History & BiographyLoudness is Japan’s best-known heavy metal export. Osaka-born guitar virtuoso Akira Takasaki, bassist Hiroyuki Tanaka (who left Lazy the same year as the guitarist and died in 2006) and drummer Higuchi formed the band in 1981 after the departure from the poppy Lazy. Loudness 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. Here was a man who had precision control of his strings.
Singer Niihara was a Kyoto university student when got a call to audition for Takasaki’s ‘solo’ album. He was also a singer and bassist in Earthshaker. His other experience was singing in a cover band playing Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin tunes. As such, Loudness is the formation of former Lazy and Earthshaker members. Loudness 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 and then re-recorded with English lyrics in order to appeal to a broader market. While there the band took the time to play several shows. Nevertheless, Thunder In The East – where the band had begun singing entirely in English -- remains the band’s definitive work. Songs like Heavy Chains and Like Hell are perennial favourites. Loudness was playing a show in California when it was approached by an Atlantic Records A&R for a deal! 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. Japanese bands Anthem, Saber Tiger and others would pull similar stunts. Soldier Of Fortune was this line-up’s first album. This album had, in fact, being recorded with Niihara on vocals at first. 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. Niihara was singing for Sly and Ded Chaplin in Japan. Taiji Sawada played bass on the Loudness record. Masaki Yamada (EZO) was the band’s new singer and recruited mid-tour as Vescera had left in a hurry to join Yngwie Malmsteen. 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. Anthem bassist Naoto Shibata had joined Loudness as most Japanese metal bands had thrown in the towel in the late ‘90s.
On the band’s twentieth anniversary, Takasaki took the initiative and restored the band’s original line-up for a tour and new recordings. This was 2001. The band issued Pandemonium and followed with the first 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. 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/Dirty Trashroad. Loudness signed a deal with Toronto’s FrostByte Media in 2012. 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 was 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. The group had the opportunity to play in Europe although a few shows were also cancelled. Late 1980s and early 1990s’ singer Michael Vescera was re-joining 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. As it happened Vescera cancelled. Singer Iuri Sanson of Hibria fronted Loudness for that show in Brazil in 2013. He was supposed to sing with former Loudness singer Mike Vescera who then cancelled. Loudness singer Niihara Minoru was absent due to scheduling conflicts with his side-project XYZ-A. 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. The band played Crazy Nights with Don Van Stavern of Riot in Texas. Loudness was denied entry into the USA for its tour in April of 2017 causing the dates to be cancelled. The band had not procured a visa and was relying on “exemptions.” The Japanese would release a new album, called Rise To Glory, through Ward Music in January 2018. Drummer Suzuki suffered a stroke in February and was hospitalized. Nishida Ryuichi of Punish and RA:IN took over. The band had a 2CD and DVD package called Live In Tokyo through earMUSIC on May 17th 2019. The group appeared at the Keep It True festival in 2019. The two drummers shared the stage at a concert at the end of 2019. Loudness’ 40th anniversary tour of Japan was announced for September 2021. A show at the Alcatraz festival in Belgium in 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic and re-booked for 2022. The band jumped on the NFT bandwagon. Loudness’ European and North American tours were postponed again as of early 2022. The band was due to tour in 2020. The group was aiming for tours of the two continents in 2023. Loudness’ Sunburst album was being licensed worldwide by earMUSIC and available in July 2022. The band was releasing a 30th Anniversary edition of its self-titled album from 1992, which featured ex-EZO singer Masaki Yamada and ex-X Japan bassist Taiji Sawada in 2022. The album was remixed by Jacob Hansen and contained bonus material. Loudness announced three Japanese concerts for December 2022 to commemorate its 40th anniversary a year late. The concerts in Takamatsu, Hiroshima and Tokyo were dubbed 40th Anniversary Japan Circuit 2022 SUNBURST ~ Gamushara Chapter 3. The Tokyo show had Lazy opening. A tour of Europe for the spring of 2023 was officially postponed, but a later US tour was announced. The band was booked for the M3 Rock Festival in the USA as well. The band cancelled its appearance at the Keep It True festival. Loudness’ European tour was cancelled. Citing escalating costs, the band had pulled the plug on its European trek of April 2023. The promoter reported the band had pulled out inexplicably and would not even be motivated with an increase in pay.
Azuma George and Takasaki would found the Killer Guitar company and produce signature guitars, which were distributed by ESP. Azuma was a fellow Japanese guitarist and also a manager who worked with other bands like Anthem.
LOUNDESS – BIRTHDAY EVE – COLUMBIA NIPPON
Japan’s foremost conveyor of heavy metal Loudness was founded in 1981 and released its debut, appropriately entitled Birthday Eve (‘誕生前夜’or ‘Tan-jyo-zen-ya’in Japanese), in November of that same year.
The embryo artwork on the cover looks rudimentary and cheap, but let us charitably chalk it up the side-effect of the band being an unknown heavy metal entity in Japan of 1981 and instead focus on the appropriateness of the first song on the first album being none other than Loudness. The cover’s presentation has nothing on the screeching guitars that begin the debut LP. The appropriateness is what mystery meat is to McDonalds. The song is called Loudness and deliberately or not sounds like it was recorded live. The listener is introduced to what Loudness is: throaty vocals, a heavy rhythm section, nimble riffs, pounding drums, Japanese vocals with English titles and choruses and the genius of Takasaki Akira on the sole guitar. The three other members are no slouches, but Takasaki from Osaka is the man who is about to set the world on fire. More on him later.
"Is Loudness going hard?" singer Niihara Minoru asks to begin the album and simultaneously confirming the group’s very Japanese nature – or perhaps second nature – to mix English and Japanese as previously mentioned. They confirms this emphatically japaneseness with phrases like "We are the Loudness guy/Feel in the sky," which may be better than the average English spoken in Oklahoma or Texas, but is grammatically all wrong of course.
The release year is 1981 and firstly it is impressive that this record is still so exciting and secondly and consequently imagine how mind-blowing this was when released back then. Loudness was an instant underground insider's tip whose music was available outside Japan as a scare import only. It is even more bewildering that band leader and guitarist extraordinaire Takasaki came from a manufactured pop act called Lazy. The band runs into Sexy Woman (name? address? Come on, guys. Don't leave us hanging) next, which ironically goes proggy on the listener. This is a good time to mention that the band's major influences were obviously Van Halen and Rush both of whom could be heard on this album in general and song on particular. This is a tendency that won’t be abating anytime soon either. There is no escaping the fact that this is a weaker track, but, if nothing else, it proves the bassist Yamashita Masayoshi is there and can play. The production’s roughness is apparent here as well. It does the album a disservice. Open Your Eyes follows and is obvious given that it follows the appearance of a Sexy Woman. The song slows things down, but Takasaki rips and shreds seemingly out of nowhere at will. Still, the song is a middling heavy rock track. First Sexy Woman and next Street Woman, which is a more complicated song. Actually listening to this exemplifies a whole lot of Rush and progressive metal in this track.
Side B opens with To Be Demon, which in turn starts like it would be, but is hardly a blazing speed demon. This Demon is more contemplative and pensive thinking through Rush-like strumming and vocal-oriented melodies although the track picks up again and goes crazy. It is a half ballad whose mid-section sounds like a Scorpions slow song from 1977. He injects extra feeling into his delivery as the song is Niihara’s substantially. I'm On Fire is notable because one can hear shades of the metal acrobatics that will later become associated with later Loudness albums. High Try is pure '70s heavy rock a la UFO or the harder of the Uriah Heep material. it is hard, but the sound and structure hint at the band's influences from 1970s. This makes sense as, again, the band was founded in 1981. Loudness have taken that sound here and upped the metal quotient. Rock Shock is a killer track here that despite its suspect title and even more suspect lyrics (“fall of beer” or “I’m just fill”) shreds and throws riff after effective riff at the listener. The drummer explodes and the speed picks up while harbouring the album’s catchiest melody. Amazing, since the lyrics while away with “rhythm and blues, funky swing and jazz.” Unlike most modern Japanese hard and heavy musicians who are enamoured with cliché Classical and pop sounds and melodies, Loudness was always a meat and potatoes metal act. Takasaki could out-shred the lot of them, but he never dived into the whole neo-Classical thing. There is a Classical snippet here that is worked into the song. It predicted the Japanese scene as a whole, but has no bearing on Loudness outside the song.
Listening to Birthday Eve it occurs to the listener that the vocals have a limited range, but enjoy an abundance of energy. It is only a little later that one notices that the same could be said about the drums.
Birthday Eve must have been something of a revelation to the lucky Japanese who heard it in 1981. It is an immature one nonetheless and the band would become much better and slick, but it is a start that showcases a band that has synthesized its influences into something unique and intends to improve. There is a consistency to the record for now, however, that is quickly to be resolved since the line-up stays constant for the next seven albums and seven years. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – DEVIL SOLDIER – COLUMBIA NIPPON
The Birthday Eve, Loudness’ first album, was issued in late 1981, which is less than nine months before Devil Soldier. That is not a lot of time for composing, organizing, recording and releasing a new album even if we assume the band did nothing else in-between. Certainty, it is a possibility that certain songs on Devil Soldier were already in the can by the time The Birthday Eve was released, but the point remains that firstly the Japanese band – like its counterparts of the time Bow Wow and Earthshaker – had an amazing work ethic and secondly one could be forgiving, or at least understanding, if the quality of the material took a dip. There was a single between the last/debut album and this record and yet the two songs of that release were also included on neither album. These guys certainly were imbued with the productivity of the Japanese bands of the era. Devil Soldier is an ‘above average’ album and shows promises of brilliance and the occasional flair, but nothing more.
The cover artwork is noteworthy. On the cover of 1981’s The Birthday Eve an embryo is ensconced in a crystalline ovule. In the follow-up the egg has hatched and a devil's soldier has been birthed. The 1983 album will be called The Law Of Devil’s Land by the way. Nevertheless, the green logo on the cover is rather ugly.
Loudness’ Rush meets Van Halen inspirations are still in effect and buttressed by NWOBHM influences. It does sound like there is less shredding on this record than either the preceding or the follow-up albums. The English pronunciations are still very much a work in-progress as well. When Minoru switches to English, which is on individual phrases or choruses except on After Illusion, whose title aside, surprisingly has no English whatsoever the Japanese vocalization is clear. Perhaps because it is a ballad and the band is giving a more heartfelt delivery, the Japanese accent is thick and audible on that song. Speaking of After Illusion it is obviously sound-wise the precursor to Ares Lament, a future Loudness ballad. Niihara has an impressive delivery.
