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Just what the doctor ordered - 85%

kluseba, November 10th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Atco Records (Japan)

After two lukewarm commercial hard rock and glam metal records, the failed project with American singer Michael Vescera fell apart when the singer left Loudness in the middle of a tour to join Yngwie Malmsteen. As if that hadn't been enough, founding member and bassist Masayoshi Yamashita also left unexpectedly and Loudness was on the verge of falling apart for good. Band leader and guitar virtuoso Akira Takasaki convinced his friend and drummer Munetaka Higuchi to stay and hired former Flatbacker and Ezo singer Masaki Yamada as well as former X Japan bassist Taiji Sawada. The band made a bold statement by quickly releasing a self-titled full length effort. The message was clear: Loudness wouldn't back down but reinvent itself by partially going back to its roots.

The self-titled record was indeed a commercial and creative success in Japan and is easily the band's greatest effort since its creative peak in the mid-eighties. Loudness manages to go back to the band's roots with a vibrant heavy metal sound focused on gripping riffs and technically stunning guitar solos, a more dominant and skilled bass guitar sound, some ferocious powerhouse drumming and passionate vocals that sound much darker and heavier than Michael Vescera's conventional melodic hard rock style.

At the same time, the album has its very own style because of a lower vocal register, an overall more oppressive tone and a few contemporary influences without neglecting the sound that made the band so charismatic in the first place. The record's strongest choruses as in ''Slaughter House'' and ''Racing the Wind'' recall the brilliance of hard rock legends Guns N' Roses, the album's darkest sections such as ''Pray for the Dead'' and ''Black Widow'' slightly remind of the growing groove metal movement around Pantera and a few select tracks such as ''Love Kills'' and ''Twisted'' even have some funk rock influences that aren't a far call from the works of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Loudness is an album that harmoniously unites Loudness' classic heavy metal soundscapes and a few more contemporary North American rock stylistics and tendencies. The record sounds focused, liberating and powerful from start to finish and you won't find any rerecorded tunes, instrumental tracks or commercial ballads here. Loudness offers forty-seven minutes of heavy metal with a then-contemporary twist on the pulse of time. By doing so, the band won back numerous fans that had turned their backs on Loudness when they tried to sell out with Michael Vescera but they also attracted a younger fan base inspired by the metal and rock acts of the late eighties and early nineties. This mixture makes Loudness a absolutely unique record.

While the previous two albums were mostly forgettable and even the later efforts with original singer Minoru Niihara were losing steam, Loudness is a fully convincing renaissance for the Japanese heavy metal legends. The band briefly kept this record's fresh momentum by releasing a convincing live record entitled Once and for All but sadly, the line-up fell apart once again when Munetaka Higuchi left to join Minoru Niihara's Sly and Taiji Sawada went on to found a new band and experiment further. It's regrettable that Loudness' greatest line-up in years didn't stick together and release other records. That's why this self-titled effort is even more precious as it shows a brief moment when Loudness was back in full strength before experimenting and releasing hit-and-miss records for the next decade or so. Any heavy metal fan should call this album her or his own.

Crunchy riffs, ballsy rhythms, sleazy vocals - 95%

Agonymph, October 24th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Atco Records (Japan)

After Loudness’ failed attempt at broadening their western appeal by recording two albums with American singer Michael Vescera, guitarist and bandleader Akira Takasaki must have had a few demons to exorcise. There’s no other way to explain how he moved from the softest Loudness record to what was at the time their heaviest. Takasaki’s guitar riffs dominate their self-titled, but the all-star cast of Japanese metal musicians all bring something to the table to make this a memorable, vicious slab of heavy metal. Despite being released in a period where turmoil affected their input negatively, ‘Loudness’ is a must-have record.

