Loudness are a Japanese heavy metal band formed in 1981 by guitarist Akira Takasaki and drummer Munetaka Higuchi.They were the first Japanese heavy metal act signed to a major label in the United States, releasing twenty-two studio albums
Current Members (Edit)
- Minoru Niihara – Vocals
- Akira Takasaki – Electric guitar
- Masayoshi Yamashita – Bass guitar
- Masayuki Suzuki – Drums
- The Birthday Eve (1981)
- Devil Soldier (1982)
- The Law of Devil’s Land (1983)
- Disillusion (1984)
- Thunder In The East (1985)
- Shadows Of War (1986)
- Lightning Strikes (1986)
- Hurricane Eyes (1987)
- Soldier Of Fortune (1989)
- On The Prowl (1991)
- Loudness (1992)
- Heavy Metal Hippies (1994)
- Ghetto Machine (1997)
- Dragon (1998)
- Engine (1999)
- Spiritual Canoe (2001)
- Pandemonium (2001)
- Biosphere (2002)
- Terror (2004)
- Racing (2004)
- Breaking The Taboo (2006)
- Metal Mad (2008)
- The Everlasting (2009)
Live Albums (Edit)
- Live-Loud-Alive: Loudness in Tokyo (1983)
- 8186 Live (1986)
- Once And For All (1993)
- Loud ‘n’ Raw (1995)
- Eurobounds (2000)
- The Soldier’s Just Came Back (2001)
- Loudness Live (2003)
- Live Loudest at the Budokan ‘91 (2009)
Loudness are a Japanese heavy metal band formed in 1981 by guitarist Akira Takasaki and drummer Munetaka Higuchi.They were the first Japanese heavy metal act signed to a major label in the United States, releasing twenty-two studio albums (five in America) by the end of 2009 and reaching the Billboard Top 100 in their moment of maximum international popularity.
The band was started by guitarist Akira Takasaki, bassist Hiroyuki Tanaka and drummer Munetaka Higuchi, coming off the split-up of the pop-rock band Lazy in February 1981. The three musicians, and Takasaki in particular, were unsatisfied with the musical direction of their previous band and wanted to test their abilities in new avenues. The rising movement of new Japanese heavy metal acts (Bow Wow, Anthem, etc.) fit the aspirations and musical tendencies of the young musicians. Even so, bassist Tanaka soon renounced to be part of the new metal band, searching success in the anime soundtrack business, with the band Neverland.
Takasaki recruited his childhood friend Masayoshi Yamashita as bass player and the band found a singer in Minoru Niihara, after a few auditions. With this line-up, Loudness signed for the big label Nippon Columbia and recorded their Japanese-language debut album, The Birthday Eve. Despite the lack of any single, the debut album and the concerts to support it were quite successful, especially given that the heavy metal genre did not have much presence in Japan yet. The flashy shred guitar work of Takasaki and the solid musicianship of the other band members became soon a trademark of their performances in studio and on stage.
Finally in 1985, through the management of Twisted Sister co-manager Joe Gerber, they inked an international record deal with Atco Records. Such an achievement was the first in Japanese music history. Their fifth album, the Max Norman produced Thunder in the East, was recorded in the US and became a very successful album for Loudness. Their first American release, it peaked at #74 in the Billboard charts on the strength of the single “Crazy Nights”.
Their sixth album, Lightning Strikes, was again produced by Max Norman and charted at #64, receiving very good reviews and making Loudness a worldwide attraction. The album was released in a different edition in Japan under the name Shadows of War. However, their success in the United States moved the group to write more commercial pop-metal – a prime example being the single “Let It Go”- which was quite different from what they had done in all their previous albums.
Following this new and apparently chart-rewarding direction, the band lost some of their supportive Japanese fan base, that did not accept the homologation to the US glam metal standards of bands like Ratt and Motley Crue.
Following the Jealousy EP in 1988, singer Niihara was fired from the band, after producer Max Norman’s suggestion that an English speaking vocalist could help the band break through in the American market. The chosen American vocalist was former Obsession frontman Mike Vescera, whose voice was indeed well suited for the sound of Loudness. Minoru Niihara continued his singing career in Japan as frontman of the metal bands Ded Chaplin, Sly and XYZ→A, besides releasing a solo album,
The new Loudness’ line-up recorded two studio albums, Soldier Of Fortune in 1989 and in 1991 On The Prowl, which included only four new songs among remakes of older material sung by Vescera. Despite extensive tours and strong support from their label, the new albums were not enough to improve the band’s status in America and also took their toll on the Japanese fanbase of Loudness. Vescera, after the release of the single “Slap in the Face”, left during their 1991 American tour to join Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s band, and was replaced by former Ezo vocalist Masaki Yamada to finish the tour. However, the sudden predilection of the American audience for the gritty and aggressive sound of new grunge and alternative rock bands at the beginning of the 90s, de facto put an end to the American adventure of Loudness, as well as many other bands from the glam and heavy metal scene.