The album is metal, but also heavy rock. Girl is rather progressive rock too. Lonely Player kicks off the sophomore album and is, that is the best word, somewhat standard. Luckily axe shredder Takasaki throws a burst of his guitar acrobatics for a brief moment to enliven the song and the drummer is tumbling and bashing away. The Rush influence, from the era when the Canadian trio was good, is explicit. Angel Dust is fast and has a funky bass. The aforementioned After Illusion is wailing and has the spot-on lead guitar of Loudness. Come to think of it the way the song ends in a drift of shredding in the closing minute is like fellow Japanese band Saber Tiger's song Misery. Girl kicks off with a drum solo and it is then off to rock and roll with a 1970s’ groove. These guys love to tease, don’t they? Who is the girl? Is she pretty? Can we see a photo? Name? Again, they reveal nothing! Hard Workin’ is missing a ‘g’ and not much of a song either. The bass grooves and the guitar dawdles, but the backing vocals are ridiculous. Loving Maid comes over next. This reviewer is fine whether she is just such a lovely worker that leaves the place spic and span or if she provides extracurricular services, but again Loudness leave their fan base hanging by not providing any additional information. The title track has a galloping riff reminiscent of Heart's Barracuda. The vocals have dipped in quality for whatever reason. The song is seven minutes long and goes through different speeds and twists. A rerelease from this century includes a 1960s’ cover version called Geraldine by Boots Walker, which is unnecessary, and a live version of Lonely Player that delivers more energy, guitars and length than the studio version.
This album is not bad certainly, but taking a glass half full stance Loudness is the rare act that improves overtime and whose debut, or first couple of albums, is not its finest moments. – Ali “The Metallian"
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 – DISILLUSION – COLUMBIA NIPPON/MUSIC FOR NATIONS
Disillusion, which is Loudness’ fifth album, launches something of a precedent for both the band and other acts in that it comes in two versions. One is the original that is sung in Japanese and the other is re-recorded with English lyrics. The Japanese version was issued first and the English version that followed six months later added an intro, translated lyrics sung in English and a new and inferior cover. No surprise that the original is the better one and not just because of the crouching samurai cover artwork.
Crazy Doctor is the opening cut and it is immediately obvious that this is an album of well written and developed songs. This song is tighter and faster than ever – although the speed is mixed with a mid-paced section – in a solid and compact composition replete with shredding guitars, a tight rhythm section and the occasional drum roll. The main riff is pure effectiveness. Reading through the lines it sounds like the doctor is a psychiatrist and the patient is in a sanitarium. The English version of the record starts with Anthem (Loudness Overture), which is coincidentally interesting as the band Anthem based in Tokyo was just getting up and running. Either way, and certainly, buying the original version is the way to go always. That intro is acoustic first and electric later. Esper is frantic and it should be as singer Minoru sings about a mystic and forceful hurricane. The fast song is complemented by a crazed guitar solo that throws electric jolts at the listener. Butterfly is slower and more of a sweetheart lamentation. It hints at prog and anchored in Takasaki's Rush-like guitar strums, gallops followed by an equally Rush-like guitar solo. The precise guitar work deserves a special mention, but this is not the group’s best. The drum work is technically spectacular and reminds one why metal drummers are a cut above. Overall, it should be noted, that this album is less prog influenced and more metal than the earlier records. That drum and guitar interplay - precise, tight and powerful - begins the next one. Revelation is a catchy yet heavy song. I have owned this LP for a couple of decades and am reminded how relevant and interesting the Japanese cover is, while the English version is lazy and the opposite. It is Loudness' fourth album and the band has improved yet again. The lyrics sing to the narrator’s family. The singer implores us to ‘do not break the chains you hold’ (or something like that), which reminds one of the title Heavy Chains from Loudness’ forthcoming Thunder In The East album.
Exploder kicks off side B, which is an understatement. It blasts off side B. It is not only fair to say that this instrumental whoosh of a music proves that guitarist Takasaki Araki is the equal of Eddie Van Halen or Gary Moore in their heydays, but also has impeccable timing just as Van Halen and Moore wimp out turning away from the metal guitar with Edward losing his abilities and desire and turning to the keyboard and Moore discovering how great blues is. Takasaki takes up the mantle and delivers. The speed and shredding are amazing, amusing and bewildering. The instrumental also has heft and substance. It is not just a show-off piece. It has musicality. Takasaki carries this tune all the way to the penultimate explosion. Is this a good time to remember again that until five years prior the metal guitarist was a boy in a Japanese pop band? Dream Fantasy is a speedy thrasher. It must have been difficult replicating this, and other similar songs, in the live environment. The speakers are attacked with overdrive yet the song maintains a melodious Loudness approach. The song with the redundant title is probably about a prostitute. Wow that solo is so fluid, so intense and so wistful. One imagines that picking a favourite Loudness guitar solo to a metal fanatic is how a fat woman in a SUV inching forward at the McDonalds drive-thru greedily looking at the menu feels. Nice drumming at the end by the way. Milky Way's bridge section is somewhat poppy and something different for the band. Still, it is mostly a hard rock song so no need to panic. The song showcases the superior snare sound Loudness achieved (in 1984 no less). Julian Mendelsohn who had worked with Yes and Budgie was in charge and did well. The band had travelled to the UK to record, which may seem usual nowadays, but is quite something for an underground band from Japan with next to no profile. The quartet had also taken the opportunity to play shows for its European underground fans. Satisfaction Guaranteed is all English lyrically and for that one of the less interesting tracks here musically. The lyrics too are the standard "rock with me" material. Ares Lament closes the album with a ballad about the god of war. It is another reason why the Japanese and English versions are different albums. The lyrics are sung with clear enunciations and are sentimental. For a band that hits its instruments so hard it is quite a heartfelt slow song. Ironically, the harder songs sing of women of the night while the slow song sings of the god of war, albeit within the pretext of what is essentially a love song. Not only is the ballad beautiful - there is no better word - but also the bass gets a chance to shine and make its presence felt. A closing track with loads of feeling compels the listener to make a choice. Is he going to put the needle back on the first song immediately and re-live the whole album or place the needle at the start of Ares Lament to hear that track again. Alternatively, fans can wait until 1987’s Hurricane Eyes to hear a new version of the song called So Lonely.
Loudness is going from strength to strength and about to grab some overground attention following Disillusion. The songs Esper and Satisfaction Guaranteed are included on the sound track to the Osaka-based gang movie魔女卵 (featuring Presence and others) and the band will reap the rewards of its talent. Disillusion will remain one of the group’s better albums. – 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 – LIGHTNING STRIKES – ATLANTIC
“The storm is approaching, The dark clouds are choking the air/The tower is falling, The cold winds are calling beware…” this is Lightning Strikes, Loudness’ second of three in its calamity trilogy, which includes 1985’s Thunder In The East and the forthcoming Hurricane Eyes album. It randomly occurs to me that another major Japanese metal band, namely Saber Tiger, had a song called Light-Thunder-Light on its 1992 debut. The album has a lot to prove as it follows the excellent Disillusion from 1984 and the even more excellent Thunder In The East from 1985.
Compared to its cleanly produced predecessor, and certainly the albums before that one, this record has an even more clean sound. There is a Japanese version of this record, called Shadows Of War, with more guitars, a better and crunchier sound reminiscent of the aforementioned Thunder In The East, but with a more boring and lazy cover artwork. On balance that is the album to get over this given the sound difference, but as the rating demonstrates the English version (reviewed here) is brilliant regardless. it was always going to be difficult, or improbable, for Loudness to improve on Thunder in The East. That record shall always remain the Japanese-based quartet’s seminal record, but this is a worthy follow-up nonetheless. There is an apparent attempt to commercialize Loudness here. The sound is unfortunately more synthesized, but the quality of the material is such that this is still a great album. Guitar lunatic Takasaki Akasaki is at it still shredding and doing so with uniqueness and class, but, aside from the production, the story of Lightning Strikes is that of the improved Niihara. His vocals are just that much more versatile or, one could say, present.
The album begins with Let It Go, an impressive song and opener on any album any day. The backing vocals and chants are punchy and clear. There is a slight echo on certain songs like ‘cigarette’ or ‘radio o o o o .’ The lyrics sing of a betrayal by a slut. Dark Desire is a mid-paced, yet original, effective and crushing metal song punctuated with backing chants. The production shines and it is implicit that the success of Thunder In The East has afforded the band more time in the studio. For such a heavy track the tune is quite commercial and accessible. The ripping lead on top of the shredding lead on top of the speeding lead just plain rocks. Takasaki brings a smile to my listener ears. This one has an endless reserve of crunchy riffs, solos, licks, explosions and general guitar thrills. The lyrics of 1000 Eyes, which is called One Thousand Eyes on Shadows Of War, teach a biology lesson of how 500 faces equate to 1,000 eyes clearly raising the ire of the Cyclops Association Of Canada, The Asiatic Cyclops Free Nation and Japan Wafu Cyclops Conglomerate Union. This song is not as good as the others, but still features astounding guitars, breaks and intrepid fingers. Face To Face has some fierce singings and lyrics to go with it or is that the other way around? Either way, Face to Face allows the fans to come face to face with the bass guitar of Yamashita Masayoshi.
The Japanese version of this record was released earlier in Japan and then the English version followed. Aside from the crunchier sound and album titles, the titles are changed in several cases and the running order has been meddled with. Yet they both oddly feature all English lyrics. The band and its label were clearly going for commercial acceptance in the West.
Ashes In The Sky are such that the listener would be forgiven for claiming he has never heard guitar strums so alive and palpable. What a guitar sound and production Courtesy of Max Norman! Niihara delivers a superb vocal performance here and one leaves a lasting impact despite the tune’s relatively simple structure. And what a structure it is. When one thinks it is about to slow down and go for a break they up the tempo, turning on a dime as heard four minutes in for example. This song is called Shadows Of War on the Japanese version making it that record’s title track. Street Life Dream fades out like a pop song before closing cut Complication reminding one of Loudness’ progressive, wrist twisting, finger smashing, and neck snapping influences. It begins with strums and a drum roll a la Rush. The mid-section is pure Permanent Waves’ Rush era. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS - HURRICANE EYES – ATLANTIC
Loudness’ 1987 album Hurricane Eyes is a fall from grace and a disappointment from a band that gave the listener Lightning Strikes/Shadows Of War a year prior and the superlative Thunder In The East in 1985. The Japanese quartet signed to a major label, started thinking the American MTV scene is in the cards and commercialized to the point that this album is dangerously close to American cock rock shlock. The melodies are obvious, the music is softer and the genius of guitarist Takasaki Akira is subdued and subsumed to the point of the guitars being subservient especially when compared to what the man is capable of and delivered on previous albums. The third of the calamitous weather pattern albums is a band raising its hand to penetrate the Western market, make management and record company rich and, of course as is always the case, fail. People who want to hear Ratt or Firehouse will always buy Ratt and Firehouse and not bother with a Japanese guitar hero heavy metal band turning to become Ratt and Firehouse.
