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Eternal youth thanks to the heavy metal cure - 82%

kluseba, February 9th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, earMUSIC

Even nearly four decades after its foundation, it's still a great joy to listen to this surprisingly juvenile Japanese heavy metal legend. This is due to two very important factors. First of all, one has to cite Niihara Minoru's truly unique voice who manages to mix controlled screams with a somewhat raw undertone and a particular accent that adds a melodic yet vibrant note to his performance. Secondly, Takasaki Akira is still one of the best guitarists in the genre who pulls off fast and melodic speed metal solos as well as gripping heavy and doom metal riffs but who also experiments with psychedelic soundscapes every now and then. Supported by a tight rhythm section, these eternally young protagonists entertain us throughout thirteen new tracks and a generous running time above one hour. The limited edition of this release even includes a nice selection of recently re-recorded classics. Since this album is one of the band's few to be released by a big international label, you shouldn't even think twice about purchasing the limited edition of Loudness' Rise to Glory.

The first few songs already showcase Loudness' typical soundscapes in a fresh way. The instrumental opener ''8118'' opens with a mysterious, psychedelic atmosphere inspired by Indian folklore which is due to the guitarist's conversion to Buddhism which occurred in the nineties when the band almost broke apart and this inspiration can also be found in the other instrumental track ''Kama Sutra''. ''Soul on Fire'' and ''Go for Broke'' are powerful heavy metal tracks with slight melancholic undertones that could have been released back in the eighties but that sound up-to-date thanks to passionate performances and an overall crunchy production. The bouncy ''I'm Still Alive'' quickens up the pace, slightly inspired by speed and thrash metal of the late eighties without denying the band's classic heavy metal vibe. If you're able to sit or stand still while listening to this energizing track, you're probably either deaf or metal just isn't your kind of music. A song like ''Until I See the Light'' includes a few acoustic guitar passages but quickly evolves into a slow-paced stomping metal track that makes you want to tap your feet. Loudness' style truly represents what heavy metal is all about.

The album proceeds with a mixture of mid-paced heavy metal anthems, up-tempo tracks with minimal speed metal influences and a few playful songs with extended guitar solos and occasional psychedelic folk influences. The thunderous ''Massive Tornado'' and the epic ''Why and for Whom'' could be cited as highlights in the second half but the record is slightly losing steam as time goes by. If the record had been reduced to the best eight or nine tracks, it could easily compete with the band's greatest cuts from the eighties.

As it is, Rise to Glory is still a very good heavy metal record that outclasses most other genre veterans thanks to the distinguished guitar play and vocals. After the somewhat formulaic The Sun Will Rise Again, the Japanese heavy metal quartet is definitely back in the game with this more diversified, passionate and refreshing late career highlight. If you like heavy metal, you should certainly get your hands on this great output.

Spontaneous and surprisingly traditional sounding - 85%

Agonymph, January 28th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, 2CD, earMUSIC

There was a time when a new Loudness album was something I was passionately looking forward to. With the previous album ‘The Sun Will Rise Again’ being quite lackluster, this was not necessarily the case with ‘Rise To Glory’, but the results of the latter seem to point out that its predecessor was an accidental misstep. ‘Rise To Glory’ is the most spontaneous and traditional sounding Loudness album in a long time. While the Pantera-ish contemporary leanings have not disappeared entirely, the second half of the album in particular is very likely to please fans of what Loudness did in the eighties.

My main criticisms of ‘The Sun Will Rise Again’ were aimed at the predictable and tired songwriting. It seemed like the band was running on autopilot at the time. That certainly is not the case on ‘Rise To Glory’. There are definitely more than two types of riffs in the arsenal of guitar wizard Akira Takasaki this time around. The stomping modern metal riffs have largely been replaced by old school hard rock and tradtional heavy metal riffs and there is even some acoustic guitar work on the record. This increase in dynamics is one of the album’s greatest assets.

Variation is also greater than before in the tempo department. Recent Loudness albums tend to contain two or three faster songs and a large number of modern midtempo tracks. Though ‘Rise To Glory’ is not filled with speed monsters – ‘Massive Tornado’ and the more melodic ‘I’m Still Alive’ have obviously been designed as such – there is a lot more material in the faster end of the midtempo spectrum to be heard here. The title track, with its classic speed metal main riff, is one of the best examples of this, as is the galloping album highlight ‘Why And For Whom’.

While Takasaki is always riffing creatively and soloing impressively and bassist Masayoshi Yamashita is more present than he has been in a while, Minoru Niihara’s deteriorating vocals were a factor that dragged ‘The Sun Will Rise Again’ down. Although his voice is still a clear victim of aging here, he actually sounds surprisingly good on the album’s two semi-ballads ‘The Voice’ and ‘Rain’, the latter an atmospheric, almost doomy track that I feel Takasaki had been wanting to write for ages. The latter could also be true for the somewhat psychedelic ‘Kama Sutra’, which would not have sounded out of place on ‘Heavy Metal Hippies’, but somehow also doesn’t here.

Sure, people who are no fans of the genre could criticize songs like ‘No Limit’, the upbeat opener ‘Soul On Fire’ and the midtempo stomper ‘Go For Broke’ for being old man’s metal or more of the same, but the fact of the matter is that Loudness is really good at this creative take on traditional heavy metal. Apart from Niihara’s voice, nothing on ‘Rise To Glory’ seems to signal that Loudness’ members – except for drummer Masayuki Suzuki, who is in his mid-forties – are approaching sixty. In fact, ‘Rise To Glory’ is the first post-reunion Loudness album of which I can safely say that fans of the band’s classic material can blindly buy it.

Recommended tracks: ‘Why And For Whom’, ‘Rise To Glory’, ‘Rain’

Originally written for my Kevy Metal weblog