LOUDNESS

ラウドネッス

major - active (1981 - )
LOUDNESS are the pioneers and mainstays of Japanese metal. Internationally, they are the most recognized Japanese rock band, having toured every major continent since the beginning of their career. Their early material is standard '80s rock/metal, but in later years they've opted for a more aggressive sound.

The band's line-up changed often during the height of their success, even incorporating American vocalist Mike Vescera and TAIJI of X JAPAN fame. However, the band returned to its original line-up in 2000.
author: Scottie & MDS (2011-08-18)
line up
LOUDNESS was created in May 1981 by former members of the 1970’s pop band Lazy, drummer Munetaka Higuchi and guitarist Akira Takasaki. Originally, the bassist of Lazy, Hiroyuki Tanaka, was also a member, but left soon after their formation due to musical differences. This didn’t discourage Higuchi and Takasaki, and soon they were joined by soul singer Minoru Niihara, formerly of Earthshaker, and Takasaki’s childhood friend, bassist Masayoshi Yamashita. All were united by a desire to explore heavier styles of music.

Because three-quarters of the band were experienced musicians, they went directly into studios and released their debut album, The Birthday Eve, in November 1981. This album created Japanese rock history as the first true heavy metal album released in the Land of the Rising Sun, courtesy of Takasaki’s shredding and Niihara’s relentless vocals.

The Japanese record industry doubted that a hard rock act could be a marketable asset, but soon began to think otherwise once LOUDNESS held their debut concert at Asakusa International Theater. A sold-out crowd of 2,700 fans watched the 100+ minute concert in awe as the foursome blasted its way into their hearts.

Not too long afterward, it was time for another album. However, the band wanted to achieve a better sound on their next recording, something that would rival American metal acts. They hired an American sound engineer, Daniel McClendon, known for his work on American heavy metal albums, to record Devil Soldier and Law of Devil’s Land. The result surpassed anything previously released on the Japanese rock market.

When Summer 1983 arrived, LOUDNESS embarked on a world tour that led them from the US to Europe. During the shows, the crowd response was amazing. The band knew they had made an impact, winning over more fans.

The band toured in the US again in 1984 after releasing Disillusion, which caught Atlantic Records’ attention. Eventually, a contract was signed and LOUDNESS had their first international record deal.

With Atlantic Records, they released Thunder in the East in 1985 as their first worldwide album which was also their first album with entirely English lyrics. It climbed to number 4 on Japan’s domestic charts and number 74 on the US Billboard charts. It remained there for 19 consecutive weeks, a record that has yet to be broken.

In August 1985, they opened for Mötley Crüe on their US tour. On August 14, they became the first Japanese band in history to play at the prestigious Madison Square Garden in New York.

Five more albums were released in the years following, including the Japanese-only mini-album, Jealousy, a release that showed they had not forgotten their fans back home, as well as Hurricane Eyes, their last album to enter the US Billboard charts.

Niihara left the band in December 1988. The news came as a shock not only to the Japanese rock community but to the entire rock world as well.

After countless auditions, the remaining band members came to the conclusion that they would never be able find a Japanese singer that could match Niihara's ability. They opted to look overseas for an English speaking vocalist. American Mike Vescera (ex-Obsession) was hired.

Mike Vescera recorded two albums with them, although it didn’t help the band’s status in either Japan or America. He left in 1991 in the midst of their American tour. Luckily, Masaki Yamada (ex-EZO) took up the reigns and finished the tour.

Before their self-titled album in 1992, Masayoshi Yamashita also left the band and was replaced by TAIJI of X JAPAN fame. Only a year later did TAIJI quit and with him left Higuchi.

LOUDNESS seemed to be on the verge of disbanding. Fortunately, Yamada, who had also decided to quit, changed his mind and brought his former EZO bandmate, Hirotsugu Homma, on board. In 1994, they recorded HEAVY METAL HIPPIES with Takasaki who took over bass. During a live show in December of that year, they officially announced the addition of Naoto Shibata (ex-Anthem).

Throughout the rest of the '90s this line-up released three studio albums.

With the 20th anniversary of the band approaching, it was announced in May 2000 that all of the original members would reunite in celebration. Although it was meant to be a one-time event, due to overwhelming popularity, the old bandmates soon found themselves together again in the studio. Their album Spiritual Canoe, hit the stores in March 2001; a successful domestic tour followed.

For the next several years, the band consistently released at least one original album a year. In 2005, they released a 25th anniversary box set which included several of their albums, as well as Takasaki’s and Higuchi’s respective solo releases.

In April 2008, after the release of Metal Mad, the band went on hiatus after Higuchi was diagnosed with liver cancer. In October, LOUDNESS made a special guest appearance at Mötley Crüe ’s live at the Super Saitama Arena, with Kozo Suganuma (FRAGILE) standing in for drums. A month later, Higuchi passed at the age of 49. However, Higuchi’s music would live on. The 2009 album, The Everlasting, featured drum tracks recorded by the beloved member before his death. He was ultimately succeeded but not replaced by Masayuki Suzuki.

2010 saw many releases for the band: a new live DVD, a new album and a new single. A European/Asian tour followed afterward, during which they found time to participate in Japan’s famous summertime festival known as JACK IN THE BOX.

In 2011, with all sorts of good press backing them up and their 30th anniversary coming up, LOUDNESS decided it was time to celebrate a little. They released the year’s previous tour on a DVD entitled LOUDNESS World Circuit 2010: Complete Live DVD and announced a tour that would see the pioneers of Japanese metal return to the USA for the first time in five years.

LOUDNESS surpassed all expectations when they conquered Japan with their metal vibes and went onto achieve international success, one of the first Japanese bands to do so. Despite changes to the line-up and style, the glory days and dark ages, and even loss, the original Japanese kings of metal continue to pour their hearts into music. Takasaki has said, “No matter the member changes, LOUDNESS will never dissolve. We are a band which represents Japan and will continue on forever, even if I, too, should leave.”
author: Scottie & MDS (2011-08-18)
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