Soldier Of Fortune>>LOUDNESS>>Soldier Of Fortune - JAPAN

The Birthday Eve - 1981 - Columbia Nippon
Devil Soldier - 1982 - Columbia Nippon
The Law Of Devil’s Land - 1983 - Columbia Nippon
Live-Loud-Alive - 1983 - Columbia Nippon
Disillusion - 1984 - MFN
Thunder In The East - 1985 - Atlantic
Lightning Strikes - 1986 - Atlantic
8186 Live - 1986 - Warner
Hurricane Eyes - 1987 - Atlantic Eyes
Soldier Of Fortune - 1989 - Atlantic
On The Prowl - 1991 - Atlantic
Loudness - 1992 - Warner
Once And For All - 1994 - Warner
Heavy Metal Hippies - 1994 - Warner
Loud 'N Raw - 1995 - Warner
Ghetto Machine - 1997 - Rooms
Dragon - 1998 - Rooms
Engine - 1999 - Rooms
Spiritual Canoe - 2001 - Columbia
Pandemonium - 2002 - Columbia
Biosphere - 2002 - Columbia
Terror Hakuri - 2004 - Tokuma
Racing - 2004 - Tokuma
Breaking The Taboo - 2006 - Tokuma
Metal Mad - 2008 - Tokuma
The Everlasting - 2009 - Tokuma
Live Loudest At The Budokan '91 - 2009 - Warner
King Of Pain - 2010 - Tokuma
Eve To Dawn - 2011 - Tokuma
The Sun Will Rise Again - 2014 - Thunderball667


  
 
Members

S= Earthshaker, Takasaki, M.T. Fuji>>Minoru Niihara>>M.T. Fuji, Takasaki, XYZ, Sly, XYZ-A, Ded Chaplin, Solo - Obsession>>Mike Vescera>>Yngwie Malmsteen, Solo, Killing Machine, Palace Of Black, Obsession, Roland Grapow, Safe Haven, Vescera - EZO>>Masaki Yamada - Takasaki, XYZ, Sly, XYZ-A, Ded Chaplin, Solo>>MINOR NIIHARA>>Solo
G= Solo, Lazy, M.T. Fuji>>AKIRA TAKASAKI>>Solo, Lazy, M.T. Fuji
B= Takasaki, M.T. Fuji>>Masayoshi Yamashita>>Takasaki, M.T. Fuji - Dementia, X Japan>>Taiji Sawada>>Dirty Trashroad - Naoto Shibata>>Saber Tiger - M.T. Fuji, Takasaki>>MASAYOSHI YAMASHITA
D= Lazy, Takasaki, M.T. Fuji>>Munetaka Higuchi>>Sly, M.T. Fuji, Takasaki - EZO>>Hiro Homma>>Saber Tiger, Anthem, Snakebite - M.T. Fuji, Takasaki, Lazy, Sly>>Munetaka Higuchi - Ubigun, Nigarobo, Negarobo, RDX, Saber Tiger, Hard Gear, Galatea>>MASAYUKI 'AN-PANG' SUZUKI>>Galatea



History

Loudness is Japan’s best-known heavy metal export. Guitar virtuoso Akira Taksaki and drummer Higuchi formed the band in 1981 after his departure from the poppy Lazy. The group enjoyed underground status in America and Europe for approximately four albums before breaking into the overseas markets courtesy of a major deal. The group’s mix of Rush and Van Halen as well as the exotic flavour of the Japanese vocals were integral to the group’s massively loyal following but ultimately it was the guitar of Takasaki that blew away the masses.

