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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Asia

Silent Nation

Review by Gary Hill

I remember when Asia's first album was released thinking that it was an intriguing combination of sounds, still basically prog rock, but packaged in very accessible cuts that really rocked. After a while Asia seemed to lose their sense of direction, and I often lost interest. Well, this new release is the best disc from them in many years. It really calls to mind those old days of Asia's first couple albums. While this material is very catchy, it also has quite a bit of prog rock leanings. This disc is actually one of my favorites from this year, and I find myself listening to it over and over again. Usually when I spend the time critically listening track by track to a disc it's a while until I want to hear it again, but this one is definitely an exception to the rule. I can't seem to get tired of it. This lineup of Asia (Geoff Downes, John Payne, Chris Slade and Guthrie Govan) has created a very strong album, and I hope they tour so I can get a chance to experience some of this music live.

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Track by Track Review
What About Love?
A bass drop gives way to a cool and catchy melody line. This one feels a bit like a cross between Whitesnake and other 80's metal bands, but it's really a killer track. While one might think from the title that this cut is a typical love song, the love represented here is universal "The start of reason, Is the end of hate, Progressive healing, For the corporate, But I know what you know, So I won't let this go, What about love?, And the human race".
Long Way From Home
This is the first song on the album that feels like classic Asia. An extended song, this one has a lot of the Asia textures here, but it's only a hint of what is to come, as much of the later parts of the disc are even more in line with the classic sound of the band. This one includes some great instrumental work, and the overall tone is that of an arena rocker much like something from the first couple of Asia discs.
Midnight
The "midnight" in this song refers to the end of the Earth, rather than a time on the clock; and in the following lyrics the word "her" is used to represent the Earth. "This is progress, this is sin, Injecting poison in her skin, A hundred years can't wait, A hundred years can't wait another day, Midnight Draws ever near, Daylight, Is fading so fast, It's so close to midnight" The lyrics to this one, as with most of the album are quite powerful. The intro here feels very much like something the original lineup might have done. The verses feel closer to hair metal, though. The choruses and bridges, though, go a long way towards capturing that old school Asia sound, and after a mellower segment, they move the cut up into a full-on progressive rock jam. This section almost feels like Deep Purple's take on Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer.
Blue Moon Monday
This one is essentially a post apocalyptic science-fiction tale, but with the added twist of never knowing if it's real or just a dream. A pretty keyboard oriented segment starts this one. As the verse enters it feels like a cross between a Whitesnake ballad and a prog rocker. The chorus feels like and incredibly powerful combo of Asia and Foreigner's first album. An acoustic guitar dominated segment later takes this in a nice change of pace. This is an incredibly potent piece.
Silent Nation
The lyrics to this one also stand out in commentary of the world of today. "Raging in thought, Mouthless, the millions obey, So call off your dogs, You preachers of what we can say"… "Silent nation, In a silent nation, We must change what has been done, It's a travesty, Silent nation". With lyrics like that it's no surprise that this one begins with a sad and somber texture. It starts with acoustic guitar, and keys join slowly, the two instruments beginning weave waves of sound together. This one is another where the chorus feels a bit like Foreigner. An evocative guitar solo shows up late in the piece, followed by a Latin-textured segment that almost feels like Santana. It also includes a jazzy jam very late in the track. This is really a killer song.
Ghost in the Mirror
A bouncy acoustic ballad style starts this and makes up the verse, b8t the chorus is truly a piece of prog oriented wonder that calls to mind the original era of Asia. The cut continues to grow and change, becoming a lot more powerful as it carries on.
Gone Too Far
Another that feels rather sad, this starts with an acoustic guitar driven sound and as the verse plays on, the intensity gradually ramps up. This one works through the balladic format for quite some time til it explodes into a faster paced hare edged take on those themes. As this one carries on it becomes very powerful and a jam later even includes some Gregorian type chanting. This is a definite winner.
I Will Be There For You
I dare you to listen to this and not think of the first Asia album. Even the guitar work on the verses feels like Steve Howe, and the chorus has all the trademarks of that era of the band. A mellower segment is included later, and this is an all around standout of the disc.
Darkness Day
Wow! This is an incredible track, quite possibly the best one Asia has ever done. It starts with full-on Gregorian chant, then a cool prog sounding keyboard segment takes over. The group takes that all the way up to the song proper. An awesome prog instrumental break that features some wonderful keyboard textures and more of those chant vocals shows up later. This is definitely my favorite song on the album, and has a killer arrangement.
The Prophet
It's pretty hard to follow up a song that potent, but they start this one with the sounds of whale song. An intro based on that begins the cut. Eventually piano takes over in dramatic ways They don't really do much to alter the melody on this one, but rather play it with growing intensity as it carries forward, eventually reworking it into a prog jam with some very meaty guitar soloing. This one is strong, but a bit of a let down after the last number.
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