Loudness Loudness

Guitarist Akira Takasaki and drummer Munetaka Higuchi first played together in the mid-'70s in a band called Lazy and later formed Loudness with vocalist Minoru Niihara and bass player Masayoshi Yamashita. After releasing some very successful albums in Japan, Atlantic Records came along and the band's international "career" began with 1985's "Thunder in the East." Of course most metalheads remember this album for the heavy metal hit "Wock and Woll Cwazy Nights." Besides the fact that it was very humorous, I remember I couldn't help but sing along either, so the album received lots of play time. Before this, however, the band was already a hot item in their homeland of Japan. "Disillusion," which was their first album to actually get released in America, was actually the band's fourth chart-topping release in Japan. Unfortunately when faced with a plan to conquer the America charts, Loudness were gradually forced to alter their sound by clueless record executives. The classic lineup came to an end with the firing of vocalist Niihara and the hiring of American-born singer Mike Vescera for 1989's "Soldier of Fortune." Of course since the novelty of the Japanese accent was gone, so was the band's following. Guitarist Akira Takasaki continued on with the band through the 90's with success in his homeland. Unfortunately most Loudness discs are now relegated to Japanese import status only.

Loudness drummer Munetaka Higuchi died on November 30, 2008 from liver cancer.

Birthday Eve Loudness - The Birthday Eve (Denon) 1981

1. "Loudness" (5:10)
2. "Sexy Woman" (5:40)
3. "Open Your Eyes" (4:32)
4. "Street Woman" (5:17)
5. "To Be Demon" (6:07)
6. "I'm on Fire" (3:41)
7. "High Try" (5:07)
8. "Rock Shock (More and More)" (4:56)

The Birthday Eve is the first official, full-length Loudness album and falls more in line with 1970's heavy metal than with the 80's sound the band would soon adopt and conquer. This shouldn't be too surprising seeing as how this album was recorded in 1981 at a time when heavy metal and hard rock had not yet revitalized itself. However, "The Birthday Eve" is still a fine record. My favorite track is the six-minute long "To Be Demon". The music has a big Deep Purple/Rainbow vibe to it. Obviously the band was still young and wearing their influences on their sleeves. Much of the rest of the album draws similarities to early Judas Priest and even Van Halen. Despite the obvious influences in the music, vocalist Minoru Nihara gives the music a distinct sound. His vocals and melodies can't really be immediately compared to anyone. The absence of English lyrics in most songs makes for an even more interesting lyrics. Since English is obviously not the band's first language, the few attempts at English sound a bit odd. This is true of songs like "Rock Shock". However, "Rock Shock" is also on of the more explosive songs on the album and features some blistering guitar work from Akira Takasaki.

Lawof the Devil's Land Loudness - The Law of Devil's Land (Denon) 1983

1. "Theme of Loudness Part II" (1:59)
2. "In the Mirror" (3:41)
3. "Show Me the Way" (6:05)
4. "I Wish You Were Here" (3:45)
5. "Mr. Yes Man" (6:57)
6. "The Law of Devil's Land" (4:56)
7. "Black Wall" (5:06)
8. "Sleepless Night" (4:48)
9. "Speed" (5:32)

Early heavy metal classic that was never officially released in the U.S. Oddly enough, however, some of these songs were later re-recorded and given a more pop metal sheen on albums like "On the Prowl" that were recorded specifically for America. "Sleepless Nights" and "In the Mirror" were both re-recorded with American singer Michael Viscera. "Law of the Devil's Land" is raw, heavy and a bit more progressive than any of the material that Loudness would become known for. Many Loudness fans feel this is the band's best, most creative disc. Since I am much more intimately familiar with albums like "Disillusion" and "Thunder in the East", I prefer those slightly over this one. However, "Law of the Devil's Land" is certainly at the top of the stack.

Live-Loud-Alive
Loudness - Live-Loud-Alive (Columbia/Japan) 1984

DISC ONE
1. "Opening Theme /Mars The Bringer Of War" (2:24)
2. "In The Mirror" (3:48)
3. "Road Racer" (5:15)
4. "I Was The Sun" (4:15)
5. "Fly Away" (3:41)
6. "Black Wall" (5:40)
7. "Tusk Of Jaguar/Drum Solo" (8:03)
8. "Mr. Yesman" (7:06)
DISC TWO
10. "Exploder-Heaven Ward (6:08)
11. "Loudness" (5:23)
12. "Sleepless Night" (8:04)
13. "Speed" (6:00)
14. "蜃気楼 (Shinkiro) (4:06)
15. "Burning Love-Ending Theme (Theme Of Loudness II) (7:55)

Akira
Akira Takasaki

Minoru
Minoru Niihara


"Live-Loud-Alive"  is a superb live album capturing Loudness live in Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo on September 24, 1983. It marked the end of an era for Loundess. After this album, Loudness would go from being one of Japan's best kept secrets to being known world wide. Before this album, Loudness were pure heavy metal without an hint of pop or glam. This recording includes everything a live album should have, including drum and guitar solos, audience participation and pure, raw, aggressive sound. Early Loudness was so very unique. While the band had some obvious influences like Judas Priest, they still had a very unique sound and were untainted by American record company producers. While the three studio albums that preceeded this live album were good, the energy captured on this live album just blows those studio recordings out of the water. 