The band had always harboured commercial ambitions, even rerecording its albums in English, but it was beginning with Thunder In The East that Loudness entered a phase where it would glisten its music and image to suit a wider audience and would employ renowned producers like Max Norman. M.T. Fuji was a one-off 1983 side-project featuring the Loudness members and musicians from Make-Up. The members appeared with pseudonyms. Disillusion was actually recorded in the UK. Nevertheless, Thunder In The East – where the band had begun singing entirely in English - remains the ban’s definitive work. Songs like Heavy Chains and Like Hell are perennial favourites. The album charted in both US and Japan and the band opened for Mötley Crüe. Norman again produced Lightning Strikes. It was issued as Shadows of War in Asia. Unfortunately, the logical conclusion of the overt commercialism was the ousting of Niihara at the end of 1988 in favour of Yankee singer Mike Vescera an awkward move facilitated by the record label and management. Soldier Of Fortune was this line-up’s first album. It featured Dio’s Claude Schnell on keyboards. With this, and On The Prowl, not selling the American was soon out and Takasaki at crossroads. Taiji Sawada played bass on the Loudness record. Masaki Yamada was the bands new singer. Heavy Metal Hippies was issued in the midst of the grunge cycle and bore very similar sounds. The band continued with some success in Japan. Niihara, in the meanwhile, was fronting X.Y.Z.

On the band’s twentieth anniversary, Takasaki took the initiative and restored the band’s original line-up for a tour and new recordings. The band issued Pandemonium and followed with the fist of several DVDs. 2004’s Rockshocks was a collection of rerecorded material ostensibly chosen by the fans. This album was picked up by Crash Music for the US and the group returned to Canada and the USA in 2006 for shows. In April of 2008, right after the release of Metal Mad, the band decided to go on hiatus following the discovery that drummer Munetaka Higuchi has liver cancer. Kozo Suganuma, drummer of Ded Chaplin (which featured Minoru Niihara), filled in on several pre-scheduled Japanese shows. Loudness released a four-disc DVD compilation on August 6th, 2008 featuring three DVDs of live footage recorded from the band's early days and up to today. The band separately issued a new DVD called Live Shocks 2008 featuring drummer Kozo Suganuma. The band issued yet another DVD in late 2008. It was a four-disc set called The Legend Of Loudness - Live Complete Best and featured material from the early days to date. It was available in Japan through Tokuma Communications. Drummer Munetaka Higuchi died on November 30th after suffering from liver cancer. He was 49. Singer Minoru Niihara busied himself with pop band Nishidera Minoru, while guitarist Akira Takasaki was also busy with his solo venture. The band had a new album called Return To Forever – Aun featuring a new drummer. It was the band’s first post-Munetaka Higuchi. The band was touring Japan playing songs exclusively from its first four albums, The Birthday Eve, Devil Soldier, Law Of Devil's Land and Disillusion. Loudness’ 2009 album was eventually called The Everlasting. Next appeared a live Japanese DVD, called Munetaka Higuchi: Forever Our Hero. The footage was taped at a special tribute show in memory of late drummer Munetaka Higuchi on February 14th, 2009 at C.C. Lemon Hall in Tokyo, Japan. Loudness released a CD and DVD set called Live Loudest At The Budokan '91 in December of 2009 through Warner Music Japan and announced European shows for July of 2010. The new live set featured singer Mike Vescera. The band released a new album, King Of Pain, on May 19th through Tokuma Japan Communications. Loudness would play at the third memorial concert for its dead drummer Munetaka Higuchi on Sunday, November 14th, 2010 at CC Lemon Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. Higuchi died on November 30th, 2008 due to liver cancer. In June 2011, bassist Taiji Sawada was arrested for misbehaving on a flight from Japan and died in a hospital in Saipan, two days after being arrested by American authorities after trying to hang himself with a bed sheet in the island's jail. Taiji Sawada, 45, was known as a bass player with the heavy metal band X, which later became X Japan. He left that group in 1992, but later played with Loudness and Dtr. In 2012, Loudness signed a deal with Toronto’s FrostByte Media. The band's latest album, Eve To Dawn, which was issued in September of 2011 would be released outside Japan in August of 2012. Loudness would be joined once again by vocalist Mike Vescera for a one-off show on April 14th, 2013 at the Live N' Louder festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He now fronted Animetal USA. It was unclear why singer Niihara was unavailable. Loudness would release a 2014 album, The Sun Will Rise Again, on June 4th. Late 1980s and early 1990s’ singer Michael Vescera was rejoining his former band for a concert at October 2015’s Loud Park festival in Japan. Using the monicker Soldier Of Fortune, the Japanese band would play songs from Vescera's time in that band. Minoru Niihara remained the band’s singer. Loudness played at the 2015 Bang Your Head Festival in Germany. Riot V played its song Warrior with Loudness members Akira Takasaki and Masayoshi Yamashita on June 25th, 2015 at the Rock Fest Barcelona festival in Spain. The band would release several different versions of the special 30th-anniversary edition of 1985’s Thunder In The East album on November 25th of 2015 featuring bonus DVDs with live shots from the band’s U.S. tour and demo material. The band was also touring the USA and selling VIP packages to fans with extra money.

