Review Summary: Right before they went through the infamous downfall, there was one album that salvaged some reputation.
Before Asia completely spiraled into mediocrity for one-and-a-half decades of pure disappointment and horrible attempts at music, Asia released Astra, their last album that ever got any attention. It was a transition from the poppy, tongue-in cheek self-titled debut, and it was very interesting at the time, one of the biggest albums of the early 80's. After a second album that isn't particularly remembered as a great achievement, now here comes Astra (originally titled Arcadia, to follow the number of album names with A), a more serious, far more different look at the band's lyrical career.
Where do you go when your second album fails to impress, whereas your first completely tops charts? Well, the infamous third album came for Asia. Some bands just stop at the second record when they are barely noticed by the media (though groups like Axel Rudi Pell remain strong underground), and Asia would never be the same after Astra, either. Steve Howe left the band and was replaced by the guitarist Mandy Meyer. The tour for Astra was abruptly cancelled, and a lack of media / public attention, John Wetton left after Astra, and Meyer would eventually just leave.
(The album did receive a brief resurgence in popularity in 1997, when the re-release hit #37 on the Billboard 200 for three weeks, and "After the War" would become Angels and Demon's lead guitarist Caesar Faux named it his favorite pop song ever)
The tracks here aren't memorable, however, it's just business as usual in most tracks. There's the usual love song ("Love Now Till Eternity"). At this point, Asia might as well of been beating themselves to death. The later vocalist Geoff Downes will appear with supporting vocals, but is clearly not up to the decent standards of John Wetton. Aside from "After the War", which is an anti-war message, everything here feels repeated, and there's nothing here that they haven't done before. As a matter of fact, "After the War" probably drops the best lyrics on the album:
"One more dead is one more
Then it ought to be
A travesty oh oh
One more missed will be kissed
Or purgatory oh oh"
In fact, if their later albums sounded anything like this, then albums like Silent Nation
wouldn't of been such an embarrassment. And as with the last two albums, in defense of Astra, are still stellar. The keyboard work is exceptional as usual, containing some good riffs to the standards of bands like Journey. The bass melodies are thumping, and Wetton is still contains some energy, and is mostly tolerable throughout their last truly good release. In fact, it could be the highlight of the album considering that John Payne was such a mediocre vocalist, containing very bland pitches and inflections.
It also marks the first and only time Asia had a message in various parts, and it actually went through completely. However, other bands have had sparse messages throughout their albums, however little they be, and do it better. This is not a pop epic by any means. Asia never really had it in them for records, and Astra is the closest they come to actually achieving some decency, and haven't made a complete embarrassment of themselves, sans the 2008 album Phoenix. Even so, Astra is just about as good as every record before it: slightly above average.
The worst part about Astra is that everything went down from here.
For Asia's Standards: 3.5 / 5
For Music Standards: 2.5 / 5
After the War
Countdown to Zero
(These are songs that you might actually like from Asia. Arguably, the former is the best song they've ever recorded)
Did I mention that the rock band Phaze likes this album?