I own a very nice Japanese CD re-issue of "Live-Loud-Alive". The 2-CD set is housed in a gatefold mini-album sleeve. This is not cheap packaging. Not only is the album on very sturdy cardboard, but each CD is in it's own individual slip case. Also come with insert and the coveted Japanese OBI strip. 

Disillusion Loudness - Disillusion (Denon) 1984

1. "Crazy Doctor" (4:13)
2. "Esper" (3:45)
3. "Butterfly" (5:16)
4. "Revelation" (4:18)
5. "Exploder" [instrumental] (2:29)
6. "Dream Fantasy" (4:33)
7. "Milky Way" (4:17)
8. "Satisfaction Guaranteed" (3:39)
9. "Ares' Lament" (5:30)

Just an all around great metal disc, but I don't know if I will ever get use to the Japanese lyrics. Sort of weird, but then again I can't understand most death metal vocalists either and they are supposedly using English. Still with the possible exception of "Thunder in the East," this may be the best Loudness disc that I have heard yet. The music is sort of a mix of Judas Priest and Accept with some Eddie Van Halen solos thrown into the mix as well. Also have to add that I really dig the Japanese writing on the cover and the obi.

Thunder in the East Loudness - Thunder in the East (Denon) 1985

1. "Crazy Nights" (4:04)
2. "Like Hell" (3:44)
3. "Heavy Chains" (4:18)
4. "Get Away" (3:55)
5. "We Could Be Together" (4:35)
6. "Run for Your Life" (3:48)
7. "Clockwork Toy" (3:55)
8. "No Way Out" (4:01)
9. "The Lines are Down" (4:57)
10. "Never Change Your Mind" (4:09)

"Thunder in the East" is probably the band's most well known U.S. release. Any metalhead who grew up in the 80's knows "Wock an Woll Cwazy Nights". "Thunder in the East" is a good metal album in the tradition of Priest and especially Accept. Some of these chunky rhythms, especially on "Crazy Nights," could have been on any Accept album at the time as well. Lots of shred guitar solos as well. Wock on!

Powergod recorded a cover of "Heavy Chains".

Early Singles Loudness - Early Singles (CDR)

1."Burning Love" (3:57)
2."Bad News" (4:27)
3."Geraldine" (4:01)
4."In the Mirror" (3:41)
5."Road Racer" (4:38)
6."Shinkiiro" (4:15)
7."Crazy Nights" (4:08)
8."No Way Out" (4:06)
9."Gotta Fight" (3:46)
10."Odin" (5:17)
11."Flash Out" [instrumental] (4:07)
BONUS TRACKS
12."Eruption" [instrumental] (3:14)
13."The Night Beast" (4:38)
14."Risky Woman" (4:46)
15."Road Racer" [English version] (4:38)
16."Farewell" [instrumental] (3:23)
17."Akira - Bonno" [instrumental] (5:26)

This is one of those CDs that I have wanted for a long time and have never actually seen. Thankfully a fellow CD trader made me a copy complete with six bonus tracks not included on the original release. Besides featuring some of Loudness' most well known tracks, this compilation also features several non-album "singles"including "Burning Love" "Road Racer", "Geraldine" and a few songs from the Japanese anime Odin.

Lightning Strikes Loudness - Lightning Strikes (Atco) 1986

'1. "Let it Go" (4:13)
2. "Dark Desire" (4:19)
3. "1000 Eyes" (4:35)
4. "Face to Face" (3:49)
5. "Who Knows" (4:02)
6. "Ashes in the Sky" (6:02)
7. "Black Star Oblivion" (3:55)
8. "Street Life Dream" (4:28)
9. "Complication" (4:00)

Loudness

Lightning Strikes is the follow-up to the band's first American "hit." Who can forget "Wock and Woll Cwazy Nights." Seriously though, this is actually a better album than the aforementioned "Thunder in the East." Veteran knob turner Max Norman is brought in once again to spice things up a bit and make our favorite band from Japan more Westerner friendly. Max has done amazing things for bands like Dirty Looks, Megadeth, Ozzy, etc., so why not Loudness. Well luckily Max did not mess with one thing about Loudness, that is Minoru Hinara's signature vocals. Sure, everyone got a chuckle out of hearing the thick Japanese accent, but it also gave the music a certain charm and charisma. "Let It Go" is probably the band's attempt at a radio hit but the rest of the album rocks hard. "Ashes in the Sky" and "Complication" are as good as the band's early material. "Face to Face" and "Black Star Oblivion" are both excellent full-throttle speed metal numbers. "Street Life Dream" is a nice melodic number. Overall, "Lightning Strikes" is a good 80's metal album and possibly the band's best made for America disc. Unfortunately it will be their last as record company executives in search of bigger and better things (ie. more money) would begin to stick their hands in a bit to much and totally ruin the band's charm. This disc was given to me as a gift.

