Loudness - The everlasting 3.5/5

Reviewed: 6-12-09





Tracklist:

1. Hit the rails
2. Flame of rock
3. I wonder
4. The everlasting
5. Life goes on
6. Let it rock
7. Crystal moon
8. Change
9. Rock into the night
10. I'm in pain
11. Thunder burn
12. Desperate religion


Loudness are by far the best metal export out of Japan. I am grateful that they have enjoyed a moderate amount of international success in the last 28+ years. Their first 4 CDs are classic metal masterpieces. Most assuredly they have set the precedent for certain milieus of speed metal, due to the amazing guitar histrionics, pounding bass tone, and dynamic drum interpolations.

Once these soldiers of fortune signed to Atlantic Records in the U.S., they released 3 stellar CDs, which rivaled anything Yngwie Malmsteen has done, or Axel Rudi Pell will ever do! Sadly, after the recording of the 'Jealousy' EP, their very unique vocalist Minoru Niihara was fired, and replaced by Obsession's own Mike Vescera.

Unfortunately, Loudness fell into the glam, must sell-out style, and even though 'Soldier of fortune' was an awesome CD, 'On the prowl' was far too commercial, despite its attempt to Americanize classics like "In the mirror", "Girl", and "Sleepless nights".

After this, Loudness returned home, and the thunder in the east began to fade. Loudness never really disbanded, and like Leif Edling of Candlemass, or Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, Akira Takasaki kept the band ever vibrant in one incarnation, after another. He hired the vocalist of EZO (Masaki Yamada) to sing, and drummer Hirotsugu Homma to consistently work on a number of CDs, including 'Heavy metal hippies', 'Ghetto machine', 'Dragon' and 'Engine'. He rotated bass slots with ex-members of the under appreciated Anthem, and the glitz gods X Japan.

These 90s-era CDs were very modern, and not replete with the true Loudness flourish and flair. It can be argued that they are definitely heavy, and there is a certain milieu of mettle; but the music is staid, lacks any real luster, and is not too memorable.

The husk of the jaguar that is Akira Takasaki, is why Loudness has endured for nigh 3 decades. He is, hands down, one of the best guitarists, ever! This sick samurai of the 6-string sting, has created some of the best lead work and riff arrangements I have ever heard. He is the sonic sorcerer of the everlasting style and technique. He carefully balances weights and measures, leads and riffs, hooks and scales, ever so carefully on his guitar. He is like a yakuza warrior swinging his tempered blade, creating a hurricane of idolized interpretations.

I would again compare Akira to Leif Eidling because he is so prolific, always creating new music. When he is not writing or recording a new Loudness CD, he is releasing yet another solo effort. His chaos, suicide doled out licks, seriously promise to punish and evolve. This soul is truly inspired with a can do spiritual drive.

In 2001, Akira reunited the original line-up of Loudness to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Their following CD 'Spiritual canoe' was a bit tepid, and slightly modern for most old-school Loudness enthusiasts. There were some rippin' comeback cuts like "Stay wild", "Seven deadly sins", "Picture your life", or "Climax", but the CD as a whole was far from being a throwback to the 80s. This was immediately followed by 'Pandemonium', which showed some signs of maturity and progression. Loudness were hell-bent determined to re-create themselves.

Thankfully, as these crazy doctors of rock continued to release at least one studio, or live CD and DVD per year, they began to write more music in the vain of their past. In 2004, the release of the 'Rockshocks' compilation, celebrating their best earlier efforts, marked the real rebirth of the Japanese heroes. Although, many of these songs had an updated, over-produced feel, this was the manner in which many metalheads who were not familiar with their glorious past became more aware of such noble talent.

Then, acts like Galneryus, Concerto Moon, Hellhound, Metalucifer, and Sex Machineguns, had begun to gain some notoriety. Many of their loyal fans were not familiar with their influences from such great acts as Anthem, Earthshaker, EZO, Bow Wow and their ilk. Even thrash gods like Sacrifice, Sabbat, and Genocide from Japan began to gain some prominence as highly influential. However, it all began with Loudness. Just like Christian metal has its roots in Petra and Rez band, but if not for the overwhelming success of Stryper, the movement would never have got under way.

