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Loudness is a Heavy Metal band, founded in 1981 in Osaka, Japan.
The original lineup consisted of Akira Takasaki (guitar), Minoru Niihara (vocals), Munetaka Higuchi (drums), and Masayoshi Yamashita (bass). Takasaki and Higuchi had formerly been members of the band Lazy (which also included singer Hironobu Kageyama), which disbanded earlier that year; Niihara had earlier been the bassist/singer in the band Earthshaker (although he left before they made any records). The band's early musical style was in line with the first generation and second generation (such as the NWOBHM scene) of heavy metal, especially Rainbow (Ritchie Blackmore having been one of Takasaki's main musical influences; notice that his previous band was named after a Deep Purple song).
After having made three domestically-released studio albums, the band began to tour in Europe and the United States, and recorded their next studio album in London. This album, Disillusion, was released in Europe (the earlier three had been released in Europe the previous year), and had both an English-language version and a Japanese-language version of the vocal parts recorded.
The following year, the band recorded two songs and two instrumentals that were used in the anime movie Odin: Koshi Hansen Starlight, also released on the maxi-single Odin. Then they recorded their next full-length album (Thunder in the East) in Los Angeles; this was their first album to be released in the United States, was English-language only, and probably remains their most famous album. More touring in the United States followed, including as an opening act for Motley Crue. The band's musical style during this time gradually changed toward contemporary American Hair Metal.
After three more studio albums, Niihara left the band in 1988 and was replaced by Michael Vescera (formerly from the band Obsession). During Vescera's time in the band, they recorded two studio albums; the second one of these (On the Prowl, 1991) consisted of eight re-recorded versions of songs originally from albums / singles that were not released in the United States, with new lyrics in English and (for some of them) changed titles, as well as three new songs.
In 1992, both Vescera and Yamashita left the band, and were replaced by Masaki Yamada (formerly of Sapporo-based band Flatbacker, later known as EZO) on vocals and Taiji Sawada (formerly of X Japan) on bass. This lineup recorded their next studio album, Loudness, the same year. This album was an abrupt shift away from the hair metal stylings of the 1986-1991 albums to a much heavier (even compared to their original style) Thrash Metal-influenced style (much like Judas Priest's 1990 album Painkiller), as well as having elements of Funk Metal in two of the songs. This album was also the first one since 1988 (or since 1984 if not counting EPs) to have Japanese-language lyrics and the first one since 1988 (or since 1982 if not counting EPs) to not be released outside Japan the same year as it was released in Japan (although in 2005 it did get re-released in the United States).
This lineup did not last long; in 1993, both Sawada and Higuchi left, leaving Takasaki as the only original member still in the band. Higuchi was replaced by Yamada's former bandmate Hirotsugu "Hiro" Honma, and guitarist Takasaki temporarily took on the role of bassist for the next studio album (Heavy Metal Hippies, 1994). Afterwards, new bassist Naoto Shibata (formerly from the band Anthem) joined, and this lineup recorded three studio albums throughout the late 1990s (which, unlike all their earlier albums, were released by a small record company, "Rooms Records", owned by Tak Matsumoto of the band B'z). The band's musical style throughout 1994-1999 remained very heavy, but slower than on the self-titled album, with influences from contemporary musical styles such as Groove Metal and Post-Grunge.
Meanwhile, in 1998 and 1999, original drummer Munetaka Higuchi led a group of various Japanese heavy metal / hard rock musicians for two albums (one studio, one live) of cover songs, dedicated to recently-deceased Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell; among this group were three of the four original members of Loudness (Yamashita being the only one not included). Then in 2000, the original lineup of Loudness officially reunited. Their next studio album (Spiritual Canoe, 2001) mostly returned to the musical style of the band's earliest era (albeit with more modern production values), with the notable exception of one Rap Metal song; it also marked a return to major labels (actually the same one that released their first album) and a return to entirely Japanese lyrics (except for the occasional pieces of Gratuitous English). This was followed by another studio album the same year, this time with a newer musical style. (Also in 2001, Takasaki recorded music for the anime series Geneshaft, which was also released on the album Geneshaft Original Soundtrack and the single Shaft Drive, both of which were released in the US by Geneon's ill-fated music division.)