Hurricane Eyes Loudness - Hurricane Eyes (Atco) 1987

1. "S.D.I." (4:15)
2. "This Lonely Heart" (4:08)
3. "Rock 'N' Roll Gypsy" (4:22)
4. "In My Dreams" (4:30)
5. "Take Me Home" (3:16)
6. "Strike of the Sword" (3:50)
7. "Rock This Way" (4:07)
8. "In This World Beyond" (4:26)
9. "Hungry Heart" (4:08)
10. "So Lonely" (4:43)

Minuro
Minoru Niihara

Produced by Eddie Kramer, who is famous for producing KISS and Frehley's Comet. Despite this, "Hurricane Eyes" doesn't sound much different from the Max Norman produced "Lighning Strikes." "Hurricane Eyes" starts off good with "S.D.I." a fast, shredding number that is one of the finest the band had written to this point. "This Lonely Heart" continues to impress, then all of the sudden the disc come to a crashing halt with "Rock 'n' Roll Gypsy". This song is a keyboard laced pop-metal piece of crap. Minuro's vocals just doesn't fit this kind of wimpy radio rock. Next up is a power ballad "In My Dreams" that contains some excellent soloing towards the end. "Take Me Home" is another fast and heavy Loudness track that could fit on any of the past two discs. The main guitar riff from "Strike the Sword" reminds me of Motley Crue's "To Young For Your Love." "Rock this Way" and "Hungry Heart" are both mid paced heavy metal numbers. The disc finishes off with "So Lonely" another syrupy pop ballad. This would be the last disc for vocalist Minuro Niihara who apparently was given the boot in favor of a more Western friendly vocalist. (i.e. someone without a Japanese accent.) Too bad, because as I have said before, it is Minuro's vocals, along with Akira's guitar antics that give Loudness their originality and charm.

Here's some facts about "Hurricane Eyes":

"So Lonely" was originally a song called "Ares' Lament" from the "Disillusion" album.

Gregg Giuffria (Angel/Giuffria/House of Lords) played keyboards on this CD.

Tod Howarth (Frehley's Comet) and David Glen Eisely (Giuffria) contributed background vocals.

Loudness - Jealousy (Warner/Japan) 1988

1. "Jealousy" (5:04)
2. "Long Distance Love" (4:33)
3. "Good Things Going" (5:09)
4. "Die of Hunger" (4:48)
5. "Heavier than Hell" (4:30)
6. "Dreamer And Screamer" (3:55)

"Jealousy" is an excellent Japanese-only EP that was released way back in 1988. I wasn't even aware it was released until several years later. A friend of mine picked up a copy of this, so I immediately began a search for a copy for myself. Luckily this disc is readily available as an import as Warner Bros. have re-issued several Loudness discs as part of a 2001 '20th Anniversary of Loudness' promotion in their home country. Unfortunately, Japanese imports are a bit pricey. I have read some conflicting reports about this disc. Some have said that while Loudness' American record company was forcing them to get an American singer to appeal to the Western audience, that the band retained Minoru for releases at home. Another review that I read stated that this was the last thing Minoru recorded with the band before being replaced by Michael Viscera. Regardless of the situation, "Jealousy" is much heavier than anything the band had done on "Hurricane Eyes" and is a bit more like the Judas Priest inspired metal of "Thunder in the East." "Long Distance Love" is the most commercial of the tracks with a sing-along chorus, "Can't stop this Long Dis-tance love baby." The weird thing is that all the rest of the lyrics are sung in Japanese, as are most of the lyrics on this EP. This probably accounts for why the disc was never released in the U.S. "Long Distance Love" eventually was rearranged slightly and re-recorded with Viscera for the 'On the Prowl' cd. As with all Loudness' 80's releases, the guitar work, and especially the lead guitar solos are outstanding.

Soldiers of Fortune Loudness - Soldiers of Fortune (Atco) 1989

1. Soldier of Fortune (3:53)
2. You Shook Me (4:19)
3. Danger of Love (4:35)
4. Twenty-Five Days (3:49)
5. Red Light Shooter (4:02)
6. Running for Cover (6:02)
7. Lost Without Your Love (3:55)
8. Faces in the Fire (4:28)
9. Long After Midnight (4:00)
10. Demon Disease (4:43)

This sounds like any number of American commercial metal bands from the late 80's. The song writing isn't bad and the musicianship is spectacular, but somehow without the charisma of Minoru Niihara, this is just a generic pop metal album. I still can't understand why this Japanese metal band would hire an American vocalist. I wonder if it was the record company pressure or if they thought that by getting an American singer they would gain more acceptance in the U.S. Well, I have to assume if was the former as the later did not happen. New vocalist Michael Viscera has a solid voice, but sometimes even a good voice cannot replace the original when that original had a unique style and sound. Michael has also been the vocalist for Obsession and later went on to sing for Yngwie Malmsteen. This disc was given to me as a gift.

