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Friday, March 30, 2012

Asia: Omega

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


  1. A world without Asia is, after all, a much more lonely place than a world without Europe, don't you agree?(c)

    I do not. And i'm not a glam metal/AOR fan at all...
    George, did you actually have a chance to hear Europe ? No, i don't mean Final Countdown song and album. Please, start with the last couple of albums (2006/2009). You will give them your thumbs up, i have a feeling. And more deserved ones, then a couple of last Asia albums. The cheese is very limited (if any), the ass kicked hard, it's mature and competent, rooted in classic 70'es hard rock (well, modernized), and of course no signs of Bon Jovi-glam-cock rock or whatever else you hated about 1986. Hey, even the first couple of albums (1983/84) before they gone commercial, show they had some talents even while being teens. At very least they invented scandinavian power metal back then. Don't believe ? Listen to "Seven doors hotel" from 1983, and then to any Stratovarius goddamn record from late 90'es. It's that same cold "nordic" sound, speed, neoclassical influences and high pitched singer, before anyone else was in that game...

  2. This may seem crazy, but I do love a bunch of this album- it took me a really long time, though. However, I believe two of the songs on here are among Asia's best, and another IS Asia's best. See here- "End of the World" has an absolutely wonderful call-and-responsish chorus, and "There Was a Time" feels as epic and gorgeous as the best Asia moments, but "I'm Still the Same" REALLY takes the cake. I mean. Its chorus is one of the best I've heard this side of "From Genesis to Revelation" (HIGH PRAISE) and its coda, with the predictable-but-still-exciting key change and the two lines from the chorus repeated over and over with Steve and Geoff both going Wow. When I'm not listening to it, it's in my top 100 songs; when I AM listening to it, it's in my top 5. Please just listen to this one song again. Please!

  3. Well, I liked the longer, proggier tracks on the last album, so I don’t think this one is quite as interesting. It does have its moments, though. Wetton is continuing to write more interesting lyrics than he used to. You never would heard a Beatle-esque number about falling in love with a lesbian (“Emily”) on their first album. The Beatles influence also shows up on "Don't Wanna Lose You Now", too. “There Was a Time” sort of carries a folky vibe that then gets heavier, which they hadn’t really done before. I think that Wetton let Steve Howe sing the lead vocal on the introductory verse to “Light My Way”, the only time that happened on an Asia album. I think that “Finger on the Trigger” was a good, catchy choice to open the album. It’s actually a remake of a song Wetton and Downes had done on their 2nd duo album four years earlier. The disadvantage is that the Asia version loses a nifty keyboard intro; on the other hand, we’ve got Howe leading the guitar here, so that definitely wins out. On the whole, there isn’t anything here that would have brought newcomers in in 2010, but a lot that old fans will enjoy.

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