Album of the Week 50-2011: Loudness – Eurobounds

During this last week, I have listened to an excessive amount of Loudness material. Don’t ask me why, but I have always had a weak spot for the Japanese Metal pioneers ever since the opening riff of ‘In The Mirror’ hit my ear drums for the first time. The quartet has so many live albums and DVD’s that these make up a larger part of my Loudness collection than actual studio albums. Part of that also has to do with the poor distribution of the albums in Europe and the United States and my relatively limited budget not being strong enough to afford any Japanese import release available.

Within this pile of live recordings, ‘Eurobounds’, the release documenting Loudness’ first European tour ever in 1984, stands out for me. The album arrived at exactly the right time within Loudness’ discography; the band was at their artistical high water mark after releasing their two best albums to date with the classic ‘The Law Of The Devil’s Land’ and ‘Disillusion’ and shortly before their worldwide commercial breakthrough with the ‘Thunder In The East’ album.

At slightly under 40 minutes, ‘Eurobounds’ is a bit short. However, part of its power lies within the relatively short length of the album. Unlike many other live albums (including some of Loudness’), the flow of the music isn’t ruined by overlong drum solos, long audience participation passages or self-indulgent guitar solo spots. What you get here is eight powerful renditions of classic Loudness tracks. Akira Takasaki’s guitar sounds a bit more punchy than on the studio versions and the overall sound is remarkably better balanced than on any other old Loudness album save for ‘The Law Of The Devil’s Land’.

In addition, the band’s choice of including eight Heavy Metal tracks was the right one. ‘Live Loud Alive’ was a perfect answer to the many live albums that were virtually recorded in the band’s back yard in the seventies and early eighties (Cheap Trick’s ‘At Budokan’, The Scorpions’ ‘Tokyo Tapes’, MSG’s ‘One Night At Budokan’ and Deep Purple’s seminal ‘Made In Japan’ to name a few), but was also slightly inconsistent due to the musical identity crisis that plagued the band’s first two albums. What you hear on this album is just pure, powerful eighties Heavy Metal euphoria. From the amazing shredfest that is ‘In The Mirror’ to the almost NWOBHM tinged ‘Crazy Doctor’, to the Van Halen-ish ‘Lonely Player’ (has anyone but me ever noticed Molly Hatchet’s ‘The Journey’ uses exactly the same chord sequence as that intro?) and the speeding frenzy that is ‘Esper’, it’s all the Loudness we’ve come to love.

Akira Takasaki has a guitar style that is impressive in its blazing speed as well as its sense of melody and although he is – as always – all over the album, a special mention should go out to the late Munetaka Higuchi, who sounds more powerful than ever on this album. Minoru Niihara’s voice will always remain a matter of taste, but it’s part of the bands recognizable sound and although I sometimes can’t decipher what the hell he says to the audience (it’s supposedly English), I can’t help but enjoy it.

To this day, Loudness continues to make quality Heavy Metal albums – last year’s ‘King Of Pain’ and this year’s ‘Eve To Dawn’ being the best they released since the mid-eighties – but ‘Eurobounds’ remains a perfect starting point for someone looking to discover them. It was one of the very few titles I could order within Holland, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case.

Recommended tracks: ‘In The Mirror’, ‘Esper’, ‘Crazy Doctor’

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