Unlike their English counterparts, Loudness did not have the benefit of riding any “New Wave of Japanese Heavy Metal” to glory overseas. Until high-voltage guitarist Akira Takasaki and drummer Munetaka Higuchi left their old band Lazy and unleashed Loudness in the East – the Far East that is – in 1981, relatively few Japanese music observers gave hard rock and heavy metal a second thought. To them, such noxious noise held little potential for commercial gain. If the scene wasn’t dead, it was at the very least comatose and in dire need of resuscitation.
Into this power vacuum stepped Loudness, not cautiously but rather with all the smoldering, pent-up intensity and commanding authority of a deposed emperor looking to avenge a palace coup. By way of introduction, Loudness’s sizzling debut album, The Birthday Eve, rained down torrents of Takasaki’s sulfuric riffs and molten solos down upon a nation that didn’t know it was thirsting for the hard stuff. Like a shot of grain alcohol, it didn’t go down smoothly, but it did pack quite a wallop. On top of that, Loudness’s first live appearance was a sellout, and each succeeding record brought increasing sales – leading some to think that Loudness, despite the obvious obstacles of language, cultural differences and an ocean of distance, could repeat that success in America.
And they did – to some extent. Thunder in the East, the band’s initial U.S. release, crawled its way onto the Billboard charts and camped out for 19 straight weeks, topping out at No. 74. Loudness then went on the attack with Lightning Strikes, which surged as high as No. 64 before hitting a plateau; by that time, so had Loudness. The American invasion that held so much promise had fizzled. In the aftermath, there was a sense that Loudness could have been bigger worldwide, that for some reason they’d succumbed to commercial pressure and pulled their punches on their U.S. recordings.
Free of such crass concerns today, Loudness holds nothing back on the hot-wired new LP Eve to Dawn, an album that toggles between furious thrash, melodic power metal and traditional chrome-plated metal – see the Priest-like charge of “Hang Tough” – with wild abandon. It’s not garage rock, but Eve to Dawn, so full of vitality, feels as if it was birthed in one, brought into this world kicking and screaming from the top of its lungs. Far from polished, the warts-and-all Eve to Dawn zaps “Come Alive Again” with a TASER full of electricity and lands a flurry of devastatingly heavy, teeth-rattling haymakers like the stampeding “Survivor,” the grinding “Pandra” and “The Power of Truth,” an absolute wrecking ball of a song caught in a hurricane of drums. Going for the knockout every time, singer Minoru Niihara – that raw, banshee-like wail of his raising the hair on the back of necks from Tokyo to Tallahassee – goes looking for a fight on the bruising rumble “Gonna Do It My Way” and defiantly scratches out a list of society’s ills on the nasty, hook-happy closer “Crazy! Crazy! Crazy!”
But the man everybody pays to hear is Takasaki, and he is in rare form. A supremely skilled craftsman, Takasaki specializes in the kind of flashy, spectacularly frenzied and diverse shredding heard everywhere on Eve to Dawn, with special consideration given to the dazzling solos in “Keep You Burning,” “Pandra” and the ambitious “Comes the Dawn,” mostly a seven-minute riff orgy with cutting violins and sinister bass lines that bow to Takasaki’s fleet-fingered fretwork. The thunder in the East is louder than ever.
Label: Entertainment One (The audio CD can be pre-ordered here)
Formerly the editor of Goldmine magazine, prior to the reign of one Patrick Prince, Peter Lindblad has been a music journalist for the last 10 years. His work has also appeared in Elmore magazine and Lostatsea.net, among other publications. He believes heavy metal has the power to cure the sick and make the blind see.