Takasaki and drummer Munetaka Higuchi are joined here by former EZO singer Masaki Yamada, whose raw, passionate howls occasionally add a slightly sleazy edge to the songs, which especially works well in slower songs where Takasaki’s riffs have a somewhat bluesy feel. Also, bassist Masayoshi Yamashita left and the amazing Taiji Sawada – formerly of X Japan – took his place. Especially his tone works wonders here. Yamashita did still contribute the fine composition ‘Everyone Lies’, which is quite typically his somewhat unpredictable writing style. Speaking of tone: Takasaki has a nice, clear crunch to his guitar and Higuchi’s drums sound nice and ballsy.

Often this record is mistaken for a groove metal record, because most of the singles are midtempo tracks. But even the slower material here – the brooding, doomy stomp of opening track ‘Pray For The Dead’, the playful blues metal of ‘Black Widow’, the highly Black Sabbath-ish ‘Love Kills’ – is classic heavy metal that is more imaginative than the average mid-nineties American band. There’s always a few cool unexpected twists and in typical Takasaki style, there’s more notes in the riff than you can think of. Yamada’s raw vibrato is a thing you either love or hate, but I think it adds a great deal of power to the songs.

But the true highlights are the faster songs. ‘Waking The Dead’ combines a triplet feel with the bluesy approach of early heavy metal, ‘Hell Bites (From The Edge Of Insanity)’ is a little work of art which starts with a killer riff and from there on keeps on building up in tension and ‘Racing The Wind’ is classic Loudness heavy metal with a slightly more aggressive edge. But the song that really gets my blood boiling is closing track ‘Firestorm’, which builds from a midtempo intro to a borderline thrash stomper in the vein of ‘S.D.I’. Rhythmically, there’s a few interesting surprises and in the end, the song annihilates all that’s in its path. ‘Slaughter House’ is a combination of both extremes.

Some records get ignored simply because they’ve been released in an unfortunate era of a band’s career. I’m afraid ‘Loudness’ is one of those records. For me, it’s the Loudness album that I revisit most. I love the combination of Takasaki’s most aggressive riff work and the rough vocal cords of Yamada, who I tend to prefer over original singer Minoru Niihara. It’s too bad that both Sawada and Higuchi left the band after this record and Loudness started a period of simply being lost, because the magic heard on this record is excellent.

Recommended tracks: ‘Firestorm’, ‘Hell Bites (From The Edge Of Insanity)’, ‘Racing The Wind’

Originally written for my Kevy Metal weblog

A Pantera-esque masterpiece - 98%

Daredevil8400, July 23rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Atco Records (Japan)

The 1992 self-titled album by Japanese powerhouse Loudness, was indeed a surprise for many Loudness fans. After Vocalist Mike Vescera and Bassist Masayoshi Yamashita left the band, it was believed that Loudness had finally come to an end. However, the band reemerged stronger and more powerful than ever, with what some argue to be their best lineup ever. The band now had Masaki Yamada, formerly of Flatbacker~EZO, on vocals, and Taiji Sawada, formerly of X (X Japan), on bass. Out were the catchy and poppy riffs and melodies of Soldier of Fortune and On the Prowl. In were down tuned guitars, gritty vocals, and some of the most aggressive material the band had written to date.

It's quite apparent that Akira Takasaki was influenced by Dimebag Darrel, who's band Pantera had just appeared on the major scene. The down tuned guitars and groovy riffs combined with Akira's new "beard and overalls" look help justify this. Without saying, Takasaki's guitar solo's are still amazing, and those featured on this record are arguably some of his best. Newcomer Sawada is able match Takasaki's riffs in unison throughout the album, including unison tapping in Slaughterhouse and vibrato parts in Black Widow. Higuchi's drum beats are as solid as ever, and are more simple than previous records. His drum set was stripped down considerably from the large complex types he used in the 80's. Yamada's vocals are very different from his two predecessors, featuring a unique style that's much more raspier and gritty. His vocals fit well with the new down-tuned sound of the album, and help emphasize the aggressiveness. While it doesn't deter from the quality of the album, people who know how Yamada sounded in his early days in Flatbacker would easily be able to tell that his range has diminished considerably. Yamada would stay with Loudness until 2000, but his range would only become narrower from here, which is unfortunate, as his vocals in the 80's were amazing.