The original lineup recorded seven more studio albums from 2002 through 2009 (a few of these have been released outside Japan). Munetaka Higuchi died of liver cancer in November 2008; one album (The Everlasting) with drums played by Higuchi was completed in 2009 by the other band members, and dedicated to Higuchi. Drummer Masayuki Suzuki joined in 2009, playing on one song on that album. The band has recorded one more studio album (King of Pain), has successfully toured the US and Southeast Asia, and is beginning work on a new album to be released in 2011 or 2012. Unfortunately, ex-bassist Taiji Sawada died in July 2011.
- Akira Takasaki - Guitar, co-founder (1981-present, only permanent member of the band)
- Munetaka Higuchi - Drums, co-founder (1981-1993, 2000-2008 - died in 2008)
- Hiro Honma - Drums (1993-2000)
- Masayoshi Yamashita - Bass (1981-1992, 2000-present)
- Taiji Sawada - Bass (1992-1993, with appearances at Munetaka Higuchi's memorial shows in 2009 and 2010, died in 2011)
- Naoto Shibata - Bass (1993-2000)
- Minoru Niihara - Vocals (1981-1988, 2000-present)
- Mike Vescera - Vocals (1988-1992)
- Masaki Yamada - Vocals (1992-2000)
- Burning Love (1982)
- Geraldine (1983)
- ODIN (1985)
- Slap In The Face (1991)
- The Battleship Musashi (2005)
- The Eternal Soldiers (2011)
Studio album discography:
- The Birthday Eve (LP) - 1981
- Devil Soldier (LP) - 1982
- The Law of Devil's Land (LP) - 1983
- Disillusion (LP) - 1984
- Thunder in the East (LP) - 1985
- Shadows of War / Lightning Strikes (LP) - 1986
- Hurricane Eyes (LP, contains one re-recorded older song) - 1987
- Jealousy (EP) - 1988
- Soldier of Fortune (LP) - 1989
- On the Prowl (LP, consists mostly of re-recorded older songs) - 1991
- Loudness (LP) - 1992
- Heavy Metal Hippies (LP) - 1994
- Ghetto Machine (LP) - 1997
- Dragon (LP) - 1998
- Engine (LP) - 1999
- Spiritual Canoe (LP) - 2001
- Pandemonium (LP) - 2001
- Biosphere (LP) - 2002
- Terror (LP) - 2004
- Rockshocks (LP, consists entirely of re-recorded older songs) - 2004
- Racing (LP) - 2004
- Breaking the Taboo (LP) - 2006
- Metal Mad (LP) - 2008
- The Everlasting (LP) - 2009
- King of Pain (LP) - 2010
- Eve to Dawn - 30th Anniversary New Album (LP) - 2011
Loudness's Music Provides Examples of:
- Album Filler: More than a few times. One could say that ALL of On The Prowl was Album Filler.
- All Drummers Are Animals: Averted with Munetaka, who tended to stay out of trouble (at least in comparison to other rockers and metal artists of the time), and who was, by many accounts, The Smart Guy and The Heart.
- Amen Break: Of COURSE Munetaka used this a few times.
- Atomic F-Bomb: Generally live, since recorded tends to be either Cluster F-Bomb or Precision F-Strike, but yes. One great example is on the Youtube upload that has both "Rock And Roll Gypsy" and "Like Hell."
- Audience Participation Song: "Loudness" at the beginning. "S.D.I." "Rock and Roll Gypsy" and "King of Pain" would all later take this on.
- Author Existence Failure: Munetaka Higuchi was one of the founders of the band as well as being its drummer, and had written/composed some of the lyrics and much of the drum sections before 2008. He was also a very deep inspiration to at least Niihara, as you can tell from the lyrics of the songs on "The Everlasting," the tribute to him, and every year the band holds a tribute concert for him.
- And now Taiji Sawada is gone as well.
- Author Filibuster: "Miles High" is a song that arguably ran into this territory.
- Careful with That Axe: Quite a few examples. Most recorded ones are courtesy of Mike Vescera and Masaki Yamada, but Minoru Niihara is doing more live, especially since more and harsher screaming fits how his voice has changed over time.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Quite a few songs.
