Asia
Arena


3.0
good

Review

by RavenRock USER (25 Reviews)
May 28th, 2011 | 12 replies


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One of the only times Asia has done a record correctly.

Ever since Asia's self-titled debut, it's been clear that they suffered a massive hit, lyrically and instrumentally. Astra would be the last album that got media attention, and even that was close to continental-ignorance. In the late 80's, albums such as Aqua and Aria failed to become even remotely close to good material. They gained one minor success after the second release of Alpha earned them a spot on #37 of the UK Album Charts. However, Arena in general would be one of the last great Asia albums (that is, until the late success of 2008's Phoenix brought them back up to speed) of the three decades they played.

That being said, Arena is a likeable album, and far more serious than the poppy Asia. There's some amazing guitar melodies that pop up here and there, and some of the most popular and influential keyboard tempos pop up from Geoffrey Downes in several tracks. The lyrical content is actually stellar that previous albums, as shown in tracks such as The Day Before The War (Hands across the water, The sun is in the east. Who will feed the famine after lions feast"). And with the exception of U Bring Me Down, Arena is still one of the more serious albums, lyrically, they've made yet.

That still doesn't excuse it from being a generally acceptable album. Despite the standouts, (there are definitely some good tracks) they are sparsely included here. Despite the songwriting, Payne's voice is far too distant and the pitch is too low for most of these tracks. And shamefully so, considering the spastic, young energy of John Wetton in the early 80's. With so much potential in this group (and considering it's nearly fourteen years later), it's a notch below Astra, in many ways. There are tracks that are too long for their own good (across this 64 minute album, the shortest track is under four and a half minutes), considering that the shortest Asia songs usually tend to be the most memorable. Despite the new lyrical content, some of it recycles Aria heavily, in various tracks across the album. That Season descends into uselessness, and there are tracks that just put you to sleep (U Bring Me Down and Words can be slashed from the album without caring)

That being said, it's still one of the best produced albums of the band's trilogy. The vocal pitches are loud, crisp, and clear, the drum beats come through excessively well. But good production is not enough to save a failing band. At this point, there wasn't enough hope for redemption. Arena was one of the last truly great albums, one of the first times in over a decade Asia finally achieved some minor success (Arena won an underground music contest in SECAM Media Gallery), and one of the only times a record from them was done correctly.

Standout Tracks

Into The Arena / Arena - 8 minutes of pure frenzy. The former is a brilliant intro, containing some really good bass and guitar tempos, including fantastic keyboard work, the latter a 5-minute magnum opus of the album, one actually worth listening to.

The Day Before The War - This song is almost too long for it's own good. Maybe this song is good because it's some of the best written songs of Asia's period. Maybe it's because this proved that Asia had some serious potential, but didn't show it. Maybe it's because of the extraordinary instrumental work, including the fade-out solos for every instrumental. However you view it, it's an excellent track, and one of the only ones on here that remains memorable.



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user ratings (23)
Chart.
2.5
average

Comments:Add a Comment 
RavenRock
May 28th 2011


688 Comments


Because you were all DYING to see another review from me.

I considered doing another Rudi Pell album, but I haven't listened to enough of them.

liveatthegods
May 28th 2011


62 Comments


God, even most of Asia's better albums irk me. I can't stand the vocals.

Oh, yeah, good review.

RavenRock
May 28th 2011


688 Comments


I dunno, this wasn't up to my usual standards.

Lambda
May 28th 2011


2654 Comments


Pretty good review!

RavenRock
May 28th 2011


688 Comments


Framed an Asia poster?

I don't have one poster from them.

AngelofDeath
Emeritus
May 28th 2011


16223 Comments


Ah, nice. A 40 Year Old Virgin reference.

Band isn't that gay. They're just not that great.

RavenRock
May 28th 2011


688 Comments


Oh no they're awful.

They are pretty bad. The only albums I ever "liked" was this and their debut.

Jethro42
May 28th 2011


15571 Comments


Good review, I'll check out the songs you recd. Their first album is the only one I own and it's excellent.

RavenRock
May 28th 2011


688 Comments


Meh. There's only one Day Before The War on Youtube, and you can't listen to Into the Arena unless you buy it from Amazon or album wise.

Tyrael
May 29th 2011


21113 Comments


Pretty sad that this is supposed to be a supergroup :/ good review!

Parallels
May 29th 2011


8858 Comments


hey, Heat of the Moment, and Time will only Tell are fucking amazing 80's songs.
Anything else is crap though, sonic plumbers right.

jayfatha
May 29th 2011


2918 Comments


You know how I know you're gay?

You like Asia.



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