Reviews

LOUDNESS - THE LAW OF DEVIL'S LAND - NIPPON COLUMBIA  
There are many bands whom reviewers describe as unique even after cataloguing said act's numerous and conspicuous influences. In the case of Loudness, the cliché is true. The heavy metallers from the East take all their western inspirations and mould them into something unique and instantly recognizable. Much of this is owing to the inimitable, and occasionally indescribable, vocals of Minoru Nihara, and the whiz-bang incredible guitar of Japan's - some would say the world's - best, Akira Takasaki.
It is not instantly clear where Part I was located, but the pseudo-Satanic album begins with Theme Of Loudness Part II before properly launching with In The Mirror. The pyrotechnics and the speed riffing are on. Nihara is special and quite in character as he works himself up to the angry end of the song. Incidentally, the album's name, song titles and several choruses are in English while the bulk of the lyrics are written in the band's native Japanese. Show Me The Way and its splashing toms is where Nihara's strong accent comes through, something for which he foolishly gets fired five years later. Nonetheless, the song is another fiery killer set. More accentuated metal follows with I Wish You Were Here (er, Pink Floyd?) before Mr. Yes Man shifts to a slower pace. The song is melodic and even includes a couple of obvious Rush guitar riffs. More incredible soloing can be found on songs like Sleepless Night (with its 'Loudness' chants), Speed and Black Wall. The title track gives bassist Masayoshi Yamashita the opportunity to show off his chugging bass, while Munetaka Higuchi pounds the drums to rubble. Words are words and descriptions more words, but Loudness had it all at this stage despite going on to produce several more masterpieces that are brilliant in the ensuing years. The Law Of Devil's Land, alongside its album title counterparts Devil Soldier, The Birthday Eve and 1984's Disillusion comprise the band's first era profile and sound-wise and are all recommended. - Ali "The Metallian"

