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Prog Metal Team
3 stars My review is based on the copy of the album that has been available for steaming through Spotify since its release on April 23rd. After listening to the album over the course of the last 48 hours I feel that the material has settled in enough for me to comment on it.

It hasn't been too long since the original Asia lineup announced their reunion which they then followed up by a studio release titled Phoenix. To me that was originally bad news since it meant that John Payne's Asia had to cancel their scheduled performance at Sweden Rock Festival 2006. But all was definitely forgiven once I heard Phoenix and realized that it sounded like a worthy successor to their '80s albums. To me that also was the pinnacle of Asia's career marking their best album to date. Two years later we get another album from the reunion lineup titled Omega which is a very Asia-sounding kind of album title. In a way, it can been considered a play of words considering that their second '80s album was called Alpha. John Wetton acknowledged this by saying that it no more means "final" than Alpha meant "the first" album, since it wasn't.

No matter how I try to approach this new material I always end up comparing it to Phoenix which is quite natural considering that both of these albums were released recently and feature the same four-piece lineup. Starting with the album opener Finger On The Trigger that kicks off the album with a strong stadium rock vibe. It might not be as memorable of an opener compared to Never Again or Heat Of The Moment but it does manage to break the ice with the listener transporting them to this specific Asia set of mind that we've learned to like so much.

Ever Yours is an almost shameless rehash of the previous album's track Heroine where Wetton even has almost identical vocal style towards the song's chorus section. This might have been expected since Arena Rock is generally very limited style and since Asia doesn't offer us a single longer instrumental performance, like Sleeping Giant - No Way Back - Reprise or Parallel Worlds - Vortex - Deya that threw a bone to the progressive rock fans, there are only so many types of songs that can be offered here. The final track titled Don't Wanna Lose You Now is another great power ballad that, just like An Extraordinary Life off Phoenix, ends the album on another high note.

I was surprised that Steve Howe didn't get any acoustic solo spots like the ones he had on Phoenix. Also, there aren't any distinct Howe compositions like Wish I'd Known All Along or Over And Over which could imply that his commitment to the band has diminished. Could this mean that Asia's history is about to repeat itself once again? All speculations aside, Omega is still a much stronger album than Alpha.

Unlike Phoenix, that felt like a great Asia album from start to finish, Omega took a few spins to grow on me. It wasn't until my third revisit that the album transitioned from a fans only release to a good, but non-essential one for me. Although I personally rank Phoenix and the band-titled debut album over this new release the fans should not be disappointed by the material offered here.

**** star songs: Finger On The Trigger (4:30) Holy War (5:59) Ever Yours (4:05) End Of The World (5:39) Emily (5:13) I'm Still The Same (4:44) I Believe (4:43) Don't Wanna Lose You Now (4:36)

*** star songs: Through My Veins (5:09) Listen Children (5:57) Light The Way (5:00) There Was A Time (5:57)

Report this review (#279341)
Posted Sunday, April 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wow! This is a very different album indeed. But it's wonderful. I can see the band trying to experiment with different sounds on Omega. It really is a delight to listen to. The signature sound is mixed amidst a number of different elements. I can hear fragments of the Beatles, ELO, The Beach Boys, and Pink Floyd. There Was A Time is the most unique song that this band has ever done. The Celtic quality and Floyd overtones make it a real treat! Dare I say that Omega is "a Progression"? Phoenix was much more of the Traditional Asia sound with a more mature atmosphere. Omega is a very fresh approach for these 4 masters. It really is a blessing hearing this type of sonic mastery. Is there anything that this band cannot do musically? The playing is very tight and well thought out. John sounds better than ever. Steve soars on every track. Geoff weaves his cloak of sound. Carl plays with an immediacy like he is 30 years younger. I certainly hope that the quote by T.S. Eliot is not taken in its literal sense. There is no need for these 4 men to stop anytime soon. Asia is indeed a force to be reckoned with much as they were back in 1982. And that my good an undeniable fact! Don't miss Omega, and see this band live! You will really appreciate them when you see them play!

Report this review (#279532)
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars We're still the same!

