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Many Loudness fans consider the Mike Vescera era albums pointless and faceless, which is not true in any way. "Soldier of Fortune", the first album with Vescera, is a shred fest from beginning to end.
Lets start out with the vocals. Mike Vescera gives the performance of his life here. Every song he sings, from the title track all the way to "Demon Disease", is filled with power and emotion. Even the ballads are great with his voice at the helm. There is not one bad thing I can say about his voice.
Akira Takasaki's guitar work on this album is godly. No, beyond godly, its simply awe inspiring. Akira is known around the world as one of the greatest guitarists to ever come out of the east, and he surely proves it on this album. Every song's lead is amazing, every riff and melody is played with technique and taste in mind, it's just something you have to hear to believe. His guitar playing alone is the reason every metal head should have this album.
The rhythm section is great as always. Masayoshi Yamashita does a great job on the bass, as his basslines are clearly audible and actually stand out with the music. If you want to hear a great bassline, check out "Faces in the Fire", as its the best bass performance he's ever done, next to the live bass solo on "8186 Live". Munetaka Higuchi's drum work is great on this album as well. He adds power to songs like "Faces in the Fire" and the title track with his ferocious drumming.
All the songs are great. Though one complaint is that there are alot of ballads on this album, but since the ballads are great it doesn't really hurt the album too much. The song writing is excellent, and the compositions are great too.
Mike Vescera's excellent voice, Akira's inspiring guitar work, a super solid rhythm section, and great song writing make this one of Loudness's best albums. You can still find this relatively cheap on the internet, so if you have a love for great metal and insane guitar work, then by all means by this album! My overall grade for this album is an A +.
So Loudness more or less loses their charm by hiring an American lead singer (Mike Vescera, Obsession).
Vescera is a very good vocalist, but still, one cannot deny that the Japanese accent that Minoru Niihara had gave Loudness a unique charm and identity.
As a whole, the album isn't completely awful, but isn't great. The band finds themselves in an identity crisis, as far as the style is concerned. At times they want to be a very solid metal band. At others, they want to be a very, very commercial sounding band. If only they could be the former more often, and not the latter.
OK, we start off nicely with one of the best songs Loudness ever recorded, "Soldier of Fortune". Nice riff work opens it up, and then the verses come along. The song has an excellent chorus, and the lead work here is some of the best Loudness ever came up with. An excellent song overall, and definitely among the band's best songs.
"You Shook Me" is the hit single. A very commercial, poppy vibe is here, but it's still preferable to what was polluting the airwaves at the time. Then we have a couple of more commercial sounding songs ("25 Days" actually starts off very nicely, but then quickly falls down the spiral of suckage). "Red Light Shooter" is a bit less commercial sounding, but is still forgettable.
There's finally another memorable song in "Running For Cover". The intro grabs you by the throat, and you find yourself enjoying the album again. Then we get back to the suckage in "Lost Without Your Love". Why couldn't they have come up with another song like the opener in place of this? "Faces in the Fire" is pretty solid. "Long After Midnight", however, finds Loudness falling back to the suckage. But then, Loudness finishes off the album on a high note with a very fast paced speed metal monster, "Demon Disease". This one is fast paced from the get go, and is definitely the second best song on the album.
If only all of the tracks in the middle were as good as the opener and the closer, we'd have a really winner in our hands.