8 Monster 1980s Tracks from Japanese Metal Legends Loudness

Japanese heavy metal legends have been around for 43 years and released a wealth of good music, with their most recent release, the 2021 album Sunburst, being their 28th studio recording. They first hit the international scene with the English-language version of their fourth album Disillusion in 1984, but it was their subsequent record Thunder in the East that gained them greater global recognition, spawning their most famous English-language song “Crazy Nights.” The album reached No. 74 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart. 

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During their original incarnation between 1981 and 1988, the band unleashed potent sonic cocktails that rank them among the best of the genre. Frontman Minoru Niihara has a commanding presence and can roar with the best; Masayoshi Yamashita is a highly skilled, sometimes acrobatic bassist; the late Munetaka Higuchi was a beast on drums; and guitarist Akira Takasaki is an inventive, spry player on a par with Eddie Van Halen. That’s not hyperbole. The classic lineup reunited in 2000 and continue to this day, although with the tragic passing of Higuchi in 2008 they have soldiered on with Masayuki Suzuki behind the kit.

The following eight tracks represent some of the best moments of the original ‘80s run of the band’s classic lineup. There are many more, but these are a great place to start.

“Crazy Doctor” from Disillusion (English Version, 1984)

This high-energy track has that classic Loudness vibe. Here, they take a familiar anthemic feeling of the time and imbue it with their own personality, adding nooks and crannies to the structure. As with many songs on this list, Takasaki shreds like a man possessed and the band plays with power and passion.

“Like Hell” from Thunder in the East (1985)

Loudness really came into their own on Thunder in the East, an album loaded with strong material. This is an intense anthem from a band hungry for success and intent on taking over the world—monster riffs, a big gang chorus, and stellar six-string work. Try not banging your head to it—it’s infectious.

“Clockwork Toy” from Thunder in the East (1985)

One of the hardest-driving tracks from Thunder in the East, this high-energy ode to nonconformity features chugging riffs, an angsty chorus, and wailing solos from Takasaki. It also has some of the best lyrics on the album.

Some days I kick, some days I bite
Some days I must fight the reaction
Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose
Sometimes I’m just bruised by the action

Now you have the power to destroy
Clockwork people just like clockwork toys

“Odin” from Odin EP (1985)

The four-song EP featured Loudness songs and instrumentals included in the anime film Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight. They weren’t a big ballad band, but this melodic, subdued offering is quite different from much of their ‘80s output. A dreamy synth prelude and keyboards are laced throughout this mid-tempo piece, and Niihara’s vocal harmonies during the choruses are lush and dulcet. It makes for a fresh contrast to their heavier repertoire.

“Who Knows (Time to Take a Stand)” from Lightning Strikes (1986)

In the hands of a more commercial ‘80s band, this song about romantic confusion would have been loaded with keyboards and anemic melodies. But Loudness balance melodic riffs and musical muscle, with the rambunctious rhythm section pounding away but also gliding along at times with impressive agility. They cram enough ideas for two songs here, which makes this easily repeatable listening.

“Ashes in the Sky” from Lightning Strikes (1986)

One of two entries from Lightning Strikes on this list, this six-minute track showcases a style of epic, thunderous metal that, in contrast to other Loudness songs, has more of a mid-tempo stomp. The somber song opens with some beautifully elegant hammer-ons and features gentle guitar work in the verses to contrast with the heavy passages. There’s something cinematic about “Ashes in the Sky” and it features poetic lyrics as well.

I never talk to guardian angels, never look at evil past
The dying swan of sad creation, going fast away

We are born again like a phoenix passing
Vanish like a soldier’s death
Hear the breath of moving thunder
Red hot blow the ashes to the sky

Shadows of war, screamin’ past lies
Shadows of war, emotional ties

“In This World Beyond” from Hurricane Eyes (1987)

Hurricane Eyes was not quite as potent as the band’s previous two albums, but it had its moments, including this robust rocker. Seemingly inspired by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, there’s a sense of angst bubbling on the surface to match the urgent riffs and impassioned vocal harmonies. Even with a more straightforward tune like this, they still add little flourishes to keep it engaging, especially with Yamashita’s bass playing.

“Jealousy” from Jealousy EP (1988)

The title track to the six-song EP of the same name is a snarling rocker with big ‘80s production and that larger-than-life Loudness sound. While some of the songs on this release were more commercial in nature, this one is staunchly metallic with some screaming vocals from Niihara, who returned to singing mostly in Japanese here. This collection was geared toward their home market, which may have felt a bit neglected during the quartet’s quest for international dominance. Jealously would be their last release with Niihara until 2001.

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