The album is very aggressive, with tracks like Slaughterhouse, Racing the Wind, Hell Bites, and especially Firestorm all featuring pounding beats and riffs. Firestorm even nears thrash metal in style, a clear response to Sawada entering the band. Tracks like Waking the Dead have a "heavy rock'n'roll" sound, with an upbeat feel. Bassist Sawada makes his mark in Everyone Lies and Twisted, which both feature slap bass solos, something not heard in previous material. The groove feel in Black Widow is very new to Loudness, and in a way, is an early hint at the direction the band would take with their following albums.

Overall, this record is a must-have for any metal fan. EZO fans can consider it as the unofficial third EZO record, while fans of modern Loudness can see it as a precursor to what the band is doing today. The lineup of the band at this time was their most powerful, and considering the direction that the band took after this record, the degree of perfection is quite obvious. It a shame that this lineup didn't last long. This album, while different, is one of the best Loudness albums, and one of the best Japanese Metal albums ever released.

1/2 Loudness, 1/4 EZO, 1/4 X Japan - 99%

kgerych1995, April 19th, 2014

1992 was a bad year for Loudness to attempt to re-invent themselves. Grunge was all the rage, and Generation X no longer wanted to hear the things that made music in the previous era so great. Trading in aqua-net hairspray for flannel and fuzzed out guitars, while the singer whines about how shitty life is. Loudness, all the way out in Japan however, turned in a different direction by 1992, after going nowhere with the dismal "On The Prowl", exercise in pop metal. By the end of 1991, Loudness was left with mastermind and mainstay Akira Takasaki, and founding drummer Muneteka Higuchi, and their decision to bring in two new members effectively made Loudness a "super-group", drawing in former members of "X Japan" and "EZO" in early 1992.

Taiji Sawada and Masaki Yamada rounded out the lineup, and created a lean, killer album, with 1992's self titled outing. This is Loudness, Mach III, Louder, heavier and meaner than ever before. From the opening beat down that is the thunderous "Pray For The Dead" to moodier moments like the cool, bluesy "Love Kills", this pays for its self. "Everyone Lies" is my personal favorite from this album. The song starts out with a break from the heavy mold of the album for a short acoustic intro. Then a thundering drum fill cues in the song. The entire song is filled with anger and rage, and not the clichéd rage that is associated with modern metal music, because this is a very modern metal album for the time. No, this is true rage, and Yamada sings every word with enough venom in his tone to let you know that he is not screwing around. Taiji really shines on this song, with his bass solo breakdown in the middle of the song.

Other highlights include my runner-up for personal favorite, "Waking The Dead" , a fiery track that showcases Akira's craftsmanship when coming up with a riff. Seriously folks, this riff is a head crusher. Yamada's vocals are my only issues with this, they sound a tad strained in the chorus, which in a way goes good with his gritty, raspy vocal style. Another track worth mentioning is "Black Widow", with such a nasty, deep groove to it. This song never really kicks up a ton of dust, which is nice. It is a very groove based track, as are quite a few songs on this album. "Firestorm" is a raging torrent of a number, lyrics flying at you at a million miles per hour, and drumming fast enough to make Dave Lombardo blush.

But alas, the first of two problems I have with this album arises. The lyrics. I speak English and German, but sadly not Japanese, so I can't understand a lot of the lyrics on "Firestorm" and "Hell Bites", the two heaviest on the album and the only two songs that feature non-English lyrics. My only other gripe is the production. The drums are fairly thin in places, as is the bass, and are sometimes buried by reverb. At first, everything in the mix really meshes well, everything is very lush and full sounding, but as the speed picks up, the mix becomes slightly muddled. I had to dock a point for those two, mainly because they were small concerns on an otherwise perfect album.

To wrap things up, this is my go to album for anyone interested in Loudness. It eschews all of the novelty that "Crazy Night" brought to America, the blandness of the two Mike Vescera albums and sounds new and fresh, like a brand new band song after song. I know I sometimes seem to call a lot of albums "perfect", but this IS what I would call a perfect album, a perfect mix of old as well as new that sounds very fresh and original.