- "Ya Stepped On A Mine" is a pretty good example:
Fuck you! I'll show you Power
Fuck you! I'll show you Justice
Fuck you! I'll give you Hell
Fuck you! Fuck you!
- "Hell Fire" is another great example, with its chorus:
Ogre fuck ogre fuck
God is in you
Angel fuck, angel fuck
The Devil's in you
God is in you
God is in you
Holy fuck holy fuck
A holy fuck you
- Cover Version: During the time when Masaki Yamada was in the band, "House of 1000 Pleasures" by Yamada's previous band EZO was in their live repertoire (featured on the 1993 live album Once and for All and on the 1992 concert video Welcome to the Slaughter House). 1994 live album Loud 'n' Raw includes a cover of Deep Purple's "Speed King". As for other bands covering Loudness songs, Therion covered "Crazy Nights" on their 1999 album Crowning of Atlantis, and there have also been two Loudness tribute albums (one from 2001, the other from 2003). One of X Japan's very first live performances in the 80s (when the band consisted only of Yoshiki and Toshi) was "In The Mirror," and Galneryus once covered "Soldier of Fortune" in the Yama-B days.
- Do Not Do This Cool Thing: "Soldier Of Fortune." It's most likely a Stealth Parody of the Blood Knight and War Is Glorious, but sometimes this is missed in how cool it sounds and what a rocking song it is.
- Epic Rocking: AKIRA TAKASAKI is the lead guitarist. Seeing as he or Tak Matsumoto of B'z is considered the top technical guitarist out of Japan, you can imagine how good the guitar solos generally are. Even in the Hair Metal Dork Age or the Nu-metal Dork Age, he was still good.
- Munetaka Higuchi's drum solos. You can find one on Youtube posted in memory of him by Pearl Drums (the company that made the drums he used) if you want to hear just *how* epic. As another measure of how epic, another Japanese rock drummer that might be more famous to people outside of Japan commented on Munetaka's funeral that he looked up to him. To reiterate: this is someone that someone who has been recorded at 800bpm and is recognized as one of the world's best drummers outside the US considered better than himself.
- THE BAND IN 1992 either live or on the album Loudness. Akira Takasaki + Munetaka Higuchi + Taiji Sawada + Masaki Yamada = Crowning Music of Awesome. It is likely the most Epic Rocking lineup ANY Japanese metal band has ever created and will ever create. Yamada was the only one who wasn't the very top artist of his field at the time. Had it been Eizo Sakamoto or Mitsuo Takeuchi instead...
- Gratuitous English: Multiple examples, but most memorably the chorus to their self-titled song from the first album:
We are the Loudness guy, feel in the sky
We are the Loudness guy, we feel high
- Grief Song: All of the songs on The Everlasting in their own way, as the album is Niihara's and Takasaki's tribute to Munetaka.
- Harsh Vocals: Minoru Niihara and Masaki Yamada did this. Mike Vescera tried but...
- Heavy Meta: Overlaps a LOT with Rockstar Song, especially with "Rock and Roll Gypsy" and The Everlasting
- Heavy Metal Umlaut: Averted. None of Loudness's songs feature one.
- I Am the Band: Akira Takasaki. When Munetaka and Niihara left, he became a type 2.
- Intercourse with You: Around one song per album, nevertheless not the most common theme for the band from 2001 onward. "Snake Venom" on Pandemonium, "Clima-XXX" on Spiritual Canoe and "Hell Fire" on King Of Pain are some examples of these though.
- Loudness War
- Kavorka Man / Casanova Wannabe: Minoru Niihara. Despite being, ahem, to put it nicely, a Big Beautiful Man from 2000 onward and having lost weight since to normal weight, but having due to age gained sallow leathery skin and MOOBS, he writes pretty much every bit of Intercourse with You the band has come up with since he returned to it. And sings it. Whether this is nightmare fuel or fetish fuel is up to you. As is whether he is the Kavorka Man (is he singing about people and things he's done) or the Casanova Wannabe (things and people he merely wishes he could do).
- Market-Based Title: Shadows of War was retitled to Lightning Strikes when released outside Japan, and the song "Shadows of War" similarly was retitled to "Ashes in the Sky". (These versions of the album also feature a slightly different mix and a different running order.)