On a side note, I am very excited about the new Stryper 'Murder by pride' due out next month. However, contrary to popular belief, and widespread internet rumours, I am not the new guitarist of the reformed Vengeance Rising, even though we both share the same name!

As the newer songs began to formulate, Minoru's vocals had became more squeaky, shrill, annoying and less pronounced. This pig squealing approach still grates on my nerves, but somehow works with such remarkable achievements as 'Racing', Biosphere', and 'Breaking the taboo'. I'm not sure why Minoru chooses this inchoate pitch; because the songs are sung in English, and if he could just recapture his Geddy Lee meets Rob Halford timbre, the songs would flow better.

This revitalized band passion in 2006, marked the first tour Loudness had performed in the U.S. since they were signed to Atlantic, and led by Mike Vescera. If you are a fan of their early catalogue, I definitely recommend these releases.

Unfortunately, the inspiration began to wear off, and Metal Mad began to lose its momentum. Perhaps this was due to the ongoing illness of drummer Munetaka Higuchi, who later died of lung cancer (last November).

The new CD 'The Everlasting' is a befitting tribute to Munetaka, and includes his previously recorded drum material, just as Voi Vod has done for their last 2 CDs with Piggy's previously mixed riffs, which he wrote before he died of cancer, as well.

The everlasting echo of eternal deliverance begins with "Hit the rails", which strikes like lightning resounding their 80s suggestion. Ashes fall from the sky, but I begin to choke when the unnecessary breakdown momentarily kick in. Joyfully, the serene solos return me to my heavy headspace. It is as if Akira feels the need to emulate Zakk Wylde. Akira is far too erudite to copy a certain style, and by the time "Flame of rock" rolls into gear, the "Rock 'n' roll crazy nights" vibe is back in tact, with the strike of the sword, deeply piercing.

I wonder if this CD is almost a tribute to Loudness' law of the land, with its rock shock devilish arrangements. "I Wonder" truly recapitulates the "Thunder in the east" essence, and Minoru's vocals sound the best he has since his initial departure. "I'm in pain" definitely has speed, and a caustic, clockwork pace, which toys at my dark desire.

The heavy chains of modern production values are carefully lifted, and this CD relies on an old-school rock 'n roll affectation. The title track sounds a bit more like the songs on 'Terror hakuri' or 'Pandemonium', but it still reverberates with a classic feel. Some songs like "Thunder burn" or "Desperate religion" have a penchant for the bluesy or funky 70s style.

This CD is very appealing and holds a special place in my hungry heart. I know it is an expensive import, but it merits a circumspect listen, on more than just one occasion. At times it does seem a bit rushed and less inspired, however. Minoru's whiny vocals still prevail, somewhat, but he has not sounded this clear since his initial departure.

"Life goes on" is a somber ballad, and a homage to Munetaka Higuchi. There is a strong 70s proto-metal feel echoing, which culminates in a hippie stream of consciousness. Here, the band verify that, like Metallica after the untimely demise of Cliff Burton, they will carry the torch and continue to make quality music, in his everlasting memory.

Perhaps, Akira - the road racing demon - has caught the disease of despair, and loss a little of his inspiration, ruing the loss of a dear friend, and a truly under appreciated drummer. Some of the riffs do seem recycled, and not too original. Then again, he has been writing metal for most of my life; definitely as long as I've been celebrating the more abundance of metal.

A track like "Let it rock" or "Change" is a good example of this. But, hey, I would rather hear songs like this than any of those 90s 'Ghetto machine' head knockers, any day. I would assert that all the sedulous soloing remains ever lasting and true.

"Rock into the night" mirrors a "Satisfaction guaranteed" and "Sleepless nights" honourable ambition. While the whisper of "Desperate religion" espys, eyeing the befitting Buddhistic CD artwork.

The CD is a balanced blend of 'Lightning strikes' and 'Hurricane eyes' mixed with 'Metal mad' or 'Breaking the taboo'. It is a solid ambitious attempt to merge the Atlantic years, with the Reunion line-up. As much as we all will miss Munetaka, I know that in this world and beyond, his spirit will forever endure.



MICHAEL




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