Omega is the second studio album from Asia since the reunion of the original line-up a few years ago (and the fourth one overall from this very line-up consisting of John Wetton, Geoff Downs, Carl Palmer and Steve Howe). While it is great to see that these four Rock giants have rekindled the flame and once again record together, the result is not particularly impressive in this case. This is especially so for those of us who know what these great men were capable of in bands like Yes, ELP, King Crimson, UK, etc. Even compared to previous Asia albums, both by this line-up and otherwise, Omega falls far short of expectations. Phoenix (the first album by the reunited Asia from 2008), on the other hand, did live up to expectations very well and it was up to par with the first two Asia albums from the early 80's. But Omega is a rather disappointing release, in my opinion.

Since I don't have the physical CD I do not know who wrote the material, but these songs sound very much like Wetton/Downs compositions and Omega is actually very close in sound to the albums that Wetton and Downs released under the name Icon. Indeed, one of the songs here, Finger On The Trigger, was previously released on the second Icon album subtitled Rubicon. While this Icon album was pretty good and clearly better than Omega, Finger On The Trigger was one of its least good songs. And it is no better here! On the other hand, it fits in quite well with other disreputable Asia hits such as Heat Of The Moment, Don't Cry and Voice Of America (some of their worst songs if you ask me). I think it is a bit unimaginative to feature an already released song on a supposedly new studio album, but I suppose that the Icon albums did not reach many ears.

With Wetton and Downs dominating the proceedings of Omega, Howe and Palmer seem to take the back-seat for this one; vocals and keyboards are omnipresent while guitars are rather scarce. Bass and drums are utilized just as a rhythm section and play no leading roles. You almost get the feeling that the songs were prepared by Wetton and Downs in advance and that Howe and Palmer just came in to play on them. This might or might not be the case, but it sure sounds like it! Phoenix sounded more like a group effort and was all the better for it.

While listening to this album, I tend to tire of it half way through. The songs are almost all similar in sound, tempo and length. Holy War is the first good song and is very much in the style of the better songs from the above mentioned Icon album. If you are interested in what these four great men have been up to lately, don't start with Omega. Phoenix is a better place to start if you want new Asia-material sounding just like the old, but the very best release of their's is the live DVD and album Fantasia - Live In Tokyo which features improved versions of all the songs from the self-titled debut plus songs by Yes, King Crimson, ELP and even The Buggles!

Hearing Omega makes me hope for a return of the John Payne-era! Albums like Aqua, Aria, Arena and Silent Nation are much more interesting than this mostly boring effort.

Only for fans and collectors this one

Report this review (#279832)
Posted Thursday, April 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Parp, Parp...Here we go again, the latest release from the band for whom the word Spergroup was, or should have been, written. Wetton, Downes, Howe, and Palmer return for this, their fourth studio album as a four piece, and the follow up to Phoenix, an album I enjoyed very much.

Anyone expecting an album of Yes, King Crimson, or ELP will, of course, be bitterly disappointed. This album is very much along the lines of the pop-prog this band perfected with their first release, so will probably not appeal to absolute purists. Of course, for those of you, like me, who are somewhat more open minded, this is once again a hugely enjoyable collection of tracks, with stunning musicianship, especially from Steve Howe, who is becoming like a fine wine, becoming more proficient and excellent as the years roll by. His guitar work, so sadly neglected on the second release Alpha, is once again very much to the fore, and he is, of course, joined by three of the other finest musicians in music.

I cannot say that any track really stands out on this LP. All tracks are played to a very high standard, roll along to a fine intensity, and feel just as good as that stunning debut all those years ago. I will, though, make special mention of Holy War, which has a strong resemblance to Wildest Dreams from the debut, and End of the World, probably the track that would appeal most to purists, this features some some exceptional musicianship.

My least favourite track, and one I feel is awful, is Emily, which somehow reminds me of a Eurovision Song Contest entry (for those of you unfamiliar with this cultural "landmark", go to YouTube or, for the sake of your sanity, probably best you don't want to know!).

This is a difficult album to rate. The band play so well, and this is most clearly a great continuation of a strong reunion, one in which I am very grateful that new material is being produced, rather than simply playing on old glories.

It's not essential, it's better than good, so I suppose a four star rating in between is about right.

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4, because I think they are worth it.

