One Track Mind: Asia, “Valkyrie” from Gravitas (2014)

Once the proposed title for the first album from this new iteration of Asia, “Valkyrie” finds John Wetton fashioning an epic tale of struggle and of redemption — something that couldn’t be further away from the compact pop of signature hits like “Heat of the Moment.”

That’s not all that’s new, of course. Guitarist Sam Coulson has replaced founder Steve Howe since 2012′s XXX, though for much of “Valkyrie” he is largely a bit player. This advance song feels more like a showcase for the continued development of Asia’s principal songwriter partnership between Wetton and keyboardist Geoff Downes, rather than a debut platform for Coulson.

As such, it remains to be seen whether the rest of the forthcoming Gravitas, due March 25, 2014 from Frontiers Records, will give us more meaningful insight into what Coulson’s arrival means for this long-running group.

That’s not to say, however, that his presence isn’t felt here. When Wetton, who simply soars over surging strings, gives pauses in this evocative narrative, it’s Coulson who steps boldly forward. The youngster isn’t given much space to work, but nevertheless, unleashes a compact and angular solo, playing with far more fizzy aggression than we’ve heard from Asia in the Howe years. It’s an intriguing start.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • http://www.ultimatemets.com/profile.php?PlayerCode=0195 Schneck

    Great video as I’ve always wanted to see members of Asia going up escalators. Hoping the rest of the album is a bit less subdued.