Traditional Heavy Metal
Origin Formed in Current label Status
Japan (Osaka) 1980 Tokuma Japan Communications Active
Minoru Niihara - Vocals (1980-1988, 2001-) (X.Y.Z.->A, Sly, Earthshaker, Ded Chaplin, Akira Takasaki)
Akira Takasaki - Guitar (1980-) (Lazy (Jpn), Ji-Zo)
Masayoshi Yamashita - Bass (1980-1992, 2001-) (Spaed, Blood Circus, guest on 5X)
Michael Vescera (1988-1991) (Killing Machine, The Reign of Terror, Obsession (US), Palace of Black, Safe Haven, Roland Grapow, MVP, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Dr. Sin, Stygia (US))
Masaki Yamada (1991-2001) (EZO, Flatbacker, Firesign)
Munetaka Higuchi (R.I.P. 30th November 2008, liver cancer) (1980-1992, 2001-2008) (Lazy (Jpn), Sly, Rose of Rose, Blood Circus, Akira Takasaki)
Hirotsugu Homma (1992-2001) (Ezo, Saber Tiger, Anthem (Jpn), Flatbacker)
Album: The Everlasting
Genre: Traditional Heavy Metal
Country: Japan (Osaka)
01. HIT THE RAILS
02. FLAME OF ROCK
03. I WONDER
04. THE EVERLASTING
05. LIFE GOES ON
06. LET IT ROCK
07. CRYSTAL MOON
09. ROCK INTO THE NIGHT
10. I'M IN PAIN
11. THUNDER BURN
12. DESPERATE RELIGION
Back in the Seventies, drummer MUNETAKA HIGUCHI and guitarist AKIRA TAKASAKI played together in a pop/rock band called Lazy. In an effort to pursue their musical ambitions even further, they split from the successful group to launch LOUDNESS in May 1981. The duo was joined by former EARTHSHAKER vocalist MINORU NIIHARA, still devoted to soul music at the time, and Takasaki's childhood friend MASAYOSHI YAMASHITA as the band's bassist. LOUDNESS ensconced themselves in the studio in August, and three months later, the band's debut album, "THE BIRTHDAY EVE" , hit the stores. It was as if the relentlessly wild arming by Takasaki in the intro of the opening track was to be an omen of things to come, as the album went on to make a historical impact on the Japanese rock scene.
Exceeding industry experts' expectations, a debut concert held at Asakusa International Theater attracted a sold-out show with an audience of 2,700. Watching the legendary concert, which lasted more than 100 minutes, they were forced to admit that the claim "hard rock is not marketable" could no longer be upheld. The second LOUDNESS album, "DEVIL SOLDIER", was released in July 1982, followed by "THE LAW OF DEVIL'S LAND" in January 1983. Since there were no acclaimed heavy metal sound engineers in Japan at the time, the support of the American Daniel McClendon was enlisted for these recordings. Thanks to his contribution, the albums surpassed the quality expected from an Japanese rock act, and the band's style and technique established themselves.
In July 1983, the band conducted their first American tour, followed by a European tour one month later. Enjoying the overwhelming response, the band felt confident to launch fully into the worldwide market. In September, the 4th album, "DISILLUSION", was recorded in Britain. It was a dream come true for the band to record an album abroad. Julian Mendelsohn, known for his work on Yes' "90125", was enlisted as sound engineer.
An A&R man from Atlantic Records was impressed by the American LOUDNESS shows between July 1983 and May 1984, which led to the band being signed by the label for an international record deal – a first in Japanese music history. In August '84, LOUDNESS went into a studio in Los Angeles with producer Max Norman, renowned for his work with Ozzy Osbourne, among others, to record their first worldwide release, later to be launched under the title of "THUNDER IN THE EAST". The album arrived at the stores in January '85 and went all the way to No.4 in Japan's domestic charts. The band then went on to embark on a US tour in April, and a month later the album made no.74 in the American Billboard album charts. The record stayed in the charts for 19 consecutive weeks after entering the charts on March 2 – a chart record which is still hasn't been broken. In August, LOUDNESS opened for Mötley Crüe on their US tour. On August 14, they became the first Japanese act in history to play at the prestigious Madison Square Garden in New York. In December, the band went to the studio to record their second release on Atlantic, again with Max Norman manning the controls.
"SHADOWS OF WAR" came out in March '86. An American version of the record, "LIGHTNING STRIKES", topped the band's previous chart success, making no.64 in the Billboard charts. As the band kept touring all over the US, they earned themselves a reputation as a great live act. In those days, heavy metal fans running into Japanese tourists in Los Angeles would brag about how much they loved LOUDNESS. Back then, LOUDNESS enjoyed a status comparable to that of Japan's two biggest contemporary exports, MLB's Ichiro and Hideki Matsui.
The album "HURRICANE EYES", out in August 1987, was produced by Eddie Kramer, one of the most renowned and respected producers in rock history. All LOUDNESS recordings released after "THUNDER IN THE EAST" had contained English lyrics, but this time they decided to put out a Japanese version for their fans back home. In May 1988, the mini-album, "JEALOUSY", was released exclusively for the domestic market. At that point, LOUDNESS were already an international act, but their Japanese fans remained special to them.