- Metal Scream: Most often done by Masaki Yamada, though Minoru Niihara is very apt to do so as well, especially post 2006.
- Misogyny Song: "Playing Games" from On The Prowl
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Can range from 2 to 9. Some songs can range as well: "S.D.I." on 'Hurricane Eyes,' for example, is a 7. "S.D.I." in the 1992 Yamada + Sawada version is verging on an 8. "S.D.I." 2010 JITB Festival Live? Niihara's screaming for almost all the song made it a high 8 bordering on a 9.
- Nice Hat: Taiji Sawada was in the band for a bit. The others and even he would occasionally go for the distinctly not Nice Hat baseball cap, but other times, this trope was definitely in play. Also, in some performances, Akira Takasaki will wear one over either his shaved head or to contain his long hair, and Minoru Niihara has taken to wearing one to obscure his receding hairline.
- No Export for You: Some albums have been released in the US and elsewhere other than Japan. Others have not, which leaves fans wanting to complete the discography or who like all eras stuck with the choices of EBay, piracy, or going to Japan and searching used record shops.
- Number of the Beast: They have an instrumental titled "222" (from Heavy Metal Hippies) and more recently a song titled "#666" (from King of Pain).
- Ode to Intoxication: "Crazy Night," and "Rock and Roll Gypsy" are implied for alcohol, "Black Biohazard" implied for heroin, and "Hit The Rails" implied for either cocaine or methamphetamine. "Evil Ecstasy," (can you guess what substance?) "Burning Eye Balls" (substance unknown, possibly methamphetamine), "Junk His Head" (substance unknown, again), "Jack" (alcohol, specifically Jack Daniels whiskey), and "Rock Into The Night" (alcohol, it's almost Too Soon since this is on a tribute album for someone who died of liver cancer) are all more explicit.
- Outlived Its Creator: Munetaka Higuchi was one of the founders of the band.
- Performance Video: They have quite a few, including concert and tour footage as well.
- Precision F-Strike: "Deadly Player" provides a good example of this style of usage, as opposed to Atomic and Cluster. "Don't give a damn, don't give a fuck-"
- Protest Song: Loudness seems to love this trope:
- "Crazy Doctor" (1983-84) seems to be a condemnation of both Japanese mental health care/hospitalization (which at the time was in need of major reforms) and a cry for help from someone suffering mental illness yet trapped in the system, referencing Josef Mengele.
- "Clockwork Toy" (1985) is a Take That to the idea of conformity and having to constantly maintain outside image. "No Way Out" from the same album, "Thunder In The East," seems to be a continuation of that theme along the lines of "conformity/abusive socialization drives one into mental illness."
- Yet another song from "Thunder In The East," "The Lines Are Down" is something incredibly unusual for 1980s Heavy Metal by a male band (and sadly, for the band itself, see later): an anti-rape song, seeming to start from the rapist's perspective then flipping to encourage the victim to kill her rapist and escape.
- "Shadows Of War/Ashes In The Sky" (1986) is another War Is Hell song. Which was arguably the prelude to...
- "S.D.I." (1987) which is a protest against the Cold War arms race, which became a general anti-war anthem and one of the band's top songs. Minoru Niihara actually performed it as the opening song of a 2010 rock festival set.
- "Soldier Of Fortune" (1989) is arguably Stealth Parody of War Is Glorious and the Blood Knight and of media coverage of war. "25 Days From Home" "Faces In The Fire" and "Demon Disease" from the same album are more direct expressions of War Is Hell and "Demon Disease" is a Take That to war and fighting.
- "Slaughter House" (1992) has lyrics protesting product-testing on animals. Also from that album we have "Racing The Wind," which is an angry Type 1 Religion Rant Song.
- "Howling Rain" (1994) is yet another anti-war song.
- "Miles High" (1998) could charitably be described as what happened when someone pushed Akira Takasaki's Berserk Button. It's a rant on Japan and Japanese culture of the late 90s. Everything from the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult's terrorism to society's empty materialism and conformity gets called out in the Take That that is this song. "Dogshit," the next song on the Dragon album, is a similar rant aimed at the US, specifically New York.
- "Sweet Dreams" (1999) is NOT a Marilyn Manson or Eurythmics cover, but rather a protest song aimed at racist stereotyping of Japanese.