One of the tracks that saves Hurricane Eyes is the fast and heavy opener SDI. It is a socially relevant repudiation of American/Reagan-esque warmongering that is also a strong opening cut (in the tradition of Let It Go or Crazy Nights) because it goes for the throat. The “S.D.I.” chant is also reminiscent of Crazy Nights’ “Em-Zed-A” chorus. The chorus is somewhat unusual and reminds one of Village People’s Go West. It is a strong opener though that thrashes and bashes with throaty vocals. Too bad the album has few SDIs. This Lonely Heart is the title for the second track and, the virtuoso guitar playing notwithstanding, has a sleazy rhythm sound and an infiltration of the odious synthesizers. “This lonely heart, This lonely night, Baby I’m, losing you,” sings the band as Loudness fans begin to ponder if the songs title is a reference to their heavy metal cores. If that song is subpar the next one, Rock ‘N Roll Gypsy is pure Bon Jovi-cum-White Lion. When the band sings, “I live for the sounds on the radio” it clearly is not addressing metal fans when it follows up with “I make you feel good.” There are guitars all over this song, but they are not patented Takasaki ones.
It is clear by now that this album is reminiscent of a Lita Ford album after she began being managed by Sharon Osbourne and lost her balls. The guitars are pushed back in favour of vocals and the rhythm section is almost buried. A fake live audience overdub accompanies the radio friendly lightweight audience on this song. Is this Loudness? One would think so for a few seconds at the start of In My Dreams. The crunchy start quickly gives way to a soft rock ballad that would have been considered one of Dokken’s softer tunes. This song would have been at home on an Autograph album. Consider that this song comes a mere four titles after SDI. Consider also that this album is released a few years after ones called Devil Soldier and The Law Of Devil’s Land. Producer Eddie Kramer has a lot to answer for. Still, if you enjoy a song with a backing vocal track of "Ouuuooooooooooooooo" then this won’t disappoint. Take Me Home has some metal in it musically though and sounds like an older composition until the poppy chorus pops up! “Take me home right now,” pleads Loudness and any compassionate fan would do just to place the members on the couch to begin the exorcism. The band needs to be rid of the demon that is a major record company and commercialism. Not sure if singer Niihara is singing to a sweet slender mini skirt wearing long-haired babe or the line was concocted to be used as a slogan for a sticker on the LP cover.
Strike Of The Sword starts side B hard. The title lies not. This is more like it. A couple of songs earlier we had In My Dreams and soon we get In This World Beyond. The latter is a faster one, but nothing special. The solo is cool, but the song is nondescript. Rock This Way has a worthy guitar melody that takes one back to the old Loudness days. This is the way to do it. Too bad it is a fleeting moment and the chorus reeks of commercialism again. The album oddly begins with So Lonely, which is a recycled Ares Lament from the Disillusion album, which was already recycled into an English number on that album’s English edition. The new version comes with an added background synthesizer, courtesy of pomp rocker Gregg Giuffria of Angel and House Of Lords, which should please any Supertramp or REO Speedwagon fan.
In a way, the presence of the Takasaki’s undeniable prowess here and there and a song like SDI is a pity because this album could otherwise clearly and easily be classified as condescending to the group and its fans and duly and rightly scorned. The saccharine catchy sing-along vocal-oriented lightweight production, slick multi-channel background synthesizers, Takasaki clearly being instructed to put a lid on it and the awful poseur melodies are a testament to the corrupting influence of money on art and a step or two back for Loudness. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – SOLDIER OF FORTUNE – ATLANTIC
Loudness’ 1989 album Soldier Of Fortune is something of a singular release for the Japan-based quartet that heralded the arrival of heavy metal from the East to the metal world. The full-length by the quartet features American vocalist Mike Vescera who was drafted to facilitate the band’s further foray into the American market in tandem with the dismissal of original singer Niihara Minoru. This was a mistake. Vescera did not last and for good reason. More on that in a moment. For now, the hiring of the American singer by Loudness manager Azuma George who had seen Vescera and his band Obsession on MTV, is the band’s second mistake in a row after ordering up an album called Hurricane Eyes two years previously that hit the mute button on guitar phenomenon Takasaki Akira and attempted to transform Loudness (note the band’s name) into Autograph. Two ugly mistakes in a row aside, Mike Vescera actually has a powerful voice and it is easy to see why management, and the musicians themselves, would think bringing the man onboard and Americanizing the frontman role would work. Vescera has the larynx, looks and attitude that scream rock star. The problem is that Loudness and Niihara were established together and a Japanese singer was part of the band’s trademark and charm. Niihara was not a bad vocalist at all and, in fact, had come into his own more and more, but the fault lies with the attempt to devolve an act with songs like Crazy Night, Like Hell or Exploder into Giuffria or Steelheart. Any elementary school child could have told you it would not work. It is a step back. The same maneuver had been attempted with Onslaught and singer Steve Grimmett across the pond just a year prior and they would have known it if Atlantic Records, Azuma or the Loudness boys had looked away from MTV and suppressed their fascination for the West just long enough. Hey, America is the country that dropped two atomic bombs on your defenseless cities and civilian population for heaven’s sake. With that said Saber Tiger would bring Ron Keel to sing in 1996, Anthem would cling to Graham Bonnet starting in the year 2000 and never let go so learning from mistakes always takes a back seat to indulging one’s fantasies. Coincidentally, a future Loudness singer would guest on Onslaught’s album with Grimmett on vocals.
Back to Soldier Of Fortune, where the band has dropped their recent logos and reverted to a plain typeface, where there are genuinely sublime tracks. The opening cut, Soldier Of Fortune, is one. The closing cut, entitled Demon Disease, is another. There are exemplary Takasaki solos here, which again is more than one could say about most of Hurricane Eyes. The record comes out all guns blazing. The vocalist has a good set of pipes, Takasaki has been unchained and the production is good. What can wrong? Aside from the aforementioned ‘trademark’ issue, there is all the generic and commercial material sandwiched in-between. Remember, MTV is the plan here after all. Furthermore, the more one listens to Soldier of Fortune, the more generic the vocals become. Moreover, Vescera cannot write lyrics to save his life. Americans are famously not known for their eloquence or knowledge of the English language – that probably goes to the Brits or Canadians with Rush being the most articulate band one could think of – but this is ridiculous. Sample phrases: “let it rock” or “let’s rock the earth” or “You shook me… all night long” (apparently not an AC/DC cover version) or “… so lost without your love” or “Running for cover run for your life” or “Take no prisoners.” Again, Loudness with Niihara at the helm would write a song with lyrics that repeat “Creatures of the night” (apparently not a singular Kiss cover version either) exactly 23 times, but the difference is that it is par for the course for the Japanese to write trite Engrish lyrics whereas Vescera… oh wait, he is American. Never mind. No wonder the follow-up record, which would become Vescera’s final one, would be a self-cover version record (which the band would make a habit of in the future). Kid you not! One cannot make this stuff up. The rest of the material seems to rip off earlier Loudness in fact. Whereas an earlier track was called 1000 Eyes here we get, “a million eyes.” What about “… heart of a hurricane” given how the band’s previous album was called Hurricane Eyes? So, let us get this straight. The Japanese boys import an American musician who ends up repeating his Japanese predecessor’s lyrics.
Past the Freudian slip that is calling an album being fronted by an American singing in Japan (after said singer left his American group) ‘Soldiers Of Fortune,’ the vocals wail with power, Takasaki’s guitars are insane up or down the fretboard and the speedy attack does the job and more. The vocal phrasing and pipes are in order and Takasaki is attacking. You Shook Me’s derivative lines are more than compensated by that virtuoso solo. The next one is called Danger Of Love. The guitars follow the tapping, the effect and the pattern of alternating between the acoustic and electric that was Ashes In The Sky from 1986’s Lightning Strikes. Unfortunately though, this is a middling power ballad that meanders up and down. Yet again, the vocals are on point and the guitar solo again astounding. A pattern is developing of clichéd lyrics and repetitious phrases rendering songs as if they are one long chorus after one long chorus. The next one is even more generic. The lyrics are copy/pasted from the www.clicherock lyrics101.com website, “How long/Can we keep holding ooooon…., " sings Vescera and the saccharine chorus drives a dozen serfs at Metallian Towers to the clasp knife and their respective wrists before the precision guitars saves the day… somewhat. This, in theory, is commercially viable AOR – think Extreme-meets-Tesla – but we all know Loudness would never have made it on Syrup Radio in the valley. The track ends with an Oriental melody on guitar. Red Light Shooters rocks again. The chorus is poppy however. Vescera is a dead ringer for Vinnie Vincent Invasion’s Robert Fleischman and that is a compliment. Running For Cover comes with metal gods approved shredding and bedlam, in addition to some surprising staccato drumming. The modern sounding light snare sound is a revelation. The rest of the song is not as good as its beginning. More impressive vocals on this tune are supplied courtesy of the American man. Lost Without Your Love (zzzzzzz) is another boring ballad. No surprise… you know it is coming, right? The song features smoking hot soloing. Faces In The Fire is fast and heavy to start and the drumming ramps up. The bass finally chimes in, but the track has keyboards courtesy of former Dio member Claude Schnell for some reason. Long After Midnight is another commercial track whose refrain has a funky bass. A short solo carries the wow factor. The album ends with a stronger song; cool speed and power, and more of a lyrical content than a mere recurrent phrase.
This experiment predictably failed and vocalist Niihara Minoru would eventually return. I could have told them! One more release with Vescera is 1991’s On The Prowl, which is easily written off because it is another self-cover version album with three new tracks that only a Hall & Oates fan would like. Bands changes monickers, release English versions of albums, include cover versions of other people’s music and do anything and everything to make it. None of it ever works, but Vescera would have a career fronting Yngwie Malmsteen and resurrecting his older band and in the meantime was probably $100,000 richer pocketing a salary from Loudness. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – Same
From AOR boulevard to groovy heavy metal highway. Loudness is one versatile beast. The band was delivering guitar-oriented super heavy metal before scaling back for a more commercially acceptable hard rock to acquiring an American singer and starting the frontman on a metal diet only to switch to AOR before delivering this self-titled album featuring a groovy and then contemporary record. More amazingly, the distance between all these records is typically a year and no change!
