Sound — 8
You don't need to be a dedicated classic rock listener in order to be at least subconsciously familiar with Asia. Upon their initial formation the band was hailed as an attention capturing rock supergroup featuring members of such prestigious groups as Yes, The Buggles and Uriah Heep. Asia dominated the radio charts following the release of their acclaimed self-titled debut album, which spawned the definitive hits "Heat of the Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell," both of which are widely acknowledged as classic rock anthems.
Asia's anticipated follow-up "Alpha" continued to showcase this synthesizer-fueled approach, with the album's opening track "Don't Cry" going on to be another memorable single for the band. "Alpha" would mark the last studio effort from Asia to feature the original lineup until over twenty years later, with guitar virtuoso Steve Howe exiting the lineup, however it wouldn't quite mean the demise of Asia. The band would continue to create exciting new music with a revolving door of musicians, and while it sometimes failed to capture the same energy of the original handful of Asia albums it was enough to appease the appetites of familiar fans.
An exciting moment presented itself in 2008, when the entire original lineup of Asia reunited to record their long awaited comeback album "Phoenix," which was the group's first since 1985's "Astra" to make an impact on the Billboard Top 200 charts. This revived lineup continued to create music together, ultimately forging another two studio albums before Steve Howe most recently left the lineup once again. Just as the band did in the past, Asia kept its preset plans to return to the studio, which sparked mixed controversy amongst some longtime listeners.
Somehow the members of Asia have managed to return back on top, and despite the low expectations set by some fans the band has also made a surprising return-to-form to the style slathered across their first three studio albums. "Gravitas" shows a surplus of guitar-oriented tracks bracketed by atmospheric synthesizers and soaring vocal harmonies. The absence of Steve Howe proves to be a beneficial one, whereas the addition of newly appointed guitarist Sam Coulson is a hastily welcomed one, as the reintroduction of energetic distortion guitar and the use of power chords attribute dominant amounts of nostalgia throughout these nine new recordings.
Songs such as "Valkyrie" and the synthesizer-heavy title track "Gravitas" boast a youthful resurgence of headhaunting vocal melodies and neck spanning guitar solos which never ceases to engage the listener's undivided attention. It's easy to consistently make comparisons between this album and their classic release "Astra" for many reasons, the most obvious of which being how a seemingly devastating lineup change went on to actually improve the quality of the songwriting chemistry within Asia.
"The Closer I Get to You" is an emotional piano power ballad which admittedly isn't the album's strongest track, however it's still in all rights a memorable tune. We return to comfortable territory on "Nyctophobia," which shows lead vocalist John Wetton trying his hand at hitting "Heat of the Moment"-style high notes and ultimately coming out ahead. "Heaven Help Me Now" begins with a handful of classical-flavored climatic arrangements before clearing into an acoustic guitar decorated tune dominated by vocal melodies.
Lyrics — 8
The singing style and approach of original frontman John Wetton hasn't changed that much over the years, which has only benefited the outcome included here on "Gravitas." There aren't too many differences between Wetton's singing style here and recently boasted on 2012's "XXX" or even "Astra." We even hear Wetton making a conscious attempt to keep up with his performances from over thirty years ago, something which hasn't been present on Asia's more recent offerings, and the outcome is consistently standout.
Overall Impression — 8
Asia make a triumphant return to the style of their first handful of studio albums on their newest effort "Gravitas." The addition of Sam Coulson to the mix proves to be greatly beneficial to the outcome present throughout these new recordings, and the reintroduction of solid rhythm guitar and energetic solos is well welcomed. The performance from the remaining three-quarters of the original lineup is largely consistent with those of the time period they are currently remaining, which only adds to the widely nostalgic vibe present from start to finish.