LOUDNESS - THUNDER IN THE EAST - NIPPON COLUMBIA  
Thunder In The East, issued in 1985, was the first album to usher in a new era for Japan's heavy metal sensei Loudness. It retained the speed, heaviness and flashy sound of the band, but added a new focus and seminal trademark that would translate into overground fan attention in the West. The band was obviously targetting a bigger fan base. It was doing so without losing its identity though. The distinctive Loudness sound, which included virtuoso guitarring of Akira Takasaki and vocals by Minoru Niihara, remained whole, while a production by Max Norman upped the ante one notch. Just to prove a point though, the quartet bedecked the cover with a Japanese Imperial navy flag - the red sun with its red and white rays.
The album starts with one of the most effective chords in heavy metal, the drum kicks in and its off to the races. This one was also a video for this album. It is also a song that revels in heavy metal catchiness. Minoru Niihara sings as if he means it, and the rest of the band puts in a very convincing performance. Fans shall wonder what the initials M.Z.A. mean for generations. That these repeating letters do not appear in the lyric sheet just adds to the mystery. There is a concert-oriented chant on this song. The solo and the whammy overkill obliterate the competition as a matter of course.
Like Hell is another very strong song with cutting edge tightness. Once again the song is catchy and the lead guitars unparalleled. In fact, the blazing lead placed here is a de facto metal paradigm. Takasaki's fingers are flying. "Like Hell" chants the band and there could not be a better description of the band's delivery of metal. Coincidentally, three minutes into the track Takasaki throws a break strongly reminiscent of a riff on an old song by Torch called Warlock.
Heavy Chains follows lashingly. Niihara puts in an extra heartfelt effort here befitting the subject matter ("now it seems she's lost to all") and the rhythm section pounds the matter in a more mid-paced manner than the foregoing two songs. The way the guitar and bass bridge into the solo is exhilerating.
Get Away seems to be addressing a street-tough life style. Takasaki alternates his tone on this track between his trademark sharp one and a fuzzy sound. The solo is a whirlwind before changing into a more Classical approach. The time-change right after the lead demonstrates the band's awesome musical execution. At this point the band has delivered four world-class songs in a row.
We Could Be Together begins with the kind of guitar acrobatics that could easily send Eddie Van Halen into hiding. A chord progression which serves as the song's main backbone follows and the thunder rumbles on. The rest of the band is again present here helping with the backing vocals.
Run For Your Life, which begins with a synthesized moment, is slower, but no worse for it. The layers of guitar dance on top of one another and the doodling bass of Masayoshi Yamashita shine through. Fans will discover a melody also later heard on Iron Maiden's Somewhere In Time here.
Clockwork Toy begins in chaos. The guitars, drum and bass slam against each other. Then marches in Niihara and brings a semblance of order to the proceedings. It is not much of an order, however, for the tight rhythm assaults the listener mercilessly. Niihara lets loose with his pipes and Takasaki delivers a soulful, albeit short, lead before launching a full-frontal dual-attack. The tremolo rules the land! Loudness again shows what it means to be tight and powerful.
Song number eight is next and by now the listener wonders how many years the band has needed to compose so many effective riffs and rhythms. Previous album Disillusion came out in 1984. Ironically the chaotic guitar strings' sound on this tune would have been appropriate on the song Clockwork Toy. The Lines Are Down is faster again. The band seems to have a renewed vigour on this track. The song is catchy and memorable. The listener feels the narrated story is feeling right in front of the singer. The screams unerring. The bass sound is thumping with power. The guitar gymnastics outright berserk.
The album ends with Never Change Your Mind, which is ironic given how no one is regretting purchasing this album by now. The song begins with a little strum reminsicent of Loudness' old stand-by Rush, before developing into a tune that could easily have been the best slow song Motley Crue ever wrote. The song encapsulates a lot of emotion and power. The song's ascent into a full-blown momentous structure is remarkable. This one could have been on MTV in 1985.
Do yourself a favour. Get some Loudness in your life. It's all the metal and mineral nutrition for which one can ask. - Ali "The Metallian"

LOUDNESS - ROCKSHOCKS - CRASH   
A long time after its initial release in Japan Crash Music has picked up Rockshocks for North American distribution coinciding with Loudness' return to the Canadian stage. The CD is primarily a compilation of the band's early (i.e. 1980s with Minoru Niihara on vocals) songs re-recorded and updated by the four Japanese masters following the 2001 reunion. Present in rerecorded format are early favourites like the anthemic Loudness, the mythical In The Mirror, the powerful and catchy Crazy Night, the sentimental The Lines Are Down and more. The production is weaker than a band of Loudness' stature should have allowed with the bottom end being a tad muddy, while the new versions are largely kept true to the original. However, this had to be stated, the fantastic Like Hell is not quite done justice here. Nevertheless, Loudness is a deservedly revered band and most of this material should be considered obligatory for heavy metal fans. The guitar performance and dexterity of Akira Takasaki combined with the song writing and authentic feeling of these guys has not quite been equalled.
As a North American bonus, this version features three newer songs out of which Exultation packs a punch akin to a sumo wrestler thumping up and down on one's chest. Apparently, Loudness anno 2005 is as heavy, manic and creative as ever. The prime directive of heavy metal would be to head out immediately and purchase the entire Loudness catalogue from 1981 to 1988. Barring that Rockshocks would be a good way to claw one's way to Japan and its key metal export. - Ali "The Metallian"