Report this review (#281668)
Posted Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Oh sorry, guys!! But once again (after "Phoenix")- also regarding of their worst album-cover ever (Roger Dean, where have you been recently?), They perform some normal and quite poppy songs here (whose length is about 5 minutes and each one having got the same mood tune by tune, as long as it's not concluded...), which is not so good after all!! I understand their business strategy, I know it's necessary for them to survive in the modern music market of nowadays, but the other songs (perhaps with the exception of "Holy War"), are useful within a John Wetton solo album (with all my respect for an album like "Arkangel" or "Battle lines", just to mention a couple among the other solo works), but it doesn't reflect the job of a superband...each member with his own important talent should be worth in producing something different (do you remember their remarkable return on stage? Well probably it's the unique album regarding their new era- entitled "Fantasia"- which is well worth checking out...) .

C. Palmer and Steve Howe instead would have been more involved in the instrumental passages, if the songs were more technical and a little bit "symphonic"; but of course, talking about the present work (even though "Omega" should be the antipode of "Alpha" and- unlike this latter anyway inferior than their debut album- it's often easy), it doesn't implicate automatically that it can't contain a few features of prog music inside!! Nevertheless I recognize their new attempt: that is They try to avoid some stupid compromises, like within a few commercial hit ballads in general, and moreover (even though G. Downes is fond of the analogical and old synthesizers, producing an old and "dated" sound) this latter keyboard- player is always able to play according to his own melodic liking...which is perfectly "coupled" with the mood of the leader J. Wetton, who unfortunately has almost ignored the skill regarding the other two veterans (once upon a time one of the best drummers within the prog scene along with one of the most talented guitarists, sharing the same scene for many years). If you are completely into the prog world you'll give this "Omega" one star in the evalution; otherwise, judged as a poppy album, the present work is quite good...I'm happy to see them live on stage anyway, but please don't let me judge their studio albums anymore!!

Report this review (#281926)
Posted Friday, May 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars It drives me insane that Carl Palmer is given so little to do on this release. I've been a fan of Asia for a while, and while I realize that it certainly isn't their job to make grand, genre- spanning prog, this album plods along in a very stadium-rok vein. The persistent 4/4 time and the horrible re-hash lyrics (yes, I imagine the wind does cut like a knife. And yes, I'm sure that the stars in the sky do look like diamonds) make this an album I can enjoy and complain about simultaneously. Some great music - very few people can craft hooks as effectively as Asia - with a sad lack of virutosity.
Report this review (#282384)
Posted Monday, May 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars After all these years, guys from Asia are still doing the same thing. The same sounds, melodies, song pattern structures. One can't help but think that it's either about money making (Asia is very profitable band), or about being tired of having big guitar/singing/drum beating/ keyboard playing skills and using Asia as other name for "relaxing from hardcore and complex stuff we were making otherwise".

These songs are mostly nice. Cute, pleasant. But not interesting from complex point of view, from perspective of someone seeking for challenges and new horizons in music. However, for 2010, this album sounds very old.

4(-), do you like Pop-Rock ? Well, go for this album. It isn't bad, it's just empty of new ideas.

But it has one big advantage, production. It sounds extremely great, clean (and clear) sound and even it's on the very threshold of 3 and 4, I'm prone to give more. If only because it's the best Asia album I've ever heard.

Report this review (#293166)
Posted Monday, August 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars I bought this album waiting for some improvement from their previous stuff, but I was dissapointed. Can I wait something different from Asia in the future? Sincerely I think that this guys will continue doing the same the rest of their lifes: Pop or AOR rock, and no more than this. All those musicians together doing this music? Just a waste.

The music is not bad and something is really good, but has a problem:

Howe participates in the songwriting of only two songs and the rest is pure Wetton Downes. All in all is vocally driven, and Wetton can't stop singing all the time. There is no room for some instrumentation. So which is the rol of Downes and Howe? And what about Palmer? just a sessionst.

The album opens with Finger on a trigger, originally a song from Icon (Wetton Downes project), but now filtered by the Howe's guitar, so this new version is far better. The riffs are fantastic and construct a truly Arena Rock Track (very good but nothing prog).

After that, we have, in my opinion, three songs in which I can find a little dosis of progrock (just a little): Light the way, composed by Howe and Wetton, is the proggiest one. Holy war and Listen Children are the others two. In those three ones you can find some little instrumentals.

Through my veins, End of the world and I believe are good AOR track in the typical way of Asia. Nothing special. I'm still the same and There was a time is pretty much the same but a bit inferior for me.

