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Good for what it is but not a real Loudness record - 60%

kluseba, November 10th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1989, CD, Atco Records

Soldier of Fortune was Loudness' attempt at keeping the commercial momentum of the previous records and improve its international fan base and sales figures. They hired Obsession's singer Michael Vescera, collaborated with Dio's keyboarder Claude Schnell and hired producer Roger Probert who had collaborated with bands such as Fates Warning in the past. The band left charismatic singer Minoru Niihari behind, wrote more professional English lyrics and opted for a more streamlined hard rock sound. Even though Soldier of Fortune is a solid hard rock record, it doesn't have much to do with the elements that made Loudness so charismatic and energizing over the past few years. To be honest, it sounds as if Loudness had tried to sell its soul for commercial success.

The record's saving grace is Akira Takasaki's strong guitar play. He pulls off fast riffs, emotional guitar solos and slower and softer acoustic and electric guitar overtures, bridges and codas very efficiently and proves that he is one of the best guitar players in the world. The guitar play alone is worth purchasing this album. The occasional keyboard sections add a smooth and warm touch to the record, especially concerning the numerous ballads like ''Lost Without Your Love''. This element makes the record even more commercial and therefore achieves its goal. Michael Vescera is certainly a talented singer with a throaty yet melodic approach that has its charm. However, I happen to find him stylistically limited and even exchangeable. He sounds like any other skilled hard rock or glam metal performer back in the late eighties and early nineties to me. The lyrics are written in grammatically correct English for the first time but the topics are exchangeable and are ripping off acts like AC/DC and Bon Jovi. The rhythm section is mostly unspectacular but has a few shining moments in the more vivid tunes like ''Faces in the Fire''. It's obvious that the influence of the rhythm section was decreased to focus on the melodic guitar play and conventional vocals to get more radio airplay.

If we consider Soldier of Fortune a commercial album somewhere between hard rock and heavy metal of the eighties, it's certainly good for what it is. If we consider however where this band has come from and how great its first records sounded, one must describe Soldier of Fortune as a plastic product that has lost most of the band's identity. It makes me think of Grave Digger's transformation to become Digger. It's the kind of record you would listen to if you were trying to convince your girlfriend that heavy metal isn't always aggressive and fast but can also sound harmonious and romantic. This record is a compromise between Akira Takasaki's skilled guitar play and commercial hard rock music from North America. However, compromises aren't always the perfect solution. Soldier of Fortune isn't what we should expect from a Loudness album. The band tried out something new but in my book, the short-lived collaboration with Michael Vescera must be considered a failure. Even though the record isn't band for what it is, I would even recommend faithful Loudness fans to skip this album as well as its follow-up On the Prowl. If you like melodic hard rock music of the eighties, you might dig Soldier of Fortune and On the Prowl but should ignore the rest of Loudness' discography.