is a band I’ve been familiar with for close to thirty-years. Not only do
they have one of the best, most underrated guitarists in metal music
today in Akira Takasaki, but the general direction change for the band
in the last decade or so is astounding and pleasant. Where once a song
like “Crazy Nights” might have left them on the crowded KISS-clone
doorstep a recent track like “Death Machine” shatters every notion about
the band from back when. While still leaps away from all-out thrash
metal, King of Pain, the latest in a very long, impressive career
is a clear example of straight-away heavy metal still being as relevant
and important as it was in the early 80’s.
I won’t deny that Loudness has certainly altered or “tweaked” its sound
from the consistent happy-go-lucky feel of twenty-years ago, which is
not a negative by any means. Some of the older Loudness fans might find
the switch to the modern feel of drop-tuned crunch a little shock to the
system, but the old-school elements are still present, especially in
“Death Machine,” which sounds like a Tim Owens-era Judas Priest track.
From 2004’s Racing, which managed to combine both old and new
sounds for the Loudness