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Asia - Aura CD (album) cover




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3.27 | 156 ratings

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Symphonic Team
1 stars The end of an aura

Aura continues on the path started with the previous album, Arena, towards a more lightweight and much less hard edged sound. By the time of the release of this album, Asia was reduced to a Geoff Downes and John Payne project with all other roles played by session musicians. Admittedly it is an impressive list of session players, but the band feeling that was present on albums like Aria and the classic debut is completely left behind here. This results in a serious lack of punch. If you listen to Aria, Silent Nation, or the track The Day Before The War from the Arena album, and compare that with the music of Aura, you will understand what I think is missing on this album.

I will not deny that the songs are well written and that the album is well recorded and, indeed, that everything is very well executed here from vocals to production. But this is somehow too perfect, the result is far too "glossy" and commercial for my tastes. In terms of Prog content, this is close to empty. This is nothing but a very well crafted, Pop album, plain and simple. The Rock edge of earlier efforts is gone.

One major problem lies in the rhythm section. The drums are rather boring and sterile. Thankfully, they don't use drum machines here, but sometimes you wonder whether it is human being or a robot sitting behind the drum kit! I also think that the keyboards are too stale and comes off as sterile. This framework does not leave room for the more organic and dynamic band sound that I like about (progressive) rock music. The sound of Aura therefore becomes somewhat artificial, I think.

The lead guitar work is great when it is present, but there is not a lot of it here and when it finally arrives it somehow feels out of place among all the Pop sensibilities. Steve Howe plays on the album, but his presence can be felt only very slightly, his distinctive guitar sound is there only on a few tracks and when it arrives it is quenched by the restrictive framework of the music leaving him and the other guitarists no room to breathe. Don't expect anything like Howe's contribution to previous Asia albums. Even on Aqua, where Howe also is merely a guest, his presence was stronger than it is here.

If there are any stand out tracks on Aura at all it will have to be the ballad Ready To Go Home. The longest track, Free, is slightly progressive, and a decent song. For the band's hard core fans, this album will still be worth seeking out, I guess. But if you are a fan of progressive Rock in general and want to look into the Payne-era of Asia, I would certainly not recommend you to start with this album. Indeed, for me this is the least good Asia album, period!

Aura was also the last Asia album to have a title beginning and ending with the letter A and also the last Payne-era album to have a cover art picture by the great Roger Dean. In those two respects this constituted the end of en era, or should I perhaps say an end of an aura? However, there would be one further Payne-fronted Asia album in Silent Nation, which is a much better album than Aura.

SouthSideoftheSky | 1/5 |


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