Loudness nods to modern trends musically and stylistically (Guitar phenomenon Takasaki and co. even appear in Bermuda shorts and goatees too)on its 1992 album, which features a new singer and a new bassist. This new ensemble is an all-star affair with former Flatbacker/Ezo singer Yamada Masaki and former X bassist Taiji joining the band. Original Loudness singer Niihara was dismissed several years earlier and its bassist scooted in weariness just before this record necessitating the new members. The alternative would have been to abandon the act as half of Japan’s metal scene was doing.
Takasaki has justly been the band's known quantity and reminds anyone who may have forgotten this after several misguided moves why. Here the vocals, bass and guitars are down tuned. After several all-English albums Loudness returns to Japanese lyrics on two tracks, namely Hell Bites (From The Edge Of Insanity) and Firestorm. The vocals are part smoky and part throaty - so different from Vescera’s – and, if nothing else, at least demonstrate that Loudness is not beyond taking a chance.
The production is weak and the mix uneven on this album. Pray For The Dead has something of a Wrathchild America vibe and is not much of a song I am afraid. Slaughter House is more driven - an insular mix pushes the drums to the fore and showcases the complicated drumming – aided by the fabulous solo and the rapid dexterous fingers. It could easily be termed speed metal or thrash metal. The vocals begin to grate with the little range that they have and compensate with the attitude and style instead. The new man evidently does neither have the melody nor the range of his predecessors.
Black Widow a modern rock song unfortunately. Racing The Wind is a cool title. The song is involved and a good listen, but not a casual affair instead needing attention and your focus. Love Kills is plodding again and indicates there is a lack of song-writing or enthusiasm saddling the band. Hell Bites like Pray For The Dead returns to the theme of darkness. The song has more guitars and is better for it. Twisted is a shameful track that should not be forgiven. The band descends into funk and is also there to prove Loudness have heard and noticed Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mordred, Faith No More and other useless acts of the time. It is a shame and a disgrace and that wah wah guitar, well, wah wah wah. Firestorm ends the album and, as the title indicates, is fast and furious. The guitars wail again, but most of all drummer Higuchi is the one thrashing forward.
Loudness, the album, is tight and modern, but features less solos, which is par for the course everywhere during this period. The lyrics are more complicated and involved than the last couple of records, which is saying something given that the last guy was an American.
This album is not a disaster and makes some sense within the context of the musical world of that time, but overall is not impressive and certainly disappointing for Loudness fans. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – HEAVY METAL HIPPIES – WARNER
I like heavy metal. I like hippies. It is like snow and salad. I like both, but I do not want snow in my salad. Similarly, I do not like heavy metal hippies and certainly not into Heavy Metal Hippies either.
At this point, Loudness has either won the galactic award for Most Adaptable Chameleons Alive or is an abject lesson in not stick to one’s guns. As of 1994 this band has gone from heavy rock to heavy metal to hard rock to AOR and groove in the space of ten years. Guess which style is the best?
Heavy Metal Hippies has a groovy cover artwork straight out of 1968 with an emoji in there too just for kicks. Thankfully, I did not get the first edition of this CD that came with a Hippie pipe, but I did get the subsequent edition, which still comes with the music.
Guitar hero Takasaki Araki of Loudness cannot but help himself and here and there lets out that he is a superb guitarist, but gone is Loudness as an explosive, superlative and phenomenal guitar-oriented metal band and in is a groovy psychedelic grungy brooding album of songs and miscellaneous sounds. It is slow, it is steady and occasionally it is even heavy, but…
Firstly though Takasaki is accompanied by singer Yamada Masaki who had joined Loudness two years prior for the self-titled album and new drummer Homma Hirotsugu who was in Flatbacker and Ezo with the singer. Homma would shortly meet bassist Shibata Naoto of Anthem in Loudness and go on to join that act, but that is in the future. In the now, the album opens with Howling Rain, which is doomy. Yes, doomy. Loudness and doomy. Freedom is next and incorporates some Rush-like doodling – an old influence of Takasaki’s – and the theme to James Bond adapted to bass. 222 is an instrumental and the only thing it does is make one long for the instrumental Exploder from the Disillusion album. Then there is pure stinking unadulterated poo that is Electric Kisses. Screw Alice In Chains and screw Beautiful Creatures too. The sitar sound is hauled out on the House Of Freaks, but do not panic metal fans! It only lasts a moment. It is soon replaced by, er, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Still, that intro lasts long enough for one to get up and tell the waiter that you have had it with the them and your Chicken Tikka Masala better arrive in the next five minutes or else and, oh, shut that audio system down or I will personally have my appetizer Samosa stuffed into the speakers. Paralyzed is more metal albeit with the limited vocals of Yamada, which is another way of saying it doesn't go anywhere. Light In The Distance is how one feels listening to this album. The crappy start is followed by a snoozefest and then replaced by plodding rhythm that begs the listener to turn it off!
No review of this album would be complete without a mention of Broken Jesus, which is a subliminal command to fast forward through the song to get this review over with partly because this writer could have composed, played (and recorded) that song all in two minutes flat… and the song is seven minutes long!
One could be a heavy metal formalist and obviously dislike this, but one could just be a casual metal or Loudness listener and still wonder what this thing is all about. People, musicians, it is called ‘side-project under another name.’ Get some (if you must). – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS - GHETTO MACHINE – ROOMS
One cannot believe an album featuring Takasaki Akira and Anthem's Shibata Naoto, both respective leaders in their heavy metal bands, would sound this bad. The first of three Loudness albums with a tattooed skank on the cover indicates how these records are related. They have a guy's tattooed head on the album after these when they run out of prostitutes.
The record kicks off thrashy. It is too bad that the funky guitars wah wah instead of singing. It is still in possession of admirable speed and energy at least. There are cool guitar effects here, I guess. There is also a loud bass sound. Alas, despite being one of the better songs on this album, the title track offers music best described as akin to The Tea Party or similar. Evil Ecstasy is a showcase for heavy bass tracks. Down the line comes San Francisco “where Loudness rules” (and apparently records too). The song Creatures repeats the “Creatures of the night” line a mere 23 times. That’s “Creatures of the night” in case you forgot or missed it. Incidentally, this album reverts to all English lyrics. Musically, it is dropped acid and going groovy from start to finish. Admittedly, the song is heavy though. Katmandu Fly is short and something this reviewer heard the last he was served visiting the local Indian restaurant. There is no need to place it on a Loudness CD therefore. Jasmine Sky (as opposed to Jasmine tea) is emblematic of Ghetto Machine. It is indie rock.
This is merely a grungy psychedelic album with a 1990s indie vibe that, consequently, is a radical departure from the Loudness we all liked. It does not even contain any solos. Musicians should play what their hearts tell them to of course. Indeed, Takasaki started a solo project playing similar material around this time. Having said that, and in case this is a stab at commercialism by Loudness, then the band should know that if a listener wants to listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers then he… would listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers (right before he looks in the mirror, become disgusted with himself and commits suicide). In summary, a Loudness album without Takasaki solos or heavy metal is not a Loudness album. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – DRAGON – ROOMS
This writer does not appreciate Faith No More or bands of that ilk. This writer believes bands which change their musical styles are seldom as good or successful in doing so as they were with their original and intended style. This writer liked the old heavy metal Loudness and is a metal fan. You can ignore the rating for this album if none of the above applies for you.
I wish the Japanese heavy metal band Loudness had sent a cease and desists letter to this fake ‘Loudness’ that had started up and was playing psychedelic grungy world music. Opening song 9 Miles High is indeed a thrashy song, but this album is as cheap, tacky and repulsive as the tattooed cover ho. –Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – ENGINE – ROOMS
Engine whirred in the summer of 1999 in an era when Loudness was in the grip of a modern groovy sound that declined to acknowledge the group’s guitar-on-fire heavy metal style of the 1980s and that despite featuring not only its shredder Takasaki Akira, but also Anthem’s Shibata Naoto on bass. Like its predecessor Dragon, and the album before Dragon namely Ghetto Machine, Engine is not separated by any EPs or singles from the full-length before it, which in the context of Loudness’ discography is unusual. This is likely a function of the independent nature of this album and how the metal scene had partially collapsed. Either way, the album caters to a lazy sound that is not what band’s long-time listeners associate with the group.
Still eschewing traditional song structures and writing, Loudness is now eight years into its heavy, yet amorphous, shapeless and formless heavy music that is more akin to a fuzzy loud noise than hard rock or heavy metal. Hard rock and heavy metal are loud, fast and aggressive, but are also awash in talent. Potentially good news, Engine is considered the third of three albums that thematically and artistically belong to one another. The other two are Dragon and Ghetto Machine.
Past the instrumental intro Soul Tone, Bug Killer is the first proper song and is literally about someone having bugs in his bed. The band may have travelled to New York City for all anyone knows. The song goes wah wah loudly and is a marked contrast to the Loudness of yore that was replete with fluidity and shred. Gone are those days replaced by grungy riffs. The song, like the other cuts on Engine, is exclusively in English. Black Biohazard has the raspy vocals and a repeating repeating, er, repeating heavy chord. Compare the follow-up song Twist Of Chain to Loudness’ superlative track Heavy Chain from 1985. Sun and moon. Twist Of Chain is noteworthy because the vocals are clean and sung in a straightforward manner providing for a contrast to the other tracks. The music is background fodder even if the bass figures in this one. The next song is called Bad Date and the narrator Yamada Masaki is cheating on his girl. The skank on the cover may have been thematic after all. On Let It Go from the Lightning Strikes album it was the chick who was the cheater. There is way too much Red Hot Chili Peppers here. Then again, any amount of Red Hot Chili Peppers is too much.
This album backfires. Even the chick on the cover, therefore, provides little relief or satisfaction being tattooed and trashy. Engine is in many ways the opposite of old Loudness. it is not catchy, flashy or razor sharp. Buy Buddha Rock 1997-1999 if interested in this, and its two predecessor, albums. It compiled the three and added a DVD as well. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – SPIRITUAL CANOE – COLUMBIA
It is disappointing. Anyone who would have thought the reunion of the original members of Loudness would yield a good or great album a la the 1980s can only feel forsaken upon hearing Spiritual Canoe. Spiritual Canoe from 2001 is the album that reunited singer Niihara Minoru, bassist Yamashita Masayoshi and drummer Higuchi Munetaka with group mainstay Takasaki Akira who had been operating the band with replacement members for the last several records. The 1990s are over and the drought that deluged the Japanese heavy metal scene had ended. Bassist Shibata Naoto had returns to reform Anthem and the three aforementioned musicians are back after absences of anywhere from eight to thirteen years. Do we get anything close to the members’ Disillusion Lightning Strikes or The Law Of Devil’s Land? N.o.p.e.!