Soon after their return in Japan, Masayoshi Yamashita also left the band and was replaced by former X-Japan bassist, Taiji Sawada. The new line-up produced the self-titled album Loudness in 1992 and the 1993 live album Once And For All. The sound and the music presented in these works is heavier and more aggressive than in the albums produced in America and marks the beginning of a new phase in the career of Akira Takasaki, main composer of the band.
In 1993, the band was on the verge of falling apart, with the departure of both Higuchi, who went to play in Niihara’s Sly and Sawada, who founded Dirty Trashroad. Akira Takasaki remained the only founding member, with a band to reinvent.
In this period he travelled to India and converted to Buddhism, somehow finding the right motivations to not disband Loudness. He convinced Yamada to stay as singer and, with his help, recruited former Ezo drummer Hirotsugu Homma for the new line-up. The trio produced in 1994 Heavy Metal Hippies, a transitional studio album, where Takasaki tried to mix the old Loudness’ sound with grunge and world music influences.
To bring the new band on tour, Takasaki completed the roster with Naoto Shibata, bassist and leader of the then disbanded Japanese heavy metal band Anthem. This new incarnation of Loudness released three other studio albums (Ghetto Machine, Dragon and Engine) and one live album (Loud ‘n’ Raw) between 1994 and 1999.
The sound of these releases is quite different from the band’s earlier works, with Takasaki’s compositions veering strongly towards groove metal with heavy psychedelic and ethnical influences. Homma’s double bass drum beat is another important difference from earlier Loudness’ sound.
The band toured regularly in Asia and came to Europe, where they participated to the 1999 edition of the Dynamo Open Air Festival.
In 2000 Yamada started to be tired of Loudness and suggested a reunion with the original line-up to celebrate the band’s 20th Anniversary. Takasaki agreed and dismissed Homma and Shibata, requesting Higuchi, Niihara and Yamashita to rejoin the band for the event. The original members of the band reunited in 2001 , releasing the album Spiritual Canoe and doing a celebrative tour.
Although intended to be a one-time event, the popularity of the band’s reunion in its native Japan was overwhelming and the band decided to continue recording and live activities.
In April 2008, just two months after releasing the album Metal Mad, they decided to go on hiatus, when drummer Munetaka Higuchi was diagnosed with liver cancer. They played with Mötley Crüe in October 2008 at the Greater Tokyo Area’s Saitama Super Arena, with session drummer Kozo Suganuma (Fragile, Ded Chaplin) filling in for Higuchi. On November 30, 2008 Munetaka died from his illness at a hospital in Osaka at age 49.
In December 2008, the band issued the following statement on their website about passing of their dearest friend and original drummer Munetaka Higuchi:
“Munetaka Higuchi passed away from liver cancer at a hospital in Osaka city in the morning of Nov. 30, 2008. With permission from his family, we are officially announcing his passing. We realize this announcement came late and we apologize for that. With his and his family’s request, a wake and funeral will be held privately. For the press and the fans, we will make sure that you have an opportunity to say your goodbyes to him at later time. For the last eight months since he was diagnosed with liver cancer, he had been in and out of the hospital several times for the treatment. For the entire time, he was very positive and bravely fighting this disease. He had this strong desire to come back to the stage to play for the fans again. His death came very suddenly and was a very immature one. He lived his life to the fullest as a rock drummer who always gave us hopes and dreams. His heart and soul for music will be succeeded for a long time to come. Munetaka, we are grateful for all your hard work and the great 49 years you lived with us here in this world. We would like to express our appreciation for all your condolences sent here for him.”
The band confirmed (through Takasaki), despite the recent loss of drummer Munetaka Higuchi, they would be recording a new studio album titled The Everlasting, that was released in 2009. The new material is based on drum tracks recorded by Higuchi before his death. Upon the album’s release, they introduced a new drummer in Masayuki Suzuki. The band is currently on tour, presenting only material from their first four albums.