M!Z!A! Those letters might the most famous letters Japanese metal heads have ever written. They belong in the chorus of their most famous song – and the closest thing to a hit they have ever had – “Crazy Nights” from their most loved album Thunder In The East (1985) and also the first tune I ever heard by the band. What MZA means or stands for, I have no clue, so if anyone has an idea, please let me know. I can’t say that I am a huge fan of the band but I really like the trilogy of Thunder In The East, Lightning Strikes (1986) and Hurricane Eyes (1987). When original lead singer Minoru Niihara left the band in 1988, Loudness decided to go for a more international approach and hired American singer Mike Vescera (later in Yngwie Malmsteen’s band) but even though that version’s debut album Soldier Of Fortune (1989) was a pretty good record, I felt they had lost much of their identity and they sounded just like every other metal act out there. And that was when I lost interest in the band and let them go.
Fact is, I thought that the band split up after the follow-up On The Prowl (1991) so when we wrote 2004 and I found out that they had a new album out, called Racing, I thought they had reunited. Little did I know that the band never split up at all and that they ha released albums throughout all those years. I didn’t like Racing at all which meant that I lost interest once again and the same thing happened once again. When I got the news that Loudness were booked for Sweden Rock in 2017, I thought they had reunited once more and that their new record was a reunion album. Wrong again. A quick google told me that Loudness have released no less than 29 studio album since 1981, most of them I have been completely oblivious to. So the new album is just that – another new album. And it is the original line-up – singer Niihara, guitarist Akida Takasaki, bass player Masayoshi Yamasita with drummer Masayuki Suzuki who have replaced Munetaka Higuchi who passed away in 2008. Despite me not being that a big fan of the band, I was quite intrigued to find out what the band had come up with – and if the record was anything to hang in the Christmas Tree, to use a Swedish phrase.
The album opens with a short intro called “8118” before the first tune, the single “Soul On Fire” fires away. The tune is a real blast from the past that embraces Loudness’ classic 80’s roots and Akira Takasaki riffs away like there’s no tomorrow. It is heavy and hard but it lacks a truly memorable chorus which makes the tune somewhat forgettable. It’s an ok tune that could have been really good with some attached catchiness. The guys visit thrash metal territory with “I’m Still Alive”, a fast and ferocious blaster. Based on speed and aggression the tune beats the hell out of the listener. But where are the melodies? To me, it just sounds like the song kicks and screams without any nuances or structure. I’m lost here. They shape things up with “Go For Broke” that contains some classic Loudness riffing, a really memorable main melody and also a softer part that makes for some breathing room. The memorable chorus also sounds like classic Loudness so this one gets the thumbs up.
“Until I See The Light” calms things down a bit as the tune comes in a slower pace and pretty close to a ballad. It’s quite heavy but sports a really good vocal melody. And the refrain is catchy enough without being the least radio-friendly. Good one. More in the vein of melodic hard rock is “The Voice”, the most accessible tune on the album. When they write songs where pop goes hand in hand with metal, they’re great and I would love more songs like this. “Massive Tornado” is a brutal assault that will leave you with scars. It’s heavy, fast and brutal with a clear speed metal influence. The fact that it slows down and heavies up in the middle section makes for some variation but I still have a hard time grasping it. It’s not bad but it’s not nuanced enough for me which makes it hard to remember. “Karma Sutra” is a quite progressive instrumental tune that includes both jazzy and fusion bits. But Takasaki also brings us some heavy riffing and it ends with a drum solo. It’s ok but it fails to grab a hold on me.
The title track takes us back to the old days of the band and the tune blasts fast and hard – a real metal track. An unexpected progressive break in the middle makes the tune unpredictable but for the most, the song leaves me cold. Again, not bad, but it doesn’t rock my world. “Why And For Whom” is a straight ahead metal song, heavy with some progressive ingredients. The chorus comes with some catchiness but the song just don’t stand out enough. “No Limits” takes us back to the Thunder In The East days and it is a very plain metal song. There are some catchy moments here but the tune is underwhelming and doesn’t stick at all. The ballad “Rain” slows things down but expect no cheesy power balladry here. This is a heavy and dark tune that holds some really fat metal riffs that is almost Candlemass doomy. I really like this one. The closing bonus track “Let’s All Rock” is a nice try to make a party rocker, it’s pretty heavy but with a sleaze vibe. The whole tune is a bit too cliché but on the other hand it does its job breaking the musical mold here.
There’s no doubt that the guys in Loudness are terrific musicians that knows what they’re doing but there’s a reason why they never made it to the top league. They just weren’t all that as song writers – and this record is no exception. For the most their songs just goes on and on without ever reaching the goal. On this album, the songs just don’t stick and there’s a big cloud of monotony that rests over the album and when I’m done listening, I don’t remember squat! Besides, 13 songs on an album like this is at least three too many. There are a few really good songs here but they need more of them to make a full-length album lift. My guess is that the rise to glory that the title suggests will have to wait – if it ever happens.
1. 8118 (Instrumental)
2. Soul On Fire
3. I´m Still Alive
4. Go For Broke
5. Until I See The Light
6. The Voice
7. Massive Tornado
8. Kama Sutra (Instrumental)
9. Rise To Glory
10. Why And For Whom
11. No Limits
13. Let´s All Rock (Bonus Track)