Interviews

There are few bands that can claim to have opened up the minds and ears of an entire music scene to the existence and possibilities of its particular country. There are even fewer bands, which can boast a distinct style, a guitarist acknowledged as neck and fret beyond his peers and a career that has so far lasted 25 years.
Japan's Loudness has gone through several incarnations and experimentations resulting in different metal styles and has had its share of ups and downs, but the advent of 2006 has not only meant the arrival of the aforementioned anniversary, but also the return of the reformed original line-up of singer Minoru Niihara, guitarist Akira Takasaki, bassist Masayoshi Yamashita and drummer Munetaka Higuchi to North America with a release, called RockShocks, as well as a continent-wide tour. Niihara took advantage of the band's March set of dates to sit down with Ali "The Metallian" in order to make up for the lost time and recap much of what has transpired with the band. - 24.03.2006

METALLIAN: Minoru, how has your tour been so far?
NIIHARA: Oh, it's great. It's incredible. It has been 18 years since we played in North America. That's such a long time. Detroit was great. The last time we played in Toronto, I think, was when we opened for AC/DC. We opened for AC/DC and Mötley Crüe. We also played with Cinderella, Poison and Keel.

METALLIAN: More recently, the line-up of those days has reassembled. How is this re-union going?
NIIHARA: We have been doing well since we reunited this band. We are getting along better than we used to. In 1989 Akira wanted to do something new and his decision was to change the front man. I don't know whether it was a good decision or bad decision, but Loudness is his band and he kicked me out. I felt very sad. I did not want to leave this band then. I had to though. Then a couple of years later the new singer, Mike Vescera, left too. Then they brought another Japanese singer, Masaki, for a couple of years and then he left too. 2001 was the band's 20th anniversary. Akira called me and asked if we could do something together again since the anniversary was coming. He asked if I was still interested in Loudness. I talked to him a lot about music, our friendship and business. We agreed on the whole thing. We decided that we would do it and see how it would go. We recorded an album and toured Japan in 2001 and it all went so well. We then talked again and we decided to continue the band.

METALLIAN: Is it now acknowledged that the decision to change singers was a mistake?
NIIHARA: No, he did not talk about any mistakes. Life is tough, you know? At that time Akira thought it was a good decision. Show business is very difficult. We are now over 40, older and much wiser than we used to be. We now talk and understand what we are thinking. We agreed that we should forget about the past and decide what we want to do from now on. We enjoy ourselves and believe in what we are doing. You cannot fix the past, it was a difficult time, but we got together again and recorded good albums and toured. So we are now happy.

METALLIAN: Do you view the reunion as being more about the previous '80s style or is it about modern music and new sounds?
NIIHARA: Loudness' main songwriter is Akira and he has been influenced by modern rock. I would say a mixture of '80s plus '90s is what we are doing. Our music is modern and has that '80s influence. It is not only one thing.
Akira brings his ideas and then we make songs together. We jam hours and hours and change this and that. That finally becomes a song. He has good ideas, but we make it better together. We are very satisfied with this routine.

METALLIAN: How is this approach being received?
NIIHARA: Honestly, some of the Japanese fans are saying things that are very negative. Others are saying that Loudness is very heavy and they love it. This is true of the young kids. They love the new material. It is so hard. The music is always changing. We don't want to always do the same stuff. We have more than 25 albums and people can listen to any Loudness they wish. There are many options. Japanese audiences go crazy at concerts. They sing loudly, they come to shows and we are doing well.

