit out of a hat a couple of times and sound pretty good, even without Howe in the lineup. The title track is actually pretty good (and mildly inoffensive at plus-seven minutes), as well as the medley Heaven Help Me Now. Mostly, though, the guys seem to just be phoning in the entire record, and whereas one can't fault a group for still trying even after they've been at it (in various bands) for over 40 years, you honestly have to kind of wish they would just give it up.

I remember reading about a fan of the "Star Wars" movie series who tried to improve the lackluster prequel trilogy by editing all three movies by cutting out all of the bad parts and making one really good two hour movie and then placing it on YouTube. Asia probably should have tried to do the same thing with selected songs from their latest four albums.

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