(All Album Reviews by maribor)
Plenty of people think that Asia should have stayed dead and buried after Astra. Many people also feel that Asia has never put out a decent album. And even more of them believe that the only album by them that's worth owning is the self-titled debut. To all these individuals I can say that they're missing out.
The new singer and bass player John Payne has brought with him a whole new approach to singing and songwriting and in combination with music legend Geoff Downes has created a new and improved Asia.
Aura is the fourth album by this incarnation and I feel the pinnacle of their career. It follows the pattern of Arena - giving more emphasis on keyboards and also writing some longer and more ambitious pieces.
The album opens with perhaps the best track on the album – “Awake”. This may be the best track on the album, with its upbeat tempo, wonderful melodies and traditionally excellent vocals.
The second track "Wherever you are" is a slower song with yet further beautiful melodies. This rhythm of slow and then faster song continues until "Kings of the day". This is a more funky song, with keyboards reminiscent of Goblin.
The next song is "On the coldest day in hell". This is yet another highlight. It's a slower song with amazing vocal parts. Especially the falsetto part is tremendous.
"Free" is an attempt to write a longer and more complex song. And they succeed in their attempt. The opening is quiet and then suddenly there's an explosion and a very fast tempo is established. The song goes through many such tempo changes.
The song structure is also a bit more complex than is usual for Asia. This song tries to follow in the footsteps of "The Day before the War" from the Arena album, an ambitious 9-minute piece.
"You're the Stranger" and "The Longest Night" are also good songs with strong songwriting but the final song "Aura" is even better. It is a great instrumental, which opens slowly and then gradually builds tempo. There's some great guitar playing on this track.
The three bonus tracks are not really worth mentioning. They're nowhere near as good as the rest of the album. The first two bonus tracks are okay though.
Overall, this album shows a variety of influences ranging from funk, to classical, to Latin rhythms, pop tunes, rock. Perhaps this is Asia’s attempt to be truly progressive, trying to combine as many musical styles into a wonderful whole.
8.5 out of 10. Recommended not only for the fans of Asia's melodic style but for fans of more challenging music as well.