Loudness - On the Prowl (Atco) 1991

1. "Down 'n' Dirty" (4:36)
2. "Playing Games" (3:47)
3. "Love Toys" (4:02)
4. "Never Again" (5:01)
5. "Deadly Player" (4:47)
6. "Take It or Leave It" (4:31)
7. "Girl" (4:20)
8. "Long Distance" (4:15)
9. "In the Mirror" (3:34)
10. "Sleepless Nights" (4:39)
11. "Find a Way" (7:31)

First of all, I have to say this is one of the coolest album covers in the Loudness discography. The artwork gives the feel of a progressive metal band and really fits the Japanese image quite well. The music, on the other hand, is not progressive metal, but rather is pop metal of a surprisingly high quality. After hearing "Soldiers of Fortune" I assumed the worst. What I got was the best. Vocalist Michael Viscera really is fitting into the band at this point and has even helped (or taken over) writing lyrics. "Deadly Player" was originally a song called "Lonely Player" from the "Devil Soldier" album. "Take It or Leave It" is a re-arranged version of "Milky Way" from "Disillusion". "Girl" originally appeared on "Devil Soldier." "Long Distance" was originally titled "Long Distance Love" from the Jealousy EP. "Sleepless Nights" and "In the Mirror" were originally on "Law of Devil's Land." "Find a Way" is a re-written track from "Birthday Eve" originally titled "To Be Demon".

Loudness - Loud 'n' Rare (Warner) 1991

1. "The Night Beast" (4:39)
2. "Risky Woman" (4:46)
3. "Silent Sword" (4:19)
4. "Long Distance Love" [Super-Mix] (6:05)
5. "Mr. Yes Man" [live] (6:56)
6. "Farewell" (3:23)

"Loud n' Rare" is a diverse odds-n-sods EP. The six tracks contained were all released between '86-88 on various 12" vinyl singles. "The Night Beast" is a fast, furious speed metal track. "Risky Woman" is a keyboard saturated 80's pop rock song. While Loudness have released their share of pop metal songs, this song is just uncharacteristic of the band. "Silent Sword" is a ballad with some smokin' guitar work by Akira. "Long Distance Love" is a standard Accept-like heavy metal song, but this version includes an industrial like opening and ending that was not on the album version. Once again, killer chops by Akira. "Mr. Yes Man" is a live version of the "Law of the Devil's Land" track. Album closer "Farwell" is a bluesy guitar instrumental that finishes off nicely this Japanese only release. (thanks Olaf!)

Eurobounds Loudness - Eurobounds (Columbia) 1992/2001

1. "Crazy Doctor" (4:17)
2. "Lonely Player" (5:02)
3. "Milky Way" (4:20)
4. "Dream Fantasy" (4:43)
5. "In the Mirror" (3:49)
6. "Esper" (4:24)
7. "Speed" (7:28)
8. "Loudness" (4:31)

I could find very little information about this CD on-line. Big sites like BNR and Metal-Archives.com doesn't even list it as part of their catalogue, even though this is an officially released disc. Recorded during the band's 1984 European tour, "Eurobounds" capture Loudness in their early, hungry, screamin' metal days before they sang in English and went into a more pop direction in the mid-80's. This live set is energetic and shows the band full of energy, especially a young Akira Takasaki, who shreds with the best of them. "Speed" in particular features a great, speed metal jam session in the middle of it. The packaging for this 2001 remasted version is rather unique, as it is in a miniture scale gatefold album cover, complete with the CD printed to look like a vinyl record. Also included is a full color booklet with pictures of the band live from those early days. A nice collector's disc indeed. (thanks James)

Loudness Loudness (WEA) 1992

1. "Pray for the Dead" (4:15)
2. "Slaughter House" (03:53)
3. "Waking the Dead" (3:55)
4. "Black Widow" (4:50)
5. "Racing the Wind" (4:04)
6. "Love Kills" (05:14)
7. "Hell Bites (From the Edge of Insanity)" (5:54)
8. "Everyone Lies" (4:43)
9. "Twisted" (5:20)
10. "Firestorm" (4:49)

Those disappointed with the more commercial direction Loudness took in the late 80's should give this album a spin. This is heavy! Former EZO vocalist Masaki Yamada is outstanding and has a sinister snarl that works well with the aggessive tone of this album. Yes, I know, it's not quite the same band without Minoro, but as it stands, this is still a smokin' album from Takasaki and Co. Bassist Taiji is the former bassist from another well known Japanese metal band, X-Japan and adds a bit of his own flare to this album as well. Of course, the star of the show here is the guitar antics of Akira, who shines throughout. My only real complaint is that the songs aren't as immediately reconizable as they were on albums like "Thunder in the East." However, this is some of the heaviest material Loudness had recorded thus far and is a solid release. They had not yet begun experimenting with sounds outside of metal, so this is a recommended release for those who like the early years of Loudness. Scored my copy on LaLa for a whopping $1.75.

