Devil Soldier - 1982 - Columbia Nippon
The Law Of Devil’s Land - 1983 - Columbia Nippon
Live-Loud-Alive - 1983 - Columbia Nippon
Disillusion - 1984 - MFN
Thunder In The East - 1985 - Atlantic
Lightning Strikes - 1986 - Atlantic
8186 Live - 1986 - Warner
Hurricane Eyes - 1987 - Atlantic Eyes
Soldier Of Fortune - 1989 - Atlantic
On The Prowl - 1991 - Atlantic
Loudness - 1992 - Warner
Once And For All - 1994 - Warner
Heavy Metal Hippies - 1994 - Warner
Loud 'N Raw - 1995 - Warner
Ghetto Machine - 1997 - Rooms
Dragon - 1998 - Rooms
Engine - 1999 - Rooms
Spiritual Canoe - 2001 - Columbia
Pandemonium - 2002 - Columbia
Biosphere - 2002 - Columbia
Terror Hakuri - 2004 - Tokuma
Racing - 2004 - Tokuma
Breaking The Taboo - 2006 - Tokuma
Metal Mad - 2008 - Tokuma
The Everlasting - 2009 - Tokuma
Live Loudest At The Budokan '91 - 2009 - Warner
King Of Pain - 2010 - Tokuma
Eve To Dawn - 2011 - Tokuma
The Sun Will Rise Again - 2014 - Thunderball667
Rise To Glory – 2018 - Ward
Live In Tokyo – 2019 - earMusic
MembersS= Earthshaker, Takasaki, M.T. Fuji>>Minoru Niihara>>M.T. Fuji, Takasaki, XYZ, Sly, XYZ-A, Ded Chaplin, Solo - Obsession>>Mike Vescera>>Yngwie Malmsteen, Solo, MVP, Killing Machine, Dr. Sin, Palace Of Black, Obsession, Roland Grapow, Safe Haven, Sovereign, Solo – Flatbacker, EZO>>Masaki Yamada – Earthshaker, M.T. Fuji, Takasaki, XYZ, Sly, XYZ-A, Ded Chaplin, Solo>>MINOR NIIHARA>>Solo, XYZ-A
G= Lazy, Rage, Solo, Misako Honjo, M.T. Fuji, Ji-Zo>>AKIRA TAKASAKI>>Misako Honjo, Solo, M.T. Fuji, Lazy, Ji-Zo
B= Misako Honjo, Takasaki, M.T. Fuji>>Masayoshi Yamashita>>Misako Honjo, Takasaki, M.T. Fuji, Ded Chaplin, Spaed, Blood Circus – Trash, Dementia, X Japan>>Taiji Sawada>>Dirty Trashroad, Fatima – Black Hole>>Naoto Shibata>>Saber Tiger, Solo – M.T. Fuji, Takasaki, Spaed, Blood Circus, Ded Chaplin>>MASAYOSHI YAMASHITA
D= Lazy, Takasaki, M.T. Fuji>>Munetaka Higuchi>>Sly, M.T. Fuji, Takasaki – Flatbacker, EZO>>Hiro Homma>>Saber Tiger, Anthem, Snakebite, Naked Machine – Lazy, M.T. Fuji, Misako Honjo, Takasaki, Sly>>Munetaka Higuchi>>M.T. Fuji, Misako Honjo, - Ubigun, Nigarobo, Negarobo, RDX, Saber Tiger, Hard Gear, Galatea>>MASAYUKI 'AN-PANG' SUZUKI>>Galatea, RDX
HistoryLoudness 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 ban’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 would be joined once again by vocalist Mike Vescera for a one-off show on April 14th, 2013 at the Live N' Louder festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He now fronted Animetal USA. It was unclear why singer Niihara was unavailable. Loudness would release a 2014 album, The Sun Will Rise Again, on June 4th. 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. 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. 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.
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 likes Anthem.
LOUDNESS - THE LAW OF DEVIL'S LAND - NIPPON COLUMBIA
LOUDNESS - THUNDER IN THE EAST - NIPPON COLUMBIA
LOUDNESS - ROCKSHOCKS - CRASH
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.
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