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Play it loud - 85%

ManillaRoad, January 22nd, 2009

Digging through my vinyl collection, I found a couple Loudness LPs that caught my interest. This album was particularly good and featured a solid representation of the band's style and sound. It also marks an interesting point in the band's career. This is their second English-speaking album, and they already had got a taste of commercial success outside of Japan. Musically, I think they continued to get better after this album, and ultimately reached a peak on Soldier of Fortune. In the overall discography, this album is certainly a high point in their relatively early career.

It is effective on vinyl because both sides open up with killer tracks: Let It Go and Shadows of War (called Ashes in the Sky on my version). The core of Loudness is guitar virtuoso Akira Takasaki, who is quite a master soloist with a strong rhythmic style. Sometimes I feel he wanted to imitate Eddie Van Halen, even with his flamboyant style of dress. Other times his musical stylings resemble a more melodic Yngwie Malmsteen shred attack. But the one thing Akira Takasaki is very good at is crafting powerful guitar leads and solid chord progressions.

The two bands that come to mind in comparison are Van Halen and AC/DC, and yet Japan's Loudness were peaking at a later date and managed to greatly differentiate themselves. Shadows of War is my favorite track on the album, opening up with a slick clean guitar passage and bursting out into an atmospheric riff romp that seems to have in mind a fight on the city streets. The guitar tone is very crisp for the year of the recording. Takasaki's guitaristic sensibilities shine through with piercing leads and James Bond chord progressions.

Worth mentioning is Minoru Niihara's competent if understated vocal performance throughout the album. It's a bit typical for Japanese male vocals, but at times he soars higher than expected in the Western style with a fluttering vibrato following closely behind. 1000 Eyes is a good rocker in the traditional Loudness style, meaning a catchy, accessible chorus and good songwriting throughout, with stylish guitar soloing.

I feel that a couple songs fall just a bit short, like Face To Face and Complication. Who Knows is a bizarre track that's like a rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs. A few of the tracks that I have already mentioned really nail it, and that is when Loudness is simply a pleasure to listen to. There aren't any bad moments on the album, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who fancies themselves a traditional heavy metal fan. Moreover, if you are a serious guitar player, you're definitely going to want to hear what Akira Takasaki can do. If you only listen to one Japanese metal band, this is certainly one of the most historically important (along with Bow Wow) that you should check out.

Soundtrack to the real “Tokyo nights” - 86%

Nightlock, May 25th, 2008

“Point to the midnight moon, it’s still too far...!”

Since the earliest days of heavy metal bands have been using vast amounts of Japanese culture and art as a strong driving influence to deliver cutting edge music. Earliest examples I know come from N.W.O.B.H.M. bands like Tokyo Blade, Chinatown (and their “Run to Japan”), Tokyo Rose (Perhaps named after Riot’s 1977 Nippon-inspired rocker?) and the slightly “kooler” Tok-io Rose. Japan’s Navel Ensign has to be tied as the most adorned flag-shirt design along with the Union Jack in heavy metal. It seems there’s always been a human fascination with the distant foreign land of the rising sun, whether it be their spiritual history and cultural attributes from the past or the attractions to their mass-populated cities of the future. In my opinion it’s more likely a combination of the two.

Making my point I’ve always loved that “big city metal” (No I’m not trying to pass this off as a genre) atmosphere portrayed in songs about night time escapades and travel to distant lands. Loudness back from their highly successful Thunder in the East with more commercialized intentions proves with a collection of great melodic metal tracks that natives really do it (songs about big city nights) with more conviction than foreigners.

This album is very commercialized but in a neon nights, misty alleyway, looking out of a skyscraper window from the 9th floor while it rains (Is this specific enough for you?) fashion rather than your usual glam Pretty Boy Floyd styled fellatio-fest. Let It Go their MTV effort is a bit of a toothless monster, really not hitting heavy enough bordering on a glam sound, But that aside the rest of the album is pretty consistent. Black Star Oblivion and Complication sound like they were written in the Thunder in the East song writing sessions, with that same energetic almost frantic style of riffing. Ashes in the Sky (A.K.A: Shadows of War) and Street Life Dream are the album highlights though. Both complex “ballad-esque” songs with mesmerizing both lead and clean guitar (Or best yet a combination of both; see Street Life Dream chorus). Speaking of which Akira Takasaki is defiantly at the best of his game here, focusing a little less on frantic riff work in favour for more atmosphere and original chord progressions. The lead guitar however is out of this world, Less Van Halen attitude more Malmsteen straight out shredding played in a controlled mix of style and speed, Comparable to Yngwie’s 1988 Odyssey but without the synth. The other members of Loudness all play pretty career-best stuff but Akira Takasaki is really in the spotlight. Who Knows (Time To Time A Stand) also deserves a mention as possibly the most un-even song writing in history, The song features seriously the best chorus Loudness have ever written. Catchy hooks, heavy, great finger gymnastics, melodic guitar-work it’s pretty much perfect for Loudness standards. But the rest of the song is just so soft and wimpy. It’s like the song was made up from leftover un-used riffs and they just put it together anyway. Great lead and backing vocal work, Minoru’s screaming emotional, aggressive vocals are so great here, by far his standout performance on the album.

After Lightning Strikes Loudness became too much about media attention releasing fairly hit or miss albums before changing direction and moving away from the traditional metal sound they were founded on. Out of the commercial melodic metal era of Loudness (’86 – ’91) Lightning Strikes is the only album that deserved to really make it commercially, which is pretty much what they strived for.

I should also mention Shadows of War and Lightning Strikes are the same album. Apart from the rearranged track-list and one song (Ashes in the Sky) titled differently (Shadows of War). Maybe Lightning Strikes is for the American market and Shadows of War for the Japanese (As was release around a month before Lightning Strikes). Anyway Lightning Strikes has a cover art more fitting to the general feel of the album and I know the track arrangements better.

A Logical Follow-Up - 85%

SlayedNecros, October 7th, 2005

Some people dog a band for progressing too much between albums, while some dog them for not progressing enough. I've never understood the later (maybe it's because I love AC/DC). This is the second english speaking album from Loudness and it's the logical successor to "Thunder in the east".
This album did not receive the press or air time in the states that "Thunder" did, however, it is nearly as good. Akira shreds (as usual), and the songs are catchy and heavy (in an AOR type fashion). The singer still sounds helplessly Japanese, however, that is part of the charm of Loudness, IMO. You want songs; well okay-'Let it go' rivals the best from "Thunder" ('Crazy Nights', and 'Heavy Chains'), and 'Dark Desire' is another crusher. IMO, Akira is Japan's answer to Eddie Van halen as he can rip an awesome solo or lay down at rthymn, and he does plenty of both on this album.
The drumming and bass work are solid if unspectaculor, and fit the songs perfectly. If you want a guitar driven 80's metal album you could do far worse then this album, and if you are a Loudness fan and don't already own it, well shame on you. Many point to their early sung in Japanese albums as their best work, however, I feel that their three American releases with the orginal line-up are where it's at. It could be said that if the riff and energy of the afore mentioned 'let it go' doesn't get your old head a banging then you don't like standard 80's metal. I won't go that far, but give this underappreciated gem a listen, you might just be glad that you did!