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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.