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Asia: Silent Nation

You have to give 'em this much credit-Asia are, if nothing else, persistent. Despite dwindling album sales and poorly attended concerts in the smallest venues (at one point, just a couple of years ago, these guys would play in your living room for a fee of about $3,000. Seriously.) the band continue to bring their trademark pomp rock to diehard mullet heads the world over. Asia in 2004 may seem to be a strange proposition and listening to their latest album, Silent Nation, will certainly not change your mind about the credibility of their music, but it takes guts to release a CD that sounds as if it could have been recorded in 1987.

Happily, Silent Nation is perhaps Asia's best album since Alpha in 1983. In some ways, it doesn't sound like "classic" Asia, which is understandable since only keyboardist Geoff Downes remains from the original lineup. Ironically, Asia now resemble the very bands that they influenced toward the latter half of the eighties. At various times, I was having flashbacks to bands like Mike and the Mechanics, Glass Tiger and Icehouse.

Downes' irritating insistence on bell synth pads aside, this is a very nicely written and performed album. Though "What About Love" and "Long Way From Home" are rather generic mid tempo rock songs, the album really opens up with "Midnight". With its slightly adventurous arrangement and catchy chorus, "Midnight" is quintessential Asia. The seven minute "Blue Moon Monday" will likely appeal to fans of the band's light progressive rock leanings as will the moody album closer "The Prophet". The choir on "Gone Too Far" and "Darkness Day" is a nice touch. Asia also generally excel in short pop rock songs like "I Will Be There For You" and "Ghost in the Mirror".

I'm not exactly sure who or what constitutes an Asia audience these days, but for those who have been following the band through the years, they should be pleased with Silent Nation. It's much better than the schmaltzy Aura album of 2001. Though better cover art (where's Roger Dean?!) might help sales, Asia are not out of the game yet.

Track Listing

  1. What About Love (5:25)
  2. Long Way From Home (5:58)
  3. Midnight (6:23)
  4. Blue Moon Monday (7:16)
  5. Silent Nation (6:03)
  6. Ghost in the Mirror (4:35)
  7. Gone Too Far (6:47)
  8. I Will Be There For You (4:09)
  9. Darkness Day (6:17)
  10. The Prophet (5:15)
Total Time(58:20)

Added: August 7th 2006
Reviewer: Steve Pettengill
Score:
Related Link: Official Asia Website
Hits: 3562
Language: english

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Asia: Silent Nation
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-08-07 14:39:42
My Score:

Silent Nation, the first album in Asia's discography whose title doesn't start and end with an "A", also marks in many ways a great turn in their career. It is quite shocking how severely this album has been criticised by their fan base, most of whom are still complaining about the departure of Wetton some twenty years ago. The band has been releasing albums with John Payne since the early 90's, but some simply couldn't deal with it and continue to bash the band for their lineup rather than musical output. That is very sad indeed, considering Silent Nation is easily one of the strongest Asia albums, ever.

I will admit that Asia will never recapture the sound on their first three discs without the original members, but one must be crazy to deny that some of their work with Payne in the 90's has been consistent through and through. Silent Nation is without doubt the darkest and most unique album in their catalog. Geoff Downes, the only original member, may be displaying his most linear synth playing in the band yet, opting for more direct yet also arresting tones. The music is no where near the symphonic pop rock once it was; on the contrary, almost all the songs are built on Payne's rich voice and Downess' textured playing. Their songwriting still recalls the band's 80's pop rock anthems with huge choruses and memorable melodies. Songs like the finely arranged "What About Love" and the strongly melodic "Long Way from Home" are chock full of beautiful synth and piano melodies, deeply moving vocal harmonies, and some crunchy guitar accents.

New guitarist Guthrie Govan is a welcome addition to the lineup, as he supplies incredible guitar work that was noticably missing on their previous release. Besides playing indelible solos, he also brings a great melodic sensibility and mirage-like guitars that are planted beneath Downess' first-class synth patches. The absolutely smashing ballad "Blue Moon Monday" would become an instant hit if there was any justice in the music business, as it ranks up right there with their best songs ever. Despite the composition seeming very planned out, Payne's nuanced and expressive singing (which I am sure must have influenced the likes of Jorn Lande a great deal) demands full attention. Surrounded by varied synth sounds and rising organs, the chorus of this track is simply stunning in its effect. After a stubborn bass line and sparse key strokes, everything cuts out for a mini-second creating utter silence, only to erupt into husky melodious singing and then a sweet acoustic passage with folky synths backing everything up.

More on the guitar front, "Gone Too Far", a song that also stands out for its socially conscious lyrical message, sees guitarist Govan playing two solos, the first one being relatively short yet totally addictive and the second one being the masterwork of the album with its massive build-up into a terrific climax. Also worth checking out is Govan's versatile playing on the moody title track, complete with gentle acoustic guitars, panoramic synths, and excellent vocals. The guitar work here eerily lends itself to Latin-inflected eclectism, but it's quite subtle being neatly hidden under Downess' keyboard effects.

More variety is brought in with the cool organs and almost spacey Middle Eastern elements of "Midnight"; the slightly subpar 80's pop of "Ghost in the Mirror"; the upbeat rocker of "I Will Be There for You"; and the great marriage of modern soundscapes and Monk-like chant vocals with some Latin lyrics of "Darkness Day", easily the bravest song Asia have written. The album ends on a powerful note with "The Prophet", which, with its obsessive drum cadence and wailing organs, and Payne's deep voice, fades into pure white noise after a repeated guitar theme soars on and on forever. It is very beautiful.

The special edition of the album album contains enhanced booklet, extra pictures, and a DVD which features the making of the album. It seems the original lineup is finally back together for their 25th anniversary, so vocalist John Payne is now out. You must check out his new GPS project with this album's guitarist Guthrie Govan and Spock's Beard's key wizard Ryo Okumoto. It has a more progressive vibe to it with cool jam-like sessions and super-experimental synth elements.

Asia: Silent Nation
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-08-27 15:33:46
My Score:

To be honest - and reviewers should be honest - I didn't care for Silent Nation the first several times I played it. No, it wasn't that I was so distracted by the deviation from the traditional Asia album title beginning and ending with "A" that I couldn't concentrate on the music. Rather, I just didn't hear the hooks that characterized other Asia albums. Even 2002's much-maligned Aura had memorable, if not always upbeat, songs.

But after spending more time with Silent Nation, I began to appreciate its darker tones (listen to the slow-building title track or "Darkness Day," featuring Gregorian chanting) and dramatic subtleties (give "Midnight" or "Blue Moon Monday" a spin). Singer and bassist John Payne's voice lacks some of the emotion of earlier Payne-era Asia albums, but guitarist Guthrie Govan's phenomenal fretwork provides plenty of excitement, especially on the record's rockers. And "Long Way From Home" and "Ghost in the Mirror" are two of the catchiest songs Asia has released in a long time.

Asia sounds more like a real group here than it has in years, with all four of the core musicians who played on Aura - keyboard player and only remaining original member Geoff Downes, seasoned drummer Chris Slade, Payne and Govan - recording Silent Nation without any outside contributions. That said, this isn't the shiniest album on InsideOut Music's esteemed roster (or even within the Asia catalog). But considering Asia's 22 years of ups and downs, Silent Nation still stands as a credible piece of work.




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