Still, Spiritual Canoe is a notch better than its predecessors even if Niihara’s vocals have degraded. Fans already knew this by listening to Sly’s mid-decade release. It is not a return to form however, but perhaps the trend is positive. The band had switched to English with its former vocalist Yamada Masaki, but Niihara has reconstituted the majority Japanese lyrics with ample English especially in the choruses. Unfortunately, however, the alternative sounding songs with the fuzzy guitars remain even if the experimentation has decreased compared to the 1990s.
We should look at several of the 13 tracks on this raft, but first the trashy tattooed cover chicks have been replaced with graffiti on the back of the head of a fat dude. The cover model’s father is likely a human being while his mother is a chow chow. Either way, he would do well to cut back on those McDonalds’ fries he so adores.
The Winds Of Victory opens the album and is less a good song and more a pleasure to listen to because it makes one reminisce about the great albums Loudness issued with that voice. They at least included a decent solo here. The Hate That Fills My Lonely Cells proves guitarist Takasaki has not exorcised the Indian/world music Tea Party-esque sounds he fell for around 1990. The ritualized vocals mix mellow with the aggressive. It sounds like a modern litany. Curious to know who provided the backing vocals. There are actual guitar chords on this song, which is an odd thing to type. Yet, it makes sense should one have heard the four previous albums. The listener can see that the band has one foot in the '90s when it went in an experimental direction with a fuzzy sound and one foot again towards becoming an actual band with good songs again. The End Of Earth suffers with its light snare sound, but at least it is a song with some speed and soloing. This may be as good as it gets here, yet compare this material to a song like The Law Of Devil's Land from the early 1980s and, oh boy, there is no comparison. How far the mighty have fallen. Stay Wild is so far the best track of the album. There are actual chords, actual headbanging metal and guitar pyrotechnics. This actually could be the band's most Judas Priest moment as it sounds like something off Painkiller. The Seven Deadly Sins –K&F, violins, sitar, cello,…? – has a chugging bass and is a bit of a mess. It is more a series of sounds than a song. How Many More Times is basically Loudness’ answer to Primus. Yes, read that and weep. The vocals are rapping, which is sad. There is a dose of Sly here too, which means Niihara is complicit in more than just the vocals of this album. For comparison listen to Sly's mid-‘90s Keys album. More rapping and chord interplay appears in A Stroke Of The Lightning. There is also poppy backing vocals. Missing is a song or any type of impact. The bass does rumble and the drums bang away for fun. A Stroke Of The Lightning has a lighter drum sound and is still poppy despite the gritty sound. The vocals struggle as the song ends with some progressive doodling. Never Forget You is a ballad that switches to Japanese. It is a cool love song with nice guitars and a catchy melody. The title track is twelfth and is an instrumental reminiscent of… The Cult. Yes, The Cult. Oh boy. The Power Of Love is that last cut. It is a weak closer and is a grungy slow ditty with bluesy guitars. Singer Niihara sounds like he is adlibbing on top of some pre-recorded music. Not much thought went into this long track that drags out for 7 minutes.
There is little pleasure in listening to these sounds. There, someone had to say it. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – PANDEONIUM – COLUMBIA
You would be forgiven for suffering from whiplash the way Loudness oscillates between English, Japanese and part-Japanese and part-English lyrics. The group's last album, Spiritual Canoe, mixed the languages. This one has all English lyrics and is probably the most involved of all the Loudness records in that respect too. In fact, the lyrics are angry and occasionally socially conscious. That was immediately evident and looking deeper the credits listed translators for singer Niihara who has penned all the lyrics. Here is a phrase: “The holy Jihad and the Republican warlords…”Cool for sure, but who could have imagined Loudness and such topics? That says something about the album. Musically, Pandemonium is the second album with the reunited original line-up of the band and throws cold water on the notion that the band intends to return to its glory days' sound or be a pure heavy metal band.
Pandemonium could be metal, could be alternative, has some rapping and is sometimes funky too. One name that came to mind was Infectious Grooves. Yes, indeed. Bloody Doom is probably influenced by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Chaos though is thankfully a bona fide hard rock song. Suicide Doll has a cool shredding solo in its middle. Takasaki can still do it. He just chooses not to. Real Man is real alternative, while What's The Truth? mixes Suicidal Tendencies and Testament. It is here that one notices how good the album’s drum sound is. Takasaki also picks up his guitar and uses the fretboard again. Tracks like The Candidate, though, are rapping or funky and not worth anyone's time. How do you say ‘a mixed bag’ in Japanese? Samazama （様々）. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – BIOSPHERE – COLUMBIA
Biosphere is not the worst Loudness album out there, but it is mostly unworthy and comes on the heels of a string of subpar records that the world prefers to forget (a.k.a 7/10 or 70/100 ratings across the Internet).
Sporting yet another new logo and featuring four wood carved images on the cover, which are presumably the band members. Biosphere starts well enough with sharp and crushing riffs. There is a hardcore direction evident, shouted vocals rapid-fire and a misplaced light drum sound. The guitar is still outstanding - when Takasaki wants to deploy it - but given how the band is focusing on modern wiles it is rare to hear a searing heavy metal lead. Hellrider is a tom-heavy song that gives one hope. It is not the fast and gritty old Loudness, but is metallic and hard nonetheless before it is not. The song slowing down and going alternative is soon established as a pattern for the album. Whack solo though! The title track is mallcore. One can appreciate the environmental message, but the limited lyrical content does not add to the conversation. Savior (sic) is aggressive at its core, but is rubbish ultimately. My Precious is more rubbish. It is an alternative rock filler with singer Niihara imagining he is a hip hop star. This song is as pleasurable as smelling Smeagol at close quarters for a fortnight. Wind From Tibet is not as bad as the title suggests because we are spared listening to Tibetan music, which was my expectation, but there is a whiff of a Japanese rhythm here. Add the nice riff and pleasant metallic melody and we have a song finally. The drum and distorted bass work well together. System Crush has the nice and riff too. The Night Is Still Young may be an implicit threat from Loudness if they wish to keep up the mallcore. One is grateful that there is another bona fide metal song here. It is powerful and riff driven to start, but the chorus is suspect and reeks of rock music. No solo comes to the rescue. Shame On You has some bass doodling at its start. It is progressive rock mixed with Primus - impressive drum sound though. Still, so embarrassingly and mallcore-ish groovy. Break My Mind is best reviewed by imagining someone deciding to make a mallcore song a ballad. This would be it. The real ballad though is called For You. It is surprisingly bluesy, out of place on Biosphere and likely to appeal to fans of Gary Clark Jr.
There you have it. The end of a Loudness album review. Yet, it still does not feel like a Loudness album. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – TERROR – TOKUMA
Not only has Japan’s biggest musical export this side of AKB gone through hard rock, heavy metal, speed metal, grunge, funk, mallcore and now doom all in the space of two decades, but also Terror will become the karoshi quartet’s first of three full-lengths in 2004. Released in January, Terror shall be followed by the self-cover version album Rockshocks and new full-length Racing. Not sure why Rockshocks was needed, but… well, it was not. Still, there was also a video called Live Terror and an English version of Racing although this last record was released in 2005. Loudness members are either board members of Japan’s Karoshi Association, are super rich, badly in debt or have upsettingly ugly wives with short hair, tattoos and bad breath to boot.
What is most pertinent to us, however, is the quality of the material. In that regard, Terror does not deliver. Whether it is due to constant releases or by choice is up for discussion, but my vote goes to the latter. Terror is a bona fide aggro psychedelic doom metal album indicating that the band does not suffer from a lack of creativity. Quality perhaps, but creativity no. The record has singer Niihara Minoru moaning and lamenting on top of a down-tuned musicality with an emphasis on the toms. The clear drum sound, which gets the best production treatment, despite the snare being too lightweight, stands out, but the song selection is not anything to write home about.
Either way, and as mentioned, this is Loudness completing its chameleon-like tour of the sub-genres – unless a reggae record is coming – and incorporating doom. There is no song more doom metal here than the opener Pharaoh either. Life After Death incorporates a solo, which is rare for Loudness in this era. How silly of the band is that? It is the band not playing to its strengths at all. About To Kill goes psychedelic. Double-Walker picks up the pace in parts and has a jam feel to it, but the doomy riffs remain. The City Of Vampire showcases how good Takasaki is, if anyone still doesn't know, but to what end here? The songs are lacklustre. Incidentally, this is not a doom song as the second side gradually creeps away from the shadow of the sound. The title track ends the album with the vocals struggling. Yet, the guitar goes wild and the snare still needs to be tuned down.
The work ethic is incredible, but it may be time to scale back and re-assess. – 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"
LOUDNESS – RACING – TOKUMA
The instrumental title track kicks off the album and one immediately knows that this album is going to be different and better than the band’s preceding several outputs. Loudness, the quintessential guitar hero heavy metal group and Japan’s best export had succumbed to undesirable influences in the decade past and even a reformation with the group’s singer Niihara Minoru and its original rhythm section had not resolved the issue. This though sounds different.
The track Racing gives way to Exultation – the songs should have transitioned seamlessly given that the former is a short intro really – and the sputtering engine flows into some cool metallic guitar acrobatics. Is guitarist Takasaki back? It sounds like it. This is aggressive, revving, cutting and fast. The creepy mid-section aside, the song is worthy and heavy. The drumming is killer. And yes more guitars! First time in ten years that a Loudness album has a good feel to its start. Loudness has decided to go metal again and after twenty five years still has what it takes. Like it or not it is aggressively metallic. Lunatic too goes weird in its middle as Niihara moans and Takasaki doodles. A touch of Judas Priest’s Painkiller and multi-dubbed track in multiple channels complete the description. The vocals are struggling and Niihara is pretty hoarse, and that is an important matter, but it is something one can get used to as part of Loudness’ overall delivery after all. Crazy Samurai is less successful and the snare too light, the song too repetitious and the riff not too good despite a start that gave the listener hope. In contrast, how could a song called Speed Maniac not be good? It is in the title after all with this one being sharp like shrapnel from a heavy machine gun. Underneath the speed it harbours a secret melody too. Telomerase yaps about god and creation and so has must have an Oriental melody underneath. The solo is classic hard rock and welcome. It is not clear why Tomorrow Is Not Promised - good title by the way – but perhaps it has to do with the background synthesizers. Other than that perhaps it is the modern sounding riff that ruins it. Believe It Or Not features a different bass tone. The riffs are good and this is Loudness and Takasaki soloing again finally. Misleading Man comes close to breakdown territory, but you know, it's not so bad after all. This album has enough good material to make it recommended and even this tune has a nifty and heavy riff. This album has more titles indicating a certain amount of energy. Case in point is the track Power Generation. Don’t Know Nothing is again odd and not just grammatically so. Weird is never a bad thing, but the song throws multiple things at the listener at every turn so it may be called Loudness’ progressive song. The last one comes next and is a pumping song with an endless solo, pumping bass, cool riff and layers too. It is a good song that is among this record’s best.