Emily, Even yours and I don't wanna lose you now, are poor ballads, and they are the weakest side of the album.

Good but not essential. 3 stars.

Report this review (#300030)
Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars After, arguably, Asia's most progressive outing, they start to go back to their debut for song ideas. The songs aren't nearly as complex as before, some are simple as can be, but it remains consistent all the time and is sometimes catchy. The album is littered with hard rock riffs, pop catchiness, and prog...nothing. Though it may lack, it's still a welcome return to form for these dinosaur rockers.

1.Finger on the Trigger - Easily the best track on the album, as it almost boarders on heavy metal with it's classic riff. The track is nothing short of musical excellence, as the drums and bass pound as hard as they can. Vocal melody is as strong as ever, performed well by John Wetton, is very catchy and always accesible. Terrible "love-lost" lyrics, but the music truely makes up with it's ultimatly fresh feel. (9.5/10)

2.Through my Veins - A much more mellow track, with a steady and modern beat. Like the first track, it's always fresh and sounds good with the times. Slow organ, played by no one other than Geoof Downes, is played in the background to add nice texture. The best way to describe this track is layered, with its thumping drums and bass, and heavy guitar playing and solos thanks to Steve Howe. (8.5/10)

3.Holy War - The most dramatic of the tracks, is not really that great. The track has some great piano by Downes, great and complex drumming from Carl Palmer, and some happy guitar playing via Howes, and thats about it. There is no real energy and sounds extremely fake are stale. This track is easily skipped. (6/10)

4.Ever Yours - A ballad type of track, another song that fails heavily. The song is so standard and unlistenable, that I have a hard time writing a decent review for it. The vocal melody is fine, as are the vocals, but it sounds like the band is rehashing ideas. (5.5/10)

5.Listen Children - Another more outdorsey type of track, with acoustic piano on full, taking the track to a different level of sophistocation. The track is very professional, with its key elements of fast paced bass playing and drumming and great vocal melody. The lyrics are terrible, admitedly, but the music very good. (8/10)

6.End of the World - A more futuristic type of track, and one of the better songs on the album. The slightly delayed sythensizer takes the track to unknown worlds. The lyrics are very good, talking about the future of the world if we do not change. A great almost prog related track, but not enough to call it a true progressive number. (8/10)

7.Light the Way - An almost techno type of track, when it comes to they bass heavy synth sounds and fresh guitar playing, is a heavy rock electronica experiment that works out very well. The speedy rhythm is enough to makes this track a ond of a kind, and the lyrics make it turely stand out as one of the worst. This track is an interesting one as it takes on new horizons; something Asia is DEFINATLY not known for. (7.5/10)

8.Emily - Something that could remind one of a Todd Rundgren track, but something not as well crafted. Though the musician ship is excellent, as usual, the lyrics are even worse than before, and the lack of energy the inhabits this track is unusually high. Your standard pop affair, nothing too interesting. (5/10)

9.I'm Still the Same - Though the song has some interesting chords from the keyboard in the intro, it does not suggest the rest of the track. It is more of the same, average pop type of track. It sounds almost indie rock, with a bit of alternative chording. The musicianship is lazily low, and cannot redeem the track from something so radio oriented. (5/10)

10.There was a Time - Another really boring track that goes nowhere. It is a ballad track, which automatically makes the song open for investigation of the quality. The track has nothing speical at all, and has some really bad lyrics, as with most of this album. Great guitar playing and piano that makes the song sound good, is ruined by some hazy vocals and slow paced rhythm. (4.5/10)

11.I Believe - A much better track that was indicated, is a sophistocated pop song with slight prog rock leanings, though goes more toward alternative rock with it's chords and overall playing. The track is well exectued and is played with the most enthusiasm that I have heard on the album. (8/10)

12.I Don't Want to Loose you Now - Another fine track, a much more mellow type of feel is found on here. The track has some wierd lyrics, but the song has some nice acoustic guitar playing that sounds very indie for this type of band. The song has some great guitar playing from Howe, as his fills makes the song as best as it can be. A great closer to this mellow album. (8/10)

An album that many fans may find average and mellow, shows nothing more than that. Not very many progressive types of tracks on this album, which may be a good thing as the new mellow feel of the songs is fine, but it may be a little uninteresting from time to time. A 3 stars for a solid, albiet a bit inconsistent, album. Definatly should get if you like a lot of acoustic guitar and piano with vocal harmonies, but you really don't need it to complete your collection.

