Keeping track of Asia’s ever-changing lineup can be a nightmare. Its greatest consistency comes from the 1992-2004 run of albums spearheaded by keyboardist Geoff Downes (the only Asia member on every album) and vocalist John Payne. 2001’s Aura followed a five-year delay since the band’s last studio effort, 1996’s Arena. The interim was flooded with a pair of Downes/Payne era archival releases, three separate hits compilations (Anthology, The Collection, and Heat of the Moment – The Very Best of), and four live albums released in 1997 alone, although recorded at different phases of the band’s career. And that wasn’t everything! Even die-hard fans had to wonder if it was worth it.
The band’s eventual return to recording new material brought a similar rehash approach. Downes and Payne reached back over the years to bring in former guitarists Steve Howe, Pat Thrall, and Elliott Randall. As if that weren’t enough, Ian Crichton and Guthrie Govan put in a few licks as well. Drummer Michael Sturgis, who’d worked on the last couple albums, was here again, but split time with Chris Slade.
As one might expect from such a hodge podge lineup, “one shouldn’t expect a powerful and striking…thread throughout, as the first 3 albums of the old Asia had” (Haas). However, this album “is not so much about dynamics, power, anthemic velocity and…perfection” (Haas) as it is about “melancholy, mellowness, warmness, appeal and thematic soundness” (Haas); in essence, “subtle sensory stimulation (as the name of album indicates)” (Haas).