Power of Metal.dk Review

Style: Hard Rock
Release date: 21 March, 2014
Playing time: 48:46

The line up in the legendary British rock project Asia seems to be without the great guitarist Steve Howe (I'm not surprised), I'm very keen to learn if their unique sound has changed with the young and talented string bender Sam Coulson. "Gravitas" is the name of their new release and my second question is; Can they really come up with another dazzling album after the amazing disc 'XxX' from 2012.
This is the first studio album with Sam Coulson on guitar and I watched their live performance at Sweden Rock Festival last year and he fills Howe's shoes really well in the older songs. On "Gravitas" the songs are written to fit Sam's guitar playing. How is this album standing in comparison with the masterpiece 'XxX'? The first impressions is that I doesn't find any given radio-hit song on "Gravitas", like 'Face on the Bridge' or 'Tomorrow the World'. John Wetton still sings as no one else and gives Asia their unique sound and Sam get a lot of space to shine and show the world his string skills. Geoff Downes' keys and Carl Palmers percussions drives this solid prog rock machine forward in their epic, gentle and sensible pace. I just love their musical ideas. It takes several spins to get some of the songs into my back spine and it took a while to sort them out in my mind.

The first single from the album is the opening track 'Valkyrie' and it is one of the top-notch songs of the album with smooth, charming 'Asia moods'... The eight minutes long title track is an epic journey with a two and an half minutes long intro. 'Gravitas' has the clear and pompous sound that comes like a thick musical fog over me. An adorable song. Downes keyboards build a lovely foundation for the rest of the band, and they are able to spice up the songs with their individual musical craftsmanship. Nyctophobia (is a word I had to search on the internet to get the meaning of, and to us who aren't is familiar with the word it means a intense condition of fears of the dark) is a is a pretty boring track really, but there comes with a damn cheeky guitar solo that keeps me awake in the middle of the song and that rescues it from my skip button.

'Heaven Help Me' is my own personal favorite track on this album with sensational guitars and after a two minutes long classical intro, it turns into a hard riffing rock track with it's more driven sound. Classic big Asia vocals and elegant keyboards with delicate drumming by Palmer, which together provides a timeless AOR sound. Next big track is the bombastic 'I Would Die For You' with classy vocals. In 'Joe DiMaggio Glove' they paint with their smallest brushstrokes and is a atmospheric, sensitive and wonderful ballad. Asia close the album with 'Till We Meet Again' and it is not one of the strongest songs on this album. Did Sam Coulson's entry in the band make any difference in the Asia sound? My opinion after some spins of 'Gravitas' is; not much differences actually. He has his moments in every track and it seems that they want to keep the classic Asia sound intact.

I like this album, but I had very high expectations of it, so my overall score is higher that average, but are not even close to the amazing 'XxX' album, which was one of 2012's top albums in my view. It feels quite toothless occasionally insome of the songs and that reflects my overall rating.

If you are a fan of the band, it's still worth an investment. You won't be disappointed.

Geoff Downes – keyboards
Carl Palmer – drums
John Wetton – bass, vocals
Sam Coulson– guitars

01. Valkyrie
The Closer I Get
Russian Dolls
Heaven Help Me
I Would Die For You
Joe DiMaggio's Glove
Till We Meet Again
Label: Frontiers Records
Distribution: Target (Denmark)
Artwork rating: 83/100
Reviewed by: Patrik Skoglund
Date: 14 March, 2014
Website: www.originalasia.com