Once And For All Loudness - Once And For All (Wounded Bird) 1994

1. "Pray for the Dead" (4:53)
2. "Slaughter House" (4:48)
3. "Down 'n' Dirty" (5:44)
4. "Everyone Lies" (5:23)
5. "House of 1,000 Pleasures" (6:24)
6. "Black Widow" (5:29)
7. "Twisted" (10:09)
8. "Waking the Dead" (3:55)
9. "Crazy Nights" (6:05)
10. "S.D.I." (6:10)

This one has been on my want list for many years and was finally released in the U.S. in 2005. "Once And For All" captures Loudness live at Club Citta Kawasaki, Japan, June 1, 1992 promoting their self titled album. Any doubt about the band should be put to rest after hearing this cacophonous heavy metal act. Not only does this CD feature some of the band's heaviest material, but it also gives Loudness a chance to strut their stuff a bit. Check out the ten minute version of "Twisted" which features some outrageous guitar antics from Akira Takasaki as well as some outstanding bass work from Yasushi "Taiji" Sawada (X-Japan). Tracks like "Down 'n' Dirty" from "On The Prowl" are given a much heavier treatment here, not only because of the aggressive live setting but also because of the vocals of Masaki Yamada. Masaki puts that Japanese feel back into the vocals that American vocalist Mike Vescera just didn't have. "House of 1,000 Pleasures" is an EZO song.

Heavy Metal Hippies Loudness - Heavy Metal Hippies (WEA Japan) 1994

1. "Howling Rain" (6:59)
2. "Freedom" (7:13)
3. "222" [instrumental] (2:37)
4. "Eyes of a Child" (6:34)
5. "Electric Kisses" (4:55)
6. "House of Freaks" (5:03)
7. "Paralyzed" (5:16)
8. "Desperation Desecration" (5:35)
9. "Light in the Distance" (4:56)
10. "Broken Jesus" (7:37)

One of these days I am going to learn NOT to listen to what other people say about music, but rather to give it a chance myself. So many people told me that the mid-90's Loudness albums were nothing more than cheesy alternative crap. That is so NOT true! 'Heavy Metal Hippies' certainly is not 'Thunder in the East Part 2,' but it's not crap either. This disc is one of the heaviest discs in the Loudness catalogue. The songs, for the most part, give off a mid pace Heaven & Hell-era Sabbath vibe. A few songs pick up the pace a bit. ""222" has a heavy black album era Metallica vibe. Throughout the axe-work is stupendous, as is the rhythm work. The vocals were another surprise for me. Former EZO vocalist Yamada Masaki has a great voice and also retains the Japanese accent that made many of the band's early albums so interesting. Anyhow, a fellow collector and friend picked up this Japanese import for me at a cd show in Chicago. Encasing the cd and the colorful cover art is a 'sparkle' jewel case, which is pretty unique. The clear plastic case is speckled with silver glitter. Pretty cool.

Loudness - Dragon /Ghetto Machine (Dream Catcher) 1998/1997/1999

DISC ONE
1. "9 Miles High" (3:45)
2. "Dogshit" (4:45)
3. "Wicked Witches" (4:25)
4. "Crazy Go Go" (4:17)
5. "Voodoo Voices" (4:24)
6. "kaisou" [instrumental] (1:56)
7. "Babylon" (4:54)
8. "Crawl" (5:17)
9. "Forbidden Love" (4:38)
10. "Mirror Ball" (5:08)
11. "Taj Mahal" [instrumental] (5:30)
12. "Nightcreepers" (5:21)

DISC TWO
1. "Ghetto Machine" (4:04)
2. "Slave" (3:17)
3. "Evil Ecstasy" (4:10)
4. "San Francisco" (4:10)
5. "Love and Hate" (6:41)
6. "Creatures" (5:30)
7. "Katmandu Fly" (1:14)
8. "Hypnotized" (4:44)
9. "Dead Man Walking" (4:45)
10. "Jasmine Sky" (5:47)
11. "Wonder Man" (5:54)

"Ghetto Machine" was an attempt from Loudness for a heavier, more modern sound and frankly, it didn't really work for them. The muddy down tuned guitars, the repetitive groove based riffs and the equally repetitive choruses, it's just not what I want to hear from Akira and Company. For the most part, even Akira's finger flying leads are kept at bay. Akria does let loose with some bluesy guitar licks in the lengthy "Love and Hate". The songs are overall are darker and heavier than anything on "Heavy Metal Hippies" or their more commercial stuff with American vocalist Michael Viscera. With Masaki on vocals, "Ghetto Machine" has a slight EZO vibe to it as well. There are a few standout cuts here, including the title cut, the bluesy "Love and Hate" and the funk infused "Hypnotized". As well, the bass heavy "Dead Man Walking" isn't a bad song, but overall, "Ghetto Machine" probably won't land at the top of most fan's favorites lists. 

