With the release of 2010's Omega by the reunited original lineup of Asia, the supergroup matches its output of two studio albums from its first go round. Vocalist/bass guitarist John Wetton, guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Geoff Downes, and drummer Carl Palmer were progressive rock all-stars who joined forces for the massively successful, chart-topping Asia in 1982 and Alpha in 1983 before splitting -- an inevitability for virtually every supergroup. The quartet re-formed in 2006, toured extensively, and issued a live album and DVD before releasing the strong studio album Phoenix in 2008. Omega is a conscious effort to shake up Asia's style a bit while remaining true to the band's DNA of soaring pop songs dazzlingly performed by virtuosos. Wetton's resonant voice (infinitely layered in chorus harmonies -- an Asia trademark) and tastefully effective bass guitar, Howe's spidery, fluid guitar lines, Downes' richly versatile keyboard parts, and Palmer's booming rhythmic bedrock are still in place, but producer Mike Paxman has stripped the sound down a smidgen in spots. "Finger on the Trigger" (originally recorded by Wetton and Downes for their Icon project in 2006) and "Holy War" are spirited hard rock volleys. "Through My Veins" is slyly catchy. "Listen, Children" is a cheery feel-good song sparked by uplifting lyrics and Downes and Howe's smooth tradeoffs at the end. "Light the Way" and "I Believe" both sound huge thanks to the '80s production feel wholly appropriate for Asia; in fact, "I Believe" would have fit nicely on either Asia or Alpha. The brooding "There Was a Time" is a highlight, and it's enhanced by a complex arrangement. "Emily," a song about unrequited love for a lesbian, is the unremarkable bonus track included on the digipack first pressing of Omega. Phoenix has better songs overall than Omega -- probably due to the initial excitement and creative surge spawned by the reunion -- but Omega satisfies, and longtime fans will enjoy it. Omega is undeniably -- and reliably -- Asia being Asia.
AllMusic Review by Bret Adams