ASIA: OMEGA (2010)
1) Finger On The Trigger; 2) Through My Veins; 3) Holy War; 4) Ever Yours; 5) Listen Children; 6) End Of The World; 7) Light The Way; 8) Emily; 9) Still The Same; 10) There Was A Time; 11) I Believe; 12) Don't Wanna Lose You Now.
This would have sure made for a great title to the band's swan-song album (and makes me envision the prospect of a supercool band whose very first album would be titled Alpha, with the subsequent catalog running through all the letters of the Greek alphabet — a priceless idea, and here I am giving it away for free). Unfortunately, no sooner had it come out that they disappointed everyone with predictably dull statements — «we thought it was just a nice word to use, it doesn't really mean anything» or something to that effect. What a turn-off.
It's not as if listening to Omega would make me want to scream «just retire already!». It's hardly worse than Phoenix, and in some respects, maybe better. There are no longer any conscious attempts to revive any «authentic prog vibe» — an impossible task for a band that never had any to begin with. All of the songs are strictly within the four-to-five minute range, and all are pinned to recurrent pop hooks, with no far-fetched ideas of massive sonic exploration or whatever, although Steve Howe is still given plenty of opportunities to shine, and his presence graces the album even more now that they are no longer willing to remind us «we are the sidekicks of Yes, we are the sidekicks of Yes» every several minutes.
As a result, all of this is mostly decent, well-produced, multi-layered music – never terribly exciting, but memorable enough to keep the head occupied and restrained enough to keep the senses un-annoyed. Occasionally, they still tend to let Geoff in the front with the big old «heavenly keyboard» sound, with Wetton belting out a standing-on-the-cliff-waving-his-hair-in-the-wind power ballad against it (ʽEver Yoursʼ), but most of these tracks could be played as background music without any major embarrassment.
ʽFinger On The Triggerʼ may not have been the best of all possible openings, though. They introduce it with one of those old-school «pop-metal» riffs, as if to convince us that they still have that «kick-ass crunch», but if they didn't really have it then, why would I start believing that they have it now? It's not an awful pop-rocker — the chorus is catchy, and Steve eventually breaks away from the lumbering rhythm-work and into the realm of high-pitched melodic solos. But already the second track, ʽThrough My Veinsʼ, on which they slow down the tempo and turn the mood to «rhythmically meditative», sounds more effective, even if, technically, it is more «boring». Maybe it is because, at this point, Wetton's vocals just do not work on rock-out-oriented material: he does fine enough on the «wisened old man» front.
From then on, it's all fairly even – some love ballads, some social statements, some end-of-the-world predictions (even a song called ʽEnd Of The Worldʼ in case you don't feel it), but nothing ever stands out. With tremendous mental effort, I am only able to single out ʽEmilyʼ as a relative high point, exclusively due to Steve's fabulous slide work which raises this mid-tempo piano pop ballad out of adult contemporary mediocrity and adds a slight ʽAnd You And Iʼ-like shade — always welcome. Eventually they wave us goodbye on ʽDon't Wanna Lose You Nowʼ, which wisely reproduces the life-is-great optimistic conclusion of Phoenix — a fairly effective conclusion, considering that only a couple of songs before they did little but complain about the various evils and injustices of the world. But never worry — it's all gonna be okay, as long as these guys are together to serve as our guiding lights. A world without Asia is, after all, a much more lonely place than a world without Europe, don't you agree?
(I mean the bands, naturally, not the continents).
Check "Omega" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Omega" (MP3) on Amazon