This CD collection actually features both "Ghetto Machine" and "Dragon". Personally I feel that "Dragon" is a far better release than "Ghetto Machine", even if does have a similar modern, experimental vibe. For a full review of "Dragon", see below. This 2-CD release features a 12-page booklet with lyrics and liner notes. (thanks Kurt)

Dragon Loudness - Dragon (Rooms Records) 1998

1. "9 Miles High" (3:45)
2. "Dogshit" (4:45)
3. "Wicked Witches" (4:25)
4. "Crazy Go Go" (4:17)
5. "Voodoo Voices" (4:24)
6. "kaisou" [instrumental] (1:56)
7. "Babylon" (4:54)
8. "Crawl" (5:17)
9. "Forbidden Love" (4:38)
10. "Mirror Ball" (5:08)
11. "Taj Mahal" [instrumental] (5:30)
12. "Nightcreepers" (5:21)

I've steared away from many of the 1990's Loudness albums for several reasons. First of all, it seemed to me that it wasn't really Loudness with only Akira left from the original band. Second, I had read so many bad reviews of albums like "Heavy Metal Hippies", "Engine" and "Dragon". However, after acquiring "Heavy Metal Hippies" I begin to see that the reviewers are all a bit biased. Sure, Loudness no longer sound like they did on popular releases like "Thunder in the East" and "Soldier Of Fortune", but then again, those albums sounded like any number of 1980's heavy metal bands. The 90's releases from Loudness are quite unique and sound like no other band that I can think of. That is not to say that I think every song on these albums are great. On the contrary, there are some songs I don't like at all. On "Dragon", for instance, there is "Dogshit" a song that has a lot of nu-metal influence and even has vocalist Masaki Yamada rapping. BLECH! However, other songs like "9 Miles High" are quite good. This particular song is a mixture of classic thrash metal layered with some 70's wah-wah guitar from Akira. "Wicked Witches" on the other had has a slow, doomy, almost stoner rock/metal sound. "Crazy Go-Go" sounds a bit like Loudness cover classic Kiss, although it is an original song. The title of track six is a mystery to me as it is only two Japanese letters. I have not idea what the title is, but the song is an odd Jimi Hendrix influenced instrumental that acts as an intro for "Babylon". "Taj Mahal" is a Middle Eastern sounding song that seems a bit out of place on this CD. "Mirror Ball" adds a bit of funk to an otherwise heavy track. "Nighcreepers" is a fairly heavy song that finishes out the disc quite nicely. Perhaps it was because my expectations were low, but I found "Dragon" to be much better than what I expected. There is a ton of experimentation, but there is still plenty of meat to chew on. Unfortunately this is one of those Loudness albums that is only available as an expensive Japanese import.

About the mystic sixth track on "Dragon" by Loudness. It's name is pronounced "kaisou" and seems to mean reflection, or reminiscense.
Thanks for the information Victor Hajosi.

Engine Loudness - Engine (Rooms) 1999

1. "Soul Tone" [instrumental] (2:37)
2. "Bug Killa" (5:04)
3. "Black Biohazard" (3:55)
4. "Twist of Chain" (3:40)
5. "Bad Date (Nothing I Can Do)" (2:58)
6. "Apocalypse" (4:11)
7. "Ace in the Hole" (4:09)
8. "Sweet Dreams" (4:37)
9. "Asylum" (6:27)
10. "Burning Eye Balls" (4:58)
11. "Junk His Head" (5:51)
12. "2008 (Candra)" [instrumental] (2:47)
13. "Coming Home" (6:07)

The 1999 follow-up to "Dragon" continues in much the same manner. Loudness have become quite a unique animal. The band is still writing some heavy songs, but they experiment a lot with their sound and for the most part, forsake traditional verse-chorus-verse song writing. Much of the album is very dark sounding. I certainly can understand why old-school fans wouldn't like this version of Loudness, but overall, I find this album to be as enjoyable as it's predecessor. Shoot, the track "Black Biohazard" is worth the price of admission alone. Vocalist Masaki Yamada (ex-E-Z-O) possesses a lot of the same charms to his vocals as former vocalist Minoru. As with past releases, Akira is that star of the show with his own brand of guitar pyrotechnics. Of course Akira is the only member left from the original Loudness line-up at this point.

Spiritual Canoe Loudness - Spiritual Canoe (Columbia/Japan) 2001

1. "The Winds of Victory" (4:41)
2. "The Hate That Fills My Lonely Cells" (6:00)
3. "The End of Earth" (4:29)
4. "Stay Wild" (5:48)
5. "The Seven Deadly Sins" (5:31)
6. "Picture Your Life" (3:20)
7. "How Many More Time" (5:40)
8. "Touch My Heart" (5:10)
9. "Climaxxx" (4:05)
10. "A Stroke of Lightning" (5:13)
11. "Never Forget You" (5:00)
12. "Spiritual Canoe" [instrumental] (1:32)
13. "The Power of Love" (7:06)
Loudness 2002