Thank goodness the '90s are over, one supposes. Seriously though this is the band's best album in 15 years. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – BREAKING THE TABOO – TOKUMA
Breaking The Taboo is Loudness’ 2006 album and the second album, alongside Racing from 2004, following the reunion of the original quartet that is worth hearing and owning. It is metal, has some quality and largely abandons the funk, groove and mallcore rancidity. Breaking The Taboo has a heavy guitar sound, a fine production and there is also tenseness to this record.
Brutal Torture is better than the kick-off track. Whether it is about force-feeding someone two Big Macs and supersizing it too or not, this is a heavy one with leaden riffs. The drumming is superlative including the roll and the breaks. Incidentally, the drum sound has improved and the snares are heavier than the previous few records. Sick World is also a good one. The brief solo is the type metal fans would love more of and should have been longer. The drumming is again impressive. The album has several fillers however. Given its length, there would have been room for a couple of exclusions.
A Moment Of Revelation, Risk taker and Diving Into Darkness and its wah wah are not special. Don't Spam Me – the band’s plea has fallen on deaf ears - has a modem tonality played on the guitar and Damnation is commercial sounding, but worth hearing for its amazing guitars. It seems like even the fillers have a couple of good riffs on this record. Risk Taker is just another average Loudness song too, but it is worth noting that Takasaki Akira’s average guitar work is the equivalent to another guy’s guitar explosion.
Whimsically, it is unfortunate that a song called The Love Of My Life is not the band's most metallic song ever. Here at Metallian Towers we would have applied that title to the heaviest and the fastest. It is a love song that starts with a non-metal and alternative feel. It offers a technically proficient solo, but the lead sounds pop-ish. I Wish is a ballad. It is more accurately a different mix of a ballad, soaring guitars and Niihara's harsh vocals. Without You is the mid-paced closer songs and is one of those tracks that reduce the album's worthiness.
In fact, the album is mostly mid-paced. Mr. Niihara gasps for air as he sings as he has done on the last several albums and drummer Higuchi Munetaka outdoes himself. It is difficult to categorically say whether this is a good album or it sounds better because Loudness had wasted a decade with alternative crap, but upon reflection the answer is probably the former. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS - METAL MAD – TOKUMA
My hopes were rather high given that the last two Loudness albums, Racing and Breaking The Taboo, were worthy. Metal Mad is nowhere near as good. It is an even bigger letdown considering the record’s title. Perhaps it is not ‘mad for metal,’ but ‘mad at metal’?
Seriously, the groovy cover is either an orb from Space 1999 or something one finds tucked away in the backroom at a curio shop gathering dust. Actually seriously now, the record begins with a decent and heavy intro before working its way to the first proper track Metal Mad. The pounding drums are poignant given how drummer Higuchi Munetaka died in the same year as this album’s release. He would live long enough to appear on another record, which would be issued in 2009. Metal Mad is a nifty song, one of the two worthwhile tracks here, with the acquired taste vocals of Niihara having a shifting low to high tonality to them. There is some bona fide melody on this track. It is different! High Flyer engages the brief Middle Eastern melodies guitarist Takasaki has enjoyed for a decade by now. Spellbound #9 has an excellent riff to start, but its supposed modern and nu-ish light drum sound must be a tribute to the cheapest pots and pans sold in the bargain bin at Canadian Tire. Worse, Niihara is rapping. Has anyone watched the Young Yakuza documentary? Yikes. Crimson Paradox features a solo!! What?? This is what it has come to: The listener is clutching at straws and is triumphant when the god of metal guitars throws in a momentary guitar solo. Sarcasm mode off, the said solo sounds groovypsychedelicdeep with some 1960s’ influence here. This waste of time of a track start singing of arms – its predecessor was about a pacifist - yet starts with the sound of… BB Guns or something. It is not much of a song, but the bass gets to shine. A slow alt-rock ballad is introduced somewhere on the album and it is called Whatsoever. It comes before Call Of The Reaper, which could not have come fast enough as it is the second listenable song of Metal Mad. Fast metal and yelling exist on top of the worthwhile underlying rhythm. This is the record’s best. Takasaki can play. He still has it.
This is not a melodic album, which is fine as metal is not built on a foundation of melody to begin with, but it is not a particularly heavy or good album either. There are a few solos here and none that last any length of time. The guitar has the fuzzy and grungy sound the knights of Metallian Towers disdain and basically it is likely influenced by the crappiest poseurs of them all, namely Pantera.
As mentioned, the record disappoints especially with that title, but also because it is such a contrast to what Loudness could achieve and deliver. Metal fans may still enjoy it slightly, but then again that may be because of the inference that this is Loudness after all and features the line-up that completed the above-mentioned albums we cherished. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – THE EVERLASTING – TOKUMA
The Everlasting could have gone either way as an album as it comes on the heels of several weak alternative-oriented albums, as well as a couple of decent Loudness records. That was my first thought as the disc was played on the Metallian Towers’ PA system. The second one was that Japan-based Galneryus had a song with a similar title a year earlier.
Importantly, The Everlasting is the last recoding of the band’s original drummer Higuchi Munetaka who died six months before the record’s release. One always listens for the drumming anyhow; this fact meant these ears accorded special attention to The Everlasting’s drums.
The album has an average start. It is thankfully fast and hard, but the sound and light drums hint at the modern fuzz music Loudness has been at in the last decade. It is not a good form for the drums either. They are pounding, but neither interesting nor inventive, which is doubly problematic given the uneven and badly produced sound output. Things will get better soon, as one might deduce from the Metallian rating for this album, but truth be told listening to the record it occurred to this old Loudness fan multiple times that the band has run out of ideas and issued The Everlasting out of habit rather than due to the completion of worthy tunes. How could anyone not think the same listening to Desperate Religion?
The vocals of Niihara Minoru remain an acquired taste. It sounds like he is struggling, but he is not. That is his voice. The album does come with moments of brilliance (a.k.a. sounding like the old Loudness people of good taste adore) that is then surrounded by a deluge of indistinct music with anonymous nondescript music. Flames Of Rock is a goof instance where without warning Takasaki launches one of his dexterous guitar moments proving he can still do it should he want to. Not sure why a synthesizer follows though. The title track is not special, but the solo is reminiscent of the best of Van Halen. Guitarist Takasaki should get over himself and play his darn solos. The drum sound is light and disappointing with the cymbals being badly produced. The song is mid-paced and has a trippy ending. Life Goes On is a boring ballad with a funky guitar effect. Let It Rock is true to its name and follows. As guessed it is heavy. Most rock fans would be scared and flee however. Screw rock music! This record time and time again suffers from a bad drum sound, which is clicky and ineffectual. The whole affair is probably influenced by Red Hot Wimpy Dingdongs. Crystal Moon is crunchy and groovy and listening to it made me keep thinking ‘crystal meth’ for some reason. Change is a darn effective tune and the guitars sound heavy. A good tune that comes with cool tempo changes, is mired by a weak sound like rest of record. Nonetheless, Takasaki cuts through and smokes it. Thunder Burn is weak and made weaker by the silly chorus. The last one is the aforementioned Desperate Religion - aren’t they all? – and true to its name is tired and hackneyed. The mallcore-ish and repetitious closer should have been omitted. The album’s cover artwork depicts a Buddha head.
The song I Wonder was left to the last in this review because it features new drummer, Suzuki Masayuki. Yes, the band gave it two weeks before replacing its co-founder. Nonetheless, it is a good song in both its feeling and the guitars. The main riff is leaden metal. This song could be read as a tribute to the group’s dead drummer. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – KING OF PAIN – TOKUMA
Issued in 2010, King Of Pain appears thirty years after the formation of Japan’s foremost heavy metal group Loudness and is the act’s first with new drummer Suzuki Masayuki who had backed Saber Tiger previously. Perhaps affected by the death of original drummer Higuchi, the band is preoccupied with the afterlife on King Of Pain and has made ‘hell’ the album’s central theme. The cover depicts a shadowy figure amidst a flaming inferno. The lyrics and song titles reflect the same>
Requiem launches the CD with a Classical instrumental where multiple guitar tracks soar. The title track is Loudness' Painkiller (complete with a black and white video) and since this is the first full album of new drummer Suzuki it begins with a drum solo. Throughout the record Suzuki is solid if unspectacular. His cymbals fare better than his snare, yet this is still a good start as this is heavy metal; fast and pounding with no indication of the alterna-garbage the band has been dabbling in. A miss, however, is the lack of a guitar solo. There is one but it lasts a few seconds perhaps. Instead we get a bass solo.
Let us delve into the tracks though. Power Of Death leads to Death Machine. Doctor From Hell leads to Hellfire, which leads #666. See a pattern? The aforementioned Power Of death also begins akin to a Judas Priest song. Think Electric Eye meeting Riding On The Wind. It is hard and, therefore, enjoyable heavy metal with a patented Takasaki mini quasi-solo, which fades out. Death Machine sounds different. It veers White Zombie song and sound-wise. The background vocals are hardcore, no, not hardcore, they are Hardcore in style, which makes one notice that so is the music. Problematic is also that the song runs out of runway and just persists for no apparent reason. This one fades out again. Doodlebug is a mid-paced chug-a-thon that is not so much a song as it is filler really. What's this? From hardcore to crossover! Rule The World is Excel. The drums mosh forward and the speed oscillates between a 9 and a heavy thrashy chug. Straight Out Of Your Soul – boys, there is no such thing – is another filler with some Kyuss riffing thrown in for bad measure. Where Am I Going? is a good question and exactly what the audience asks itself. It is an excruciating ballad with acoustic strumming and crooning. it soon dawns on one that it is akin to a popetellica tune. Yup, yuck indeed. Emma and its rock riff and Naraka are other fillers The tepid track Naraka showcases the bass sound though. Doctor from Hell possesses a strong riff and precision drumming. Hell Fire is notable for its thrashy attack. #666 is the opposite of what the title portends. It is a groovy filler that sings to Satan lyrically and launches into double bass drums. It is back and forth between inconsistency and the encouraging and if the intro’s promise is not fulfilled, then at least there are several worthwhile songs that a metal or Loudness fan could enjoy.