METALLIAN: What is the band's status in North America? Crash Music has issued the RockShocks album in the USA.
NIIHARA: We are working on it! Perhaps our newest album, which is called Racing, can be released in America. I don't know which label, but we are trying. I don't know anything yet. The US market is very difficult. I don't understand it. Maybe we should talk to more labels. I will ask my manager to negotiate with more labels. This tour should help.

METALLIAN: Which songs are part of your set now?
NIIHARA: We start with two new songs, then play Crazy Nights followed by Crazy Doctor. After those we play In The Mirror and songs from our debut album. We play two newer songs, S.D.I., then Rock Shock from our debut and then we change things around a little. We might play Like Hell or Heavy Chains, for example. We also have to rehearse those songs. We also do some medleys. We play half of Let It Go and mix it with other songs. There are so many to choose from.

METALLIAN: Over the years you have re-recorded material from time to time and one always wondered why. RockShocks is a complete album of re-recordings, but there have been songs that have been rearranged, re-recorded and whole albums that have appeared in Japanese and English albums.
NIIHARA: You know, sometimes it is the record companies that want us to re-record in English. Sometimes I switch to Japanese for the Japanese fans. The reasons are different. 1987's Hurricane Eyes, for example, comes in two languages. I actually re-recorded the songs in Japanese after we did the English version. On Disillusion I sang in very bad English, but the record company wanted an English album anyway.

METALLIAN: Does it make sense for you to sometimes refuse the record company's requests? The fans have always been happy with your singing, while the business end has had other agenda. Look, the band eventually hired an American singer and what did that do for Loudness?
NIIHARA: That is a good thing to hear. Of course, Japanese is my mother tongue and easier to sing. Perhaps I'll sing only in Japanese in the future. I understand what you are saying.

METALLIAN: What about the mystery re-appearances? Ares' Lament appeared three albums later in 1987 as So Lonely, for example.
NIIHARA: Yes, So Lonely was supposed to be used for a soundtrack in the USA, but it didn't happen. Atlantic Records thought it would be great if we just put the version on the new album. Producer Eddie Kramer did not want to use the song because he hadn't produced it, but Atlantic wanted to use it on Hurricane Eyes. In the end it was the record company's idea. We had a producer, whose name I can't remember, who had recorded So Lonely. I remember the producer's face, but can't recall his name. I am too old!

METALLIAN: Under the category of twenty-year old mysteries you need to finally tell the readers what the chant MZA in the song Crazy Nights means.
NIIHARA: MZA means... nothing actually! Honestly, let me tell you that when we wrote the song Crazy Nights we didn't have lyrics. We did a preproduction with producer Max Norman and I had to sing something. So I sang some totally nonsense lyrics for him. It was a mixture of French, English, German, Chinese and Japanese. I just came up with the sound 'M.Z.A.' which was fine for preproduction. When we were actually recording the album we tried to figure out a line for the song instead of 'MZA.' We tried, but we couldn't find any good lines so Max Norman said we should forget about it and just use MZA. We didn't come up with a meaning for it either.

METALLIAN: It always seemed like a mystery acronym, which also does not appear in the lyric sheet.
NIIHARA: It is like shouting 'hey hey hey' or 'wow wow wow' or whatever. Except M, Z and A came out of me. I have been asked this question and I used to tell people it stands for 'My Zebra Ass.' Of course, that's nonsense.

METALLIAN: Minoru, what can the fans expect next from Loudness?
NIIHARA: Following the North American tour we will begin pre-production for the album, which will be released, for our 25th anniversary. I don't know who the producer will be. We are checking to see who is available. We will record it in August. Then we have a Japanese tour and a European tour after that. We are hoping to come back to North America next year.

METALLIAN: Thank you for your time and good to see you on these shores.
NIIHARA: Thank you for your perfect questions and hopefully you were able to understand everything I said because my English is not so good. I just want to add a thank you to all the people who support Loudness all the time. We hope they come to the shows to get crazy with us.

For information and updates on Loudness check out http://www3.livemedia.co.jp/loudness/info/index.html.

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Loudness