I had to hear this disc. While I have not really invested much into the more recent Loudness discs, a reunited original line-up was reason to rejoice. After all, it was Minoru and Akiri that gave Loudness their unique sound. Another reason to check this disc out was the rumor that the band was playing real heavy metal, not the alterna-crap Akiri had been playing under the Loudness name. Well, this rumor is true for the most part. This is a great heavy metal album, although their are some experiments here and there. "Touch My Heart" has a Led Zeppelin-vibe going on. "How Many More Times" has Minoru rapping in Japanese over a funk driven groove tune, which is actually pretty funny, but not fitting of Loudness. This is more the exception than the rule on this disc however. Songs like "Stay Wild," "Seven Deadly Sins" and "The End of the Earth" really could have fit onto any of the early Loudness albums, before they were forced to go into the more pop metal direction. "The End of the Earth" is actually an incredible speed metal number. Lots of guitar hero shredding on this disc as well, but as has always been the case with Akiri, not at the expense of good song writing. I actually picked this one up in a trade from a friend who couldn't handle the few modern elements that are mixed into the music.

Racing Loudness - Racing/Rockshocks (Drakkar) 2005

DISC ONE
1. "Racing" [instrumental] (:28)
2. "Exultation" (4:48)
3. "Lunatic" (4:04)
4. "Live for the Moment" (4:38)
5. "Crazy Samurai" (5:21)
6. "Speed Maniac" (5:21)
7. "R.I.P." (6:18)
8. "Telomerase" (6:28)
9. "Tomorrow Is Not Promised" (5:51)
10. "Believe It or Not" (4:52)
11. "Misleading Man" (5:14)
12. "Power Generation" (4:02)
13. "Don't Know Nothing" (6:07)
14. "Unknown Civilians" (3:58)
DISC TWO
1. "Loudness" (5:05)
2. "Crazy Doctor" (4:21)
3. "In The Mirror" (3:41)
4. "Crazy Night" (4:33)
5. "Esper" (3:50)
6. "Like Hell" (4:00)
7. "Lonely Player" (5:53)
8. "Street Woman" (5:40)
9. "Angel Dust" (4:32)
10. "Rock Shock" (4:47)
11. "The Lines Are Down" (5:02)
12. "Milky Way" (4:27)
13. "Mr. Yesman" (7:22)

Loudness are a fascinating band. Their catalog, while being labeled traditional metal, has been stylistically all over the map. Their early albums were some of the finest traditional metal out there. After the excellent "Thunder in the East" the band was forced into a more pop metal direction, and then later persuaded to take on an American singer. In my opinion "Thunder in the East" was the band's pinnacle. It remains one of the finest traditional heavy metal albums decades later. Despite this Loudness failed to conquer America's pop metal crowd. After this the band went through numerous line-up changes and even began experimenting with their sound, incorporating grunge, funk, hard rock and even some jazz. Despite all the changes I have always enjoyed each era of the band to varying degrees. With "Racing", the first album that I was easily able to obtain in the U.S. since "Spiritual Canoe (2001), I must confess I was a bit disappointed at first. As a matter of fact, after the first listen I put the CD on the shelf without including it here on my site and figured I would revisit it later on. Sometimes I am just not in the mood for certain music and that most certainly will influence my opinion of a disc. Well, I have since revisited the disc several times and have began to appreciate it a bit more and more with each subsequent listen. The CD starts of with a short instrumental, which is simply Akira Takasaki tearing up the fretboard of his guitar. (The man is most certanly one of metal's most underrated guitar heroes.) This opening is promising. Unfortunately after this the music is a bit more experimental than I had hoped. Songs like "Exultation", "Lunatic" and "Speed Maniac" are a mixture of heavy downtuned guitars, almost thrash-like riffs and Minoru screaming his head off, although it sounds like he is screaming through a paper bag or something. The biggest downfall is the downtuned, muddy guitar sound. I realize it is the current trend to tune to D or lower, but I much prefer a brighter, crunchier guitar sound. There are most certainly some nu-metal influences running throughout this CD but Akira's shredding leads, along with Minoru's signature vocals keep things from sounding generic. Despite Minoru still sounding like he did in the 80's, there is something missing in the vocal melodies. Unlike a song like "Like Hell" which would have even the most sceptic metalhead singing along, the vocal melodies here are intent on proving that the band is pissed at the world and has something to prove. No longer are there those anthem-like vocals or the gang shouts. So, it took a lot longer for me to find something to really pull me in. Over time, songs like "Speed Maniac" really began to grow on me. I guess it's always hard for a band to live up to their fans expectations when they have such a long history and large catalog. With the band claiming that this CD was going to be a return to their metal roots, I guess I was expecting something more akin to "Thunder in the East" and "Disillusion ". Rather, Loudness have actually gotten heavier with time. I am still not sure I would rank "Racing" at the top of the Loudness catalog, as it's hard to beat those classics, but it is at least a good listen and a welcome return to something leather clad and heavy.

This 2005 Drakkar Records release also features a bonus disc, which is the complete "Rockshocks" album. This album features re-recorded versions of early 80's classics. This too seems to be a trend at the moment with bands like Anthrax, Saxon, Saint, Twisted Sister, etc. re-recording old material to give those old classics a new sheen. Unfortunately the band decided to downtune these songs as well, which I found a bit disappointing. I also think the band changed the tempo on a few songs as well, although I didn't actually compare them to the originals to see if this was true. The new versions certainly don't suck, but they aren't exactly what I was hoping for either.