- Pandemonium (November 2001) is pretty much an entire album devoted to War Is Hell, again, with Take That aimed at BOTH SIDES of the War On Terror. Notable songs are "Ya Stepped On A Mine," the eerily prescient "Bloody Doom," and "The Pandemonium."
- "Racing" (2004) has "Misleading Man" which is a Take That at George W. Bush with some Unfortunate Implications regarding Violence Really Is the Answer to ending his warmongering in the lyrics, and has "Unknown Civilians" which is yet another War Is Hell song that is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, as well as a Take That at George W. Bush too (someone in the band was definitely not a fan of George W. Bush, and/or thought Bush bashing was a way to gain musical popularity.)
- "Don't Spam Me" (2006) is a protest song directed at the Spammer.
- "Change" (2009) seemed to be a call for "being the change you seek."
- "The King Of Pain"/"King Of Pain" (2010) seems to be a venomous Take That to war profiteers and warmongers as embodied in the Corrupt Corporate Executive that encourages war.
- Rearrange the Song: Repeatedly. Most egregiously with On The Prowl (which almost entirely consists of rearranged songs) and Rockshocks (which entirely consists of rearranged songs). Another example would be "Ares's Lament" from Disillusion which shows up virtually unchanged as "So Lonely" on Hurricane Eyes. Also with "The Eternal Soldiers" for which the music is a complete remix of "Death Machine" from King of Pain even if the words are changed.
- Religion Rant Song: A few. Some overlap with Protest Songs (most notable being "King of Pain," which if the Epileptic Tree that it refers to Jesus rather than to a President Evil or a Corrupt Corporate Executive was true, would make it a Type 1). "Racing The Wind" is a type 1. "Broken Jesus" is arguably a type 2. "Apocalypse" is a type 1. "Babylon" is a type 2. "Desperate Religion" is a type 2 or 3.
- Rockstar Song:
- "Loudness" (1982)
- "Satisfaction Guaranteed" (1984)
- "Crazy Night" (1985)
- "Rock and Roll Gypsy" and "Rock This Way" (1987)
- "Dreamer and Screamer" (1988)
- Arguably "Down and Dirty" and "Deadly Player" (1991)
- "House of Freaks" (1994)
- Some people might argue the combination of the albums Ghetto Machine, Engine, and Dragon to be this as a drawn-out, disgusted reflection on the dark side of/aftermath of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll by Takasaki as he was "coming down" off of that life. Your Mileage May Vary.
- The Everlasting. An entire album of Rockstar Songs, as a tribute to Munetaka Higuchi.
- Self-Titled Album -- They have both a self-titled song and a self-titled album (note that that song is not on that album, though).
- Silly Love Songs: Almost way too many to list. That said, their love songs tend to avert a lot of silly tropes (and some are VERY touching: these would be "The Love Of My Life" from Breaking The Taboo and "I Wonder" from The Everlasting (which is a Real Life Tear Jerker: the vocalist Niihara is singing to the now-dead Munetaka.)
- The Sixth Ranger: Masayuki Suzuki.
- Spell My Name with an "S" -- Hiro Honma/Homma (in kanji it's spelled 本間大嗣)
- Stop and Go -- Used many times in "Street Woman" (from The Birthday Eve).
- Succession Crisis: Not only was Munetaka one of the band co-founders, not only was he a major creative member for his times in the band, he was also one of the, if not the, best heavy metal drummers in Japan right up until he became too weak to play. That said, Masayuki Suzuki seems to be more than capable of reaching Munetaka's level of technical skill on the faster songs, so the band's quality didn't change for the worse... except on slower songs such as "So Lonely" where you can definitely tell a negative difference.
- Surprisingly Good English -- Their English lyrics throughout 1985-1999 generally didn't have serious grammatical errors, although they did sometimes have help from native English speakers (and in 1989-1991 had an American singer).
- Too Much Information: Minoru Niihara on his personal blog tends to go here. Being a Big Eater, what goes in must come out... and he apparently likes to blog about both ends of said process.
- Train Song: "Hit The Rails"
- War Is Hell: Obviously, someone in the band either believes this or thinks that writing songs around War Is Hell rather than War Is Glorious is a good way to stand out.