Report this review (#317768)
Posted Saturday, November 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars What to say about OMEGA?

Not much. In fact i've just listened to it and feel a bit melancolical; exactly like when you meet again an old friend lost from sight, whith whom you knew ups and downs, and you realize things have remained exactly the same.

The album is quite like the ALPHA stuff with a little bit of poppy stuff from ASTRA.

So clearly, it's not bad, very easy listening, always pleasant, never boring but never enthralling either. And no trace of somme progressive influence or past.

Therefore, let's mention "light the way", good number a little more tricky than the others, a way amid-lit by the howe's guitar and especially, let's mention "there was a time", in my mind the best piece of the album; darker, more serious ant the only prog teinted one. the less "radio songed" too, probabaly why i like it more then all.

"Emily" is pretty catchy but won't wake you up in the middle of the night.

For the rest, as i said, pretty good to hear while painting the wall or cooking but not to seat in the center of a 7.1 theater system and only listen to.

The pure ASIA fans will like, those who want to get back in '83 too. The others will paint or cook , with pleasure indeed, but it remains painting and cooking.


Report this review (#324273)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Well, it took me long time to get this one. I heard a lot of criticism about Omega. And considering that I liked Phoenix a lot, I was afraid of some kind of disappointment. When I finally got it I was neither overjoyed nor unhappy with what I heard. it´s really good, I must say. Those guys know how to deliver a terrific pop-rock/AOR music with some obvious prog influences here and there. No news about that. Still, I think Phoenis is better, specially prog-wise (but not much!).

It almost seems like Omega was released a little too fast for its own good. They could have worked out the songs a little more in terms of instrumental arrangements. They could be a little bolder, like they were on Phoenix. However, there is nothing wrong with Omega either, if you enjoy the trademark Asia sound. There are no fillers and the production is absolutely great. The vocal harmonies have improved quite a lot (just listen to Through My Veins). A couple of overtly sentimental ballads kind of annoy me, but again it should be expected on an Asia CD. And those are my only complaint songwriting-wise: Ever Yours is too much like Phoenix´s Heroine. I could do without it. Even then, they are not really bad per se either. It is just a matter of taste.

Aside from that, the album flows smoothly. The album startts very well with the hard rocking Finger On the Trigger, followed by the excellent aforementioned Through My Veins. But the highlights for me are Holy Wars and End Of The World. Both will be probably feature in any future compilation. The remaining tracks are also at least good. The performances are superb, as anyone might expect from those seasoned musicians. Sometimes I wish Steve Howe could play a little more on the fore, but Downe´s use of vintage sounding keyboards (since Phoenix) instead of those cheesy synths he played for so long is again very welcomed.

Conclusion: if you like Asia, go for it! Although maybe not as good as the previous Phoenix, Omega has everything the fans wanted. Very classy pop rock with some prog influences. After all those years those guys can deliver melodic rock like very few others. Rating: if PA was a pop/AOR site I´d give Omega a 4 or 4.5 stars rating. For a progressive site 3 stars seem fair enough.

Report this review (#338693)
Posted Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars I think it is fair to say that I am left unimpressed by this band as a whole.

Omega, their album from last year, has not changed my opinion. It has enforced my indifference towards them. Which is a shame because I am a Yes fan. But who is not a Yes fan....... ?

Asia serves up 12 bland AOR tunes which could had been written and recorded in the 1980s. The sound is from that era. I wonder if Omega is one of those lost and found from the vault albums. But the band has ensured us that the songs are current and written during this decade. So no excuse, then.

The quality of the songs is pretty abysmal. The musicians, some of them my all time favorite musicians, does a good job. But the songs....... Scary bad ! The structures, the blandness, the cliches and the obvious borrowing and variations of melody lines from other artists hit songs which tells you everything about the band's desperation and ambitions.

I cannot make myself give this a one star because they are mostly reserved for shoddy recordings and musicianship. But rest assured; this is a truly awful album.

Kaboom from my CD player and my local fox has got a new toy.

2 stars

Report this review (#476028)
Posted Tuesday, July 5, 2011 | Review Permalink

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