Asia – Omega (CD review)

Asia – Omega (Frontiers Records) – CD review – Supergroups aren’t usually built to last. The original lineup of Asia stuck around two short years, producing 1982’s Asia, and 1983’s Alpha, before splitting up.  In 2007, the original members got back together and recorded Phoenix, their first new record in 25 years.  Even more surprising, they’ve stayed together this time to record a follow up, Omega.

Vocalist/bassist John Wetton, guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Geoff Downes and drummer Carl Palmer have all returned.  While their first reunion CD was largely a mellow affair, with death as a recurring subject, Omega is surprisingly upbeat.  Usually, when older bands get back together and try and write new material, the hardest part is finding melodies.  Oddly, Asia has absolutely no problem in this department; catchy hooks and choruses fill the disc.

The album opens with “Finger on the Trigger,” which is vintage Asia: a driving beat, big chorus and great solo from Steve Howe.  “Holy War” shows off Carl Palmer’s thunderous drumming, while “There Was a Time” is grandiose, giving keyboardist Geoff Downes a chance to stretch out.  Perhaps if there is one complaint, it’s that Omega is thin on the progressive rock side (their last effort, Phoenix, contained two songs over eight minutes).

On the plus side, the band turns in some of its most melodic songs in years.  “I’m Still the Same” is downright bouncy.  The disc includes a bonus track, “Emily,” which is very lightweight, and features a rather uncomfortable lyric about finding out the girl in question is a lesbian.  The album is surprisingly solid from start to finish. –Tony Peters