Archive for the ‘ Literature ’ Category

Album of the Week 42-2016: Loudness – Loudness

After Loudness’ failed attempt at broadening their western appeal by recording two albums with American singer Michael Vescera, guitarist and bandleader Akira Takasaki must have had a few demons to exorcise. There’s no other way to explain how he moved from the softest Loudness record to what was at the time their heaviest. Takasaki’s guitar riffs dominate their self-titled, but the all-star cast of Japanese metal musicians all bring something to the table to make this a memorable, vicious slab of heavy metal. Despite being released in a period where turmoil affected their input negatively, ‘Loudness’ is a must-have record.

Takasaki and drummer Munetaka Higuchi are joined here by former EZO singer Masaki Yamada, whose raw, passionate howls occasionally add a slightly sleazy edge to the songs, which especially works well in slower songs where Takasaki’s riffs have a somewhat bluesy feel. Also, bassist Masayoshi Yamashita left and the amazing Taiji Sawada – formerly of X Japan – took his place. Especially his tone works wonders here. Yamashita did still contribute the fine composition ‘Everyone Lies’, which is quite typically his somewhat unpredictable writing style. Speaking of tone: Takasaki has a nice, clear crunch to his guitar and Higuchi’s drums sound nice and ballsy.

Often this record is mistaken for a groove metal record, because most of the singles are midtempo tracks. But even the slower material here – the brooding, doomy stomp of opening track ‘Pray For The Dead’, the playful blues metal of ‘Black Widow’, the highly Black Sabbath-ish ‘Love Kills’ – is classic heavy metal that is more imaginative than the average mid-nineties American band. There’s always a few cool unexpected twists and in typical Takasaki style, there’s more notes in the riff than you can think of. Yamada’s raw vibrato is a thing you either love or hate, but I think it adds a great deal of power to the songs.

But the true highlights are the faster songs. ‘Waking The Dead’ combines a triplet feel with the bluesy approach of early heavy metal, ‘Hell Bites (From The Edge Of Insanity)’ is a little work of art which starts with a killer riff and from there on keeps on building up in tension and ‘Racing The Wind’ is classic Loudness heavy metal with a slightly more aggressive edge. But the song that really gets my blood boiling is closing track ‘Firestorm’, which builds from a midtempo intro to a borderline thrash stomper in the vein of ‘S.D.I’. Rhythmically, there’s a few interesting surprises and in the end, the song annihilates all that’s in its path. ‘Slaughter House’ is a combination of both extremes.

Some records get ignored simply because they’ve been released in an unfortunate era of a band’s career. I’m afraid ‘Loudness’ is one of those records. For me, it’s the Loudness album that I revisit most. I love the combination of Takasaki’s most aggressive riff work and the rough vocal cords of Yamada, who I tend to prefer over original singer Minoru Niihara. It’s too bad that both Sawada and Higuchi left the band after this record and Loudness started a period of simply being lost, because the magic heard on this record is excellent.

Recommended tracks: ‘Firestorm’, ‘Hell Bites (From The Edge Of Insanity)’, ‘Racing The Wind’


Pushing Paper: Ramita Navai – ‘City Of Lies’

Pushing books is one of the last things I want to do here, but it’s been a long time since I’ve finished a substantial book in less than a day the way I did today with ‘City Of Lies’ by British-Iranian journalist Ramita Navai. She was promoting her book in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart two weeks ago and I was captivated. And not for the usual reasons when a woman as beautiful as Navai appears on television. She had just published a book containing eight profiles of people living in the Iranian capital Tehran and their constant struggle of separating their public and private lives, through the titular lies and intrigue that are apparently needed to keep your head above water in Tehran.

First of all, what makes this book such a page turner is that it reads like fiction, even though everything that’s told in the book is deeply rooted in true stories, ironic as that may seem given its title. Navai has a very descriptive style that is almost novel-like in nature. Journalists usually don’t have this much feeling for character and story development. And I’m speaking as a writing journalist here. The idea behind the book may give the impression that we’re dealing with a bunch of interviews here, but Navai tells every story from the viewpoint of the person covered in the profiles and you really feel what they are experiencing. Rather than interview snapshots, the reader is part of the emotional interior of the people Navai introduces.

Ideally, ‘City Of Lies’ paints a more nuanced image of life in and around Vali Asr street than even the most left-wing news media will give you. And despite what the title of the book may suggest, that image may be more positive than you may think based on what the news gives us. Despite the strict religious background of Iran – or maybe even because of it – the people portrayed in ‘City Of Lies’ are relatable characters who find themselves torn between a multitude of difficulties with family, friends, alcohol, drugs, love and all kinds of sexual shenanigans like all of us do. The oppressive atmosphere of a fundamentalist regime and even moreso a traditional family and social circle is never far away, but Navai succeeds in giving this people a face and maybe even a voice.

To fully understand the subject matter, reading is absolutely obligated. Trust me, you won’t regret sacrificing a bit of your time for this fantastic book. It’s one of the most successful attempts at writing something that its both informative and exciting to read. All thanks to Navai’s pleasant writing style, sharp observations and her seemingly endless knowledge of the subject matter, which she shares almost effortlessly between paragraphs. A truly captivating book that should be read by anyone.

For those of you looking for more background information, I urge you to check out the interview Jon Stewart had with Navai in The Daily Show right here. Stewart is at his best and Navai is selling her book without even trying to sell it; you can see both of them are very interested in the subject.