Despite their on-going success, Niihara left the band in December 1988. The news came as a shock, not only to the Japanese but also to the international rock community. After countless auditions, the remaining band members arrived at the conclusion that they would never be able find a Japanese singer to live up to Niihara's talent, and hired former Obsession vocalist, MIKE VESCERA, in September 1989. The result was the album "SOLDIER OF FORTUNE", followed by "ON THE PROWL" in February 1991, a compilation of cover versions of the band's earlier work, as well as a number of new songs.
Vescera left soon after the arrival of "SLAP IN THE FACE" in October 1991, followed by Yamashita, and the second LOUDNESS era came to an end in 1992.
With Masaki Yamada of EZO coming on board, the band embarked on their third phase, also supported by bassist Taiji Sawada from X. X had been one of the major forces on the domestic rock scene since the early 90ies, and with him in the fold, LOUDNESS succeeded in acquiring a whole new fan base. June 1992's album, "LOUDNESS", debuted at No.2 in the domestic charts. The third-generation LOUDNESS line-up toured extensively until January '93. However, Sawada and Higuchi decided to leave shortly after the tour, and for the first time in their history, LOUDNESS were on the verge of falling apart. Yamada, who had decided to leave, changed his mind, and the 4th LOUDNESS era began in 1994. With a former band mate of Yamada's, EZO's Hiro Homma, having joined the band, they recorded "HEAVY METAL HIPPIES" with Takasaki on bass. During a December show at Club Citta, the band formally announced the enlistment of Naoto Shibata (Anthem), completing the line-up of LOUDNESS, mark 4. Introducing their new line-up, the band embarked on a domestic tour in April 1995, recording their live album, "LOUD'N'RAW", which captured the aggressive feel of that tour. Every audience member was credited on the album sleeve, showing the band's appreciation for their loyal fans. A subsequent show in Hong Kong marked another major success.
In February 1997, the band flew to San Francisco to record "GHETTO MACHINE", released in July, and returned to Hong Kong in December, where they performed again in response to requests from their Asian fans.
August 1998 saw the band returning to San Francisco to record "DRAGON". One month later, they ventured on a Japanese tour entitled "LOUDNESS CLUB GIG'98 DRAGON", which kicked off at the PENNYLANE 24 in Sapporo.
In May 1999, they embarked on the "RISING DRAGON EURO TOUR'99", which included stops in Great Britain, Holland, Belgium and Germany. In Holland, the band performed on the main stage at the "DYNAMO OPEN AIR '99", the biggest outdoor heavy music festival in Europe, which attracts over 50,000 fans every year.
In July 1999, their "ENGINE" album was launched and became the last release in the 4th chapter of the LOUDNESS story.
In 2000, Takasaki began toying with the idea of a LOUDNESS reformation, featuring the group's original members, and the news was formally announced in May, the band going into preproduction soon afterwards. "SPIRITUAL CANOE", an album cut by the original line-up, hit the stores in March 2001. As the band embarked on a domestic tour, fans were more than eager to see the four musicians perform together again. Proof of their success was captured on tape and released on DVD, entitled "THE SOLDIERS JUST CAME BACK 2001", before the band went on another domestic tour with ANNIHILATOR in September. But the year was by no means over, so there was still time to release another studio album called "PANDEMONIUM" i n November, followed by the "20th ANNIVERSARY PANDEMONIUM TOUR".
The live DVD, "20th ANNIVERSARY PANDEMONIUM TOUR", was released on February 21st, 2002. September 4th saw the arrival of the next album, "BIOSPHERE", followed by the DVD "LIVE BIOSPHERE", recorded in Shibuya Kokaido.
In 2003, LOUDNESS produced the "LOUD FEST 2003", featuring Japanese bands like BRAHMAN, COCOBAT and WRENCH, among others, at the famous Club Citta in Kawasaki on September 21st.
On January 7th, 2004 they released their 18th studio album, entitled "TERROR", followed by a performance at the annual "SONIC MANIA" in Osaka and Tokyo, featuring bands like Evanescence and Korn. The DVD "LIVE TERROR 2004" was recorded in Shibuya Kokaido again and released later that year. Their next single "CRAZY SAMURAI" arrived at the stores, alongside their "ROCKSHOCKS" album – a kind of re-recorded best-of –, on October 27th, followed by the "ROCKSHOCKS" tour. On November 25th, they released the Japanese version of "RACING".
LOUDNESS released a 25th-anniversary box set in Japan in April 2007, entitled "Loudness Complete Box" , featuring its complete Columbia Records catalog. The package includes the following albums: "The Birthday Eve" (1981), "Devil Soldier" (1982), "The Law Of Devil's Land" (1983), "Disillusion" (Japanese and English versions) (1984), "Thunder In The East" (1985), guitarist Akira Takasaki's solo album "Tusk of Jaguar" (1982), drummer Munetaka Higuchi's solo album "Hakai Gaisen Roku", the "Loudness" and "Eurobounds" DVDs, and a singles CD compilation, entitled "Single Collection", featuring unreleased tracks. All CDs have been remastered and come in a deluxe box featuring a plastic case and replica tickets.
The latest release "Metal Mad" is was released in Japan on February 20, 2008 through Tokuma Communications. Release dates for other territories have not yet been announced. On November 30th, 2008 Munataka Higuchi succumbed to Liver Cancer.