Breaking the Taboo Loudness - Breaking The Taboo (Tokuma Communications) 2006

1. "Breaking The Taboo" (4:28)
2. "Brutal Torture" (4:54)
3. "Sick World" (4:52)
4. "Don't Spam Me" (3:56)
5. "Damnation" (5:19)
6. "The Love Of My Life" (4:32)
7. "A Moment Of Revelation" (5:34)
8. "Dynamite" (4:49)
9. "Risk Taker" (4:16)
10. "I Wish" (5:51)
11. "Diving Into Darkness" (4:13)
12. "Without You" (4:05)

Loudness 2006 is such a different animal than the more well known Loudness 1986. As I have stated in other reviews, Loudness have been stylistically all over the map since the golden 80's. With "Breaking the Taboo" Loudness are sticking with more traditional heavy metal, albeit with modern recording and production techniques. The guitars are tuned down lower, the recording is thick, but almost muddy as the distorted guitars and and vocals fight for the same space. However, I would not say that Loudness are trying to follow any trends in music, at least not any American trends. For the most part the entire CD is guitar driven and heavy. As usual Akira Takasaki tears up the fretboards and offers some unusual and interesting riffs. Where this album suffers is that it seems to lack much in the way of memorable hooks or even dynamics within the songs. Perhaps I am just one who prefers the more traditional verse, chorus, verse, chorus, song writing style, but with "Breaking the Taboo", even after several listens I couldn't find anything to sing along to, save for perhaps "Damnation" and the catchy chorus; "Come on, come on. the monkey business". Another problem might be that Minoru is no longer singing but seems to be screaming as if competing with the volume of the rest of the instruments. Perhaps he's trying to get an edgier, angrier sound, but I just prefer the more melodic stuff and the layered vocals of old. Some of that can indeed be heard in "Damnation". However, even in this song it seems like Minoru is screaming through a mega-phone trying to be heard. On the more melodic "Love of My Life", Minuro sings and sounds great. We all know he has the pipes and can sing as well as he can scream. I suppose I'd just like to hear him sing more and scream a little less.

The packaging is extremely nice. The cover has some sort of metallic ink or something. . Contained in the jewel case was also a stick of the cover art and an additional booklet with all the lyrics.

Eve to Dawn Loudness - Eve to Dawn (Frostbite) 2012

1. A Light In The Dark [instrumental] (1:47)
2. The Power Of Truth (5:28)
3. Come Alive Again (4:27)
4. Survivor (5:45)
5. Keep You Burning (5:17)
6. Gonna Do It My Way (4:13)
7. Hang Tough (5:55)
8.  喜怒哀楽 [instrumental] (6:24)
9. Comes The Dawn (7:07)
10. Pandra (4:20)
11. Crazy! Crazy! Crazy! (3:27)

Originally released in Japan in September 2011, "Eve to Dawn" was released worldwide in 2012. Loudness have to be one of the most productive bands on the planet as by my count, "Eve to Dawn" marks their 25th album. With it, the band seems to be returning to a more traditional heavy metal sound, while still mixing in some of the more modern sound that the band has been meandering in for well over a decade.

After a short instrumental introduction, "The Power of Truth" is unleashed and can only be described as a full-throttle thrash metal attack. The song is downright vicious but offers plenty of variety, from spastic double bass and machine gun riffing to a Maiden-esque bridge leading up to a jaw-dropping guitar solo. Akira Takasaki has lost nothing with age! Vocalist Minoru Niihara switches back and forth from singing to high-pitched screaming. His voice has always been one of the signatures of the Loudness sound.  Follow-up track "Come Alive Again"  a pure heavy metal beast, the riffs are fantastic and Takasaki's riffs and chops are phenomenal. The opening seconds of the song have a 70's Van Halen quality. "Come Alive Again" sees the band entering power metal terrain. This song is slightly more melodic than the opening numbers, and actually sounds a bit like the classic Loudness that most fans know and love. "Keep You Burning" has that same classic quality.

A standout cut is track number eight "喜怒哀楽", which I believe is titled "Emotions" in English. This song is an instrumental that allows Akira a chance to show his stuff, if the first seven tracks didn't already afford him that opportunity. Regardless, the six minute instrumental is definitely one of the standout cuts on the album. The album ends with two of the shortest cuts, "Pandora" and "Crazy! Crazy! Crazy!". hese two songs are two of the weaker moments on the album. The last song in particular is a funk-based, alternative-metal song that just sticks out like a sore thumb.

More than 30 years into their career, these Japanese metal vets are still delivering the goods. Though they have moved beyond their 1985 sound, with "Eve to Dawn" they've managed to bring back some of that sound without sounding like they are trying to just re-create the past. Frankly, I think "Eve to Dawn" is one of their more enjoyable albums since their classic 80's catalog. The cover art is the lousiest thing about this album.

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