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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.