Fourteen tracks reminds one that this band is industrious if nothing. The group went through the death of a drummer, the acquiring of a new man and still the band remained an inveterate issuer of album. With that said, the quality control fails the band often. And the album ends and no guitar solos past a brief snippet and the intro. Think about it. This is a Loudness album. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – EVE TO DAWN – TOKUMA
Eve To Dawn, Loudness’ 2011 album, was issued in September implying it follows its predecessor King Of Pain by a year and a half. This has become a pattern for the hard-working quartet. It has also contributed to the albums being hit and miss. Barely anyone out there is a bigger fan of Loudness of the 1980s than this reviewer and that qualitative assessment comes from a person who has followed the band for years, bought their albums (even on original LP), saw them live and interviewed them. Yet, when one reads the usual print or Internet reviews giving albums like this ratings of 70 or 80 one continues to wonder. For whom are these reviews written? Everyone knows that 70 is the bare minimum these sycophantic kiddies award and everyone knows the band’s modern albums are a pale shadow of the band at its most vibrant. Yet, open any old commercial rag and there it is: 80/100! Translation: This review was written by a ballless sycophantic conformist with as much personality as Donald Trump’s hair implant and as much honesty as Donald Trump’s chin-wag. Music is as with any art subjective and someone may genuinely believe this album to be perfect, but when every ‘review’ is the standard issue positivity galore then the best advice for the ‘reviewer’ is to get a (after) life by jumping off the bridge.
Back to Loudness. This album is okay owing to several okay or good tracks. When guitar extraordinaire Takasaki Akira gets going all other musicians should stand back and stare in awe. At the same time though, this album has too many fillers and this band would be blown off the stage by Loudness at its heyday. Watch any DVD of the band from the 1980s and compare the audience's reaction with any modern day performance.
The album begins with one of those boring – aren’t they all? - Indian melodies the band has picked up ever since Takasaki went Buddhist/spiritual, which is snore-inducing, but the intro is worthy of a mention because its title is A Light In The Dark. Rainbow had a song called A Light In The Black. So? Towards the album’ end is a track called Comes The Dawn and Rainbow’s Catch The Rainbow famously has a chorus of “come the dawn.” Next track is the thrashy The Power Of Truth for which the band actually stepped outdoors to shoot a video. It is ridden with effects, including echoes, and takes the heaviness quotient up a notch. Survivor is another good one. It is heavy and woundingly fast, yet also melodious. This one has extensive soloing and smokes. Keeps You Burning is cool instrumentally and embarrassing vocally “whoo whoo whoooooo…” Gonna Do It My Way, which ironically starts with the line “let me do it like you want it” is a waste of you, the listener’s time. It is a goofy rock track that is weirdly uncharacteristic despite Takasaki's guitar acrobatics. Hang Tough is thrash and has a solo, which is worth mentioning again because leads were omitted on the last album. It is somewhat Painkiller-like, but ends up going away quietly. The aforementioned Comes The Dawn is almost not a song, but a jam session with speedy metal guitar solos and chords all over it. The guitars are trademark metal, but this is where one strongly assumes the band is resorting to fillers. They could have called it Crazy, but that would not suffice given the subject matter so the last song is called Crazy! Crazy! Crazy! We concur. It is sounds like that whole useless Red hot Chili Pepper thing.
There you have it. Tikka masala to start and pop to finish. A Fifty out of fifty mark. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS - 2･0･1･2 – TOKUMA
Let’s spend a paragraph or two explaining politics and the psyche in Japan before we arrive at the music of 2･0･1･2. The Japanese people often subconsciously, and sometimes deliberately, are racist. Many reasons are cited, which include the country being an island, the lack of people from other races in many areas, the threat of China or Russia from across the waves, the occupation of its former lands to this day by Russia and South Korea or even how the American and European imperialists imposed their wills on it in previous centuries. There was Christian proselytization, which was a cover for looting the land, and more recently China taking over as the world’s second largest economy. Excuses or context aside, Japan has a thriving racist industry. Ruled almost entirely by the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the mainstay ruling party even hired yakuza mob to beat up, injure and kill leftists. The head of the post-war Socialist party of Japan was assassinated by a right-winger. A Japanese Prime Minister was assassinated last century by a conservative because he wanted to introduce universal suffrage and the list goes on. It is not uncommon for Japanese right-wingers and jingoist to march in Tokyo and Osaka against ‘Koreans’ who live in Japan and coincidentally have been there for 100 years now thanks to Japan occupying their land. The ruling party’s coalition is a right-wing Buddhist religious party and the fastest growing so-called opposition party is also a right-wing party, but centred in the Kansai area. The spirit of Japan is clear.
It is ironic not because the world views Japan, and the Japanese, as these progressive, kind, worldly anime and manga-producing honourary citizens of the planet, but because appearances are most deceptive here. Even more irony: it is reported that 70% of the nationalist politicians in Japan’s ruling LDP are affiliated with the Moonies, which is a Korean Christian cult, and even more interestingly the only Japanese political party that calls for the expulsion of the American forces sitting all over Japan and the de-nuclearization of that country is the Japanese Communist Party. After all, Japan was the host to a couple of atomic bombs on its civilian population courtesy of Uncle Sam something that the centralized Japanese education system devised by LDP kindly ignores. Specifically to Loudness, the band has always been able to fly to Europe, USA and Canada and perform, but it was only during the reign of the swamp king Donald Trump that the band was not admitted to the USA and sent packing back to Japan.
Loudness has always adorned itself in the Japanese imperial flag and never shied away from proclaiming itself proudly from Nippon, but the band’s relationship with the world, and even progressive and sensible songs like 1987’s S.D.I., which objected to Ronald Reagan’s ‘star wars’ militarization of space, seemed to indicate the band has an enlightened point of view. Waving the Japanese imperial flag is not novel for the band then, but over the years many others in popular culture have done the same as well. Karate Kid is a mass market example. Tokyo Blade is an obvious instance. Or even think back to Prince’s backup band in the video for 1999. As such, this in itself could be construed as nothing other than fashion or marketing.
Fast forward to 2012 and the album at hand. There is some Chinese bashing a la “Baring fangs People’s Republic” or “The crimson urge for conquest,” some conspiracy theory-laden banter like “Going Green, a shady market strategy” or “Our ego chokes us to death,” which takes a little more context to understand. This last quote and reference harkens back to Japanese right-wing demand for the nation and its youth to become vassals of the glorious state and stop being egotistical enjoying decadent entertainment and such. Ironic that Loudness plays heavy metal, isn’t it? Anyone interested in more detail can start with characters like Ishihara Shintaro and the morale behind movies like Crazed Fruit. Still, this would be one example out of hundreds. The entire Japanese state, media and art scene is replete with right-wingers pushing irony like this. Remember, all these nationalist elements are in cahoots with a Korean Christian sect and pay billions annually to the American military to sit in Japan. It makes one sad to see world travellers like Loudness fall for this nonsense.
Heard of raccoon dogs? The CD’s cover introduces the pig dog. It is a good nod to the aftermath of the nuclear accident that Japan experienced in 2011.
Musically, this album is better than several of the group’s most recent output. There is some heaviness, some speed, soloing is in place and the band nods to its glory days. The Stronger is fast and abrasive. The riff is banging and the lead guitars are smoking. 2012 ~ End Of The Age is the title track and starts well before becoming more plodding. This pattern persists. Break New Ground is again high quality heavy metal. Driving Force is stripped and thin. Its solo fares better. Behind The Scene is layered and fully developed. Bang ‘Em Dead is another attacking tune interwoven with melody. Unfortunately, the song itself is not as good and the weaker production makes itself known. The soloing is frenetic. Ronnie James Dio died on 16.05.2010 and two and a half years later the song The Voice Of Metal pays tribute to him. Unfortunately, ‘the voice of metal’ becomes “king of rock and roll” a couple of lines down. The ghost of Elvis may have something to say about that. Who The Hell Cares is a mid-paced chug-o-ramic track with little going for it unless backing gang vocals is your thing. Spirit From The East, which comes next, is a short instrumental interlude. Memento Mori allows the bass to be heard, but is half alternative sounding. A filler. Hey Loudness, it is okay for an album to be shorter than 50 minutes especially because we already have a couple of hundred songs called Memento Mori out there. Out Of The Spec is a backwards trippy psychedelic outro. In short, the first half is a better proposition than the second. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – THE SUN WILL RISE AGAIN – THUNDERBALL667
Firstly, yes, that is the name of the band’s record company, a subsidiary of Universal Music Japan no less. Apparently, there are a couple of people with balls left in Japan. Dog forbid Universal Music Canada have a subsidiary referencing ‘666’ or put out something heavier than a rapper with his pants around his ankles or a useless faux punk band that is, in fact, just another manufactured bubble-gum pop rubbish. Heck, imagine Universal Music Canada releasing any music these days. Actually, it is best that they are out of the music business. Who needs a bunch of self-deluded industry whores making money off heavy metal?
With my firm apologies to all whores who, unlike major label industries, have usefulness, The Sun Will Rise Again is Loudness’ 2014 album and very likely the quartet’s best release since the 1980s. The music is the meat of the matter, but a hint that this record is going to be really good is how the cover artwork is almost identical to the seminal Thunder In The East one. The cover is also like the one on Breaking The Taboo.
The album begins with an intro called Nourishment Of The Mind. It sounds like a live sound check on tape with a funky warm bass sound and barbed wire guitar. Got To Be Strong is the real opener. It is a bashing full-speed-ahead metal track with power and relentlessness. The extended soloing is godly. Smoke emanates from the speakers. Fast and heavy riffs clash to culminate in a metallic eruption. What a tune. How old are these guys again? This one is six minutes long and one of several extended track on The Sun Will Rise Again. Loudness is renowned for regular releases and longer than average records and The Sun adds to that repertoire. Never Ending Fire doesn't let up either. The backing vocals, the bass solo and the screeching guitars belie the fact that the band has been at it for 24 years. Excellent. Speaking of which, read the lyrics. The band is on the same page as my assertion. The Metal Man reads as if it is self-referencing and, if it is, then it would be truthful. The band is comprised of veterans who have put in their time and delivered. It is a good song that must be played loudly! It is not just a brash metal tune however. There are moments of extraordinary intricacy on this song that belie its rocking nature. Takasaki is a master of course and this song and album won’t allow us to forget it. The Metal Man’s solo sound is something us and the tune loads up on the guitar. Mortality begins with a rhythm lifted off Judas Priest's Ripper - with the same production to boot - before hurtling to a galloping riff mania. The vocals drop a pitch and actually remind one of Running Wild's Rock ‘N’ Rolf. By now it is amply obvious that this album does not lack energy. The song and vocals have a unique melody that has not been used by Loudness before. The solo is ripping and the notes fly off the fretboard. This album is progressing quite nicely. But wait what's this? Could it be a mallcore song? And just when the album was doing so well. Is that. Incubus? Yuck. There is something for Kerrang and all those poseur fake metal/’hard music’ website readers. The beginning dropped notes move on quickly thankfully. Too bad the backing chants do not. Unfortunately, the stupidity makes a return appearance and the song is back into Insane Clown Posse territory. Ironic, oh so ironic, that this song is called The Best. It is the worst. The band was insane in the membrane to call it that. It is like the scene around the table in Reservoir Dogs. The serfs were wiping vomit at Metallian Towers. The song is a mixed bag. Given the song’s style and its contrast to what preceded it one wonders whether it is an old one the band has pulling out of its stash or trash bin. The Metal Man was over two minutes long. This one takes eight minutes no less. Further indicative of how The Best was an outlier is the title, which is up next. It is a superb multi-layered power metal song with a rollercoaster of tempos and a molten metal lead that exudes quality. The title track begins with a patented underground riff, which makes its vibe even more different than the other tracks. With that said it still manages to be upbeat and catchy too. Listen to the creativity of Suzuki on the drums. Rock You Wild is a cheesy title to be sure, but the listener can take it at face value. It is wild and reminiscent of the heyday of metal in the 1980s. Guitars everywhere, harshness, attitude, power... listen and learn, kiddies on Nightwish, Sonata Arctica and Popetellica. Incredibly ironically, Greatest Ever Heavy Metal (that is the title) is good, but not as good as the rest of the material or what such a title deserved. What were they thinking? Imagine living up to that title. It is eight minutes of run-of-the-mill and because it is that long, in this case, it becomes repetitious. The lead manages to impress nevertheless. Shout is a slow one that does not have much going for it except another ironic title. The closing cut, entitled Not Alone, is odd for Loudness. It is mid-paced and a heartfelt story that tells a story that is seemingly real and based on an actual experience. Not sure about the Led Zeppelin-ish start or the organ at all, but it is a rare sound for the band and rarer to tell such a story. It turns out to be an intriguing end, with a soulful solo and a powerful backbone of a bass coming at the listener in multiple channels, to a good album.
The whole album would have fared better with a stronger production, but this is still adequate and the qualities of the songs shine through. Removing the two weaker tracks would have accorded it a mark of 80/100 from, which would have made it the best record since the 1980s. As is, it still is deserving of that description. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – RISE TO GLORY – WARD
Rise To Glory is a fine heavy metal album and, like its predecessor, is a return to form and the music of the gods for the Japanese quartet, but ultimately it has too many fillers to be a good or very good album. Issued in 2018, the album hints at its also-ran status by recycling a word from its predecessor’s title and even being entitled Rise To Glory -8118 in its Japanese edition. The band’s 2012 album was called 2･0･1･2. Interestingly, the record is issued through an independent label following a run of several records on Universal Music.
It becomes something of a theme after multiple listens to this CD that it is a collection of fillers wrapped around superb Takasaki Akira lead guitars. There are several spectacular songs enclosed nonetheless. It is those that contribute to the ‘above average’ sixty rating. The original and adept soling on Soul On Fire for example is part of a good track. The guitars are everywhere on the song. Modern bands would have a coronary. This is also the video for the album. Singer Niihara makes his good sue of his limited vocals here. I’m Still Alive is self-referencing, yet a ho-hum track. The band deserves better. Go For Broke has a heavy riff that turns melancholic. Until I See The Light is filler massive as is Massive Tornado. Loudness is obsessed with natural disasters. Lightning, thunder or hurricanes; they have covered them all. The Voice is a slow song that that is perhaps not a slow song after all. It too is a filler and just a middling commercial affair. Still, this is Loudness so even the filler track has more musicality than most other band's muster. Rain follows it – just a weather phenomenon and not a natural disaster - and sounds like a more recent Candlemass ballad. Loudness has attempted doom before on Terror and Heavy Metal Hippies but this is more of a quasi-doom emotional slow song where Niihara does well with the vocals he has. Hear the crushing guitar and multi-channel vocals tracks and a very rock music-like solo on this one. The chanting is a negative on this song. Kama Sutra sounds like a misguided attempt to return to the 1970s. Takasaki has melded Indian influences into his music in the last 20 years, but why? Well, the bass gets the chance to be heard better on this progressive instrumental. No Limits is a mediocre song wrapped around a superb Takasaki solo. Go For Broke sounds like another leftover riff. Yet again, it is somewhat redeemed by the good solo. The title track recreates some of that old Rush influence the band started with before and, in tandem, returns to the 1980s’ territory when the band rocked the listener to the wall… a good track. Certain versions of this record feature a song called Let's All Rock and most listeners will recognize it as not being far off the riff of Scorpions’ The Zoo. Perhaps why it was a bonus track only.
It is a mixed bag then. The cover show s little creativity compared to the album that preceded it even if the title doesn't and the tracks could be either good or indifferent. – Ali “The Metallian”
LOUDNESS – SUNBURST – KATANA 70
Loudness has been releasing music at this juncture for forty years. Regardless of the quality, and at the very least, it is a testament to perseverance. There has been a bunch of nu-core Pantera-ish and RHCP wanna-be material in-between that metal fans would look at unfavourably, but there has been as much (good) metal as there has been detritus obviously. This aside from the Quartet's impeccable 1980s' output of course, which made and endeared the band.
One criticism of Loudness at Metallian Towers in the more recent years has been how the act has stuck with an annual release, or multi-release, schedule. The inveterate productivity has hurt the quality control in the band’s camp and rendered the releases' tracks inconsistent. So, what has Loudness done here? Gone and released a double-CD with 85 minutes of music on the heels of its 40th anniversary tour of Japan!
The music is still inconsistent, but there is as much good stuff metal fans can relish as there is filler so Sunburst is worth a spin or more. Moreover, obviously, the album is not lacking in length either. However, fact still remains that Loudness, and its albums, would fare better without explicitly filler material like disc one's Virtual Reality. Yet, and yes, that song is followed by a powerful full-on metal track called Crazy World. Loudness likes to prove my points. While here, it is worth noting that in regards to the Virtual Reality, the band had previously composed songs called Don't Spam Me and Cyber Soul and, in regards to Crazy World, other previous tracks were entitled Crazy Doctor, Crazy Nights and Crazy Go Go.
Released in Japan as Gamushara , the album’s intro is none too promising seeing that it incorporates electronic effects, but the fears are overblown. Band leader Takasaki is not hurtling s towards electronic or techno music. The first proper song is called OEOEO. It has nothing to do with football fans, but seemingly something to do with the Japanese Tourist Bureau. Seriously, were the lyrics and featured video sponsored? Perhaps the band has decided to promote its country's sights amidst the global tourist bust owing to the pandemic, but the song and video feature Mount Fuji (a sight to behold any day), Osaka Castle (only worth seeing from outside as being a mere reconstruction its modern interior is a mere exhibition space) and the town of Oshino (which offers views of Fujisan in the winter months, but the largest grapes ever seen in the summer). Strangely, all of this is intermixed with groovy tie-dye patterns on the screen. Takasaki is wearing his glasses here too. The lyrics are in Japanese on this album for the most part, but just for kicks and to confuse the listeners, whether from Japan or internationally, switch to English on a track like Stand Or Fall. OEOEO and its funny name are a mid-paced and elaborate song that is let down by the middling production. Yamatodamashī, which is next, translates roughly to 'the Japanese spirit,' which is akin to the samurai spirit and continues the band's nationalist bravado. The song picks up the pace and contains a sharp guitar tone and powerful drumming. The lead guitars of Mr. Takasaki rip yet are pedestrian simultaneously. 仮想現実, or kasoogenjitsu, which is the aforementioned Virtual Reality track contains some tortured vocals and an embarrassing 'lulululu lululu' refrain alongside the heavy riff and heavy tuning. Still, it is all too tepid. Then comes Crazy World whose music, sound and breaks are pure heavy metal glory. The bass has a warm funky sound when suddenly and mid-song it all slows down to mimic the sound of a 1960s' pop hit before culminating in a jam of sorts. That is meandering. The song wades into the digital world as well. Stand Or Fall begins with effects mimicking howling wind, a music box version of Rolling Stone's Paint It Black and keyboards much to any metal fan’s chagrin. The Sanzu River is up next and, if nothing else, is a showcase for the band's creativity again given the different vocals and sound. It is oddly reminiscent of the start of Suicidal tendencies' Can't Bring Me Down before picking up steam. The said river is a mythical one that… what hold on… the vocals changed again. Is that Udo on steroids? The change in vocals has to be heard to be believed. Not only they are different from singer Niihara's previous output, but the contrast is large even within the track. Takasaki keeps shredding underneath. That is impressive and along with the accompanying riff just leaves an impression. The bass drums are appreciated. Nihon No Kokoro ('Heart Of Japan') has guitars coming out of every nook and cranny and ravaging as the band was liable to deliver on its very early records, but the song does not amount to much ultimately. Even the guitar lick at the end goes nowhere.
Disc two is a more diverse affair. The band is not being stupid by leaving the genre, but clearly has included material here that has not been customary and for which it is not known. Kagayakeru 80’s is weak with its thin drum and guitar sound. Punish's Nishida Ryuichi helped with drums on multiple tracks for this album, which could explain the inconsistent drum sound. The band’s main drummer had been ill prior to the recording. The solo whirls on the song. The song, however, is barely worth mentioning. The follow up (‘Emerald Sea’) is more like it. Heavy riffing, an emotional melodious lead and high calibre musicianship is par for the course. All Will Be Fine is a ballad that cements the ‘varied’ description from earlier. This track was first introduced by Lazy, which is an act that is associated to Loudness. There is even some heroic music and a grand organ to be heard here.
The samurai motif was last seen on the band’s Samsara Flight maybe (actually, probably not), the Crazy Samurai EP and certainly on 1984’s Disillusion album. The album’s name is Sunburst and the opening track is called Rising Sun, yet this is not one of the many Loudness albums with a the sun and Japanese flag insignia motif on its cover, but wait, peer closely and there is a sunburst behind the samurai who is working hard (hence the album’s Japanese title) defeating the waves, fighting off a Japanese octopus, a demon and the paws of a Godzilla-like monster creature that is hidden from view. Much to discover there.
The album was reportedly number one in sales in Japan for a day and, more formally, reached the number five position on the charts of the country. Not sure if that makes it promising or undesirable normally, but certainly the record is worth owning as you have just read. – Ali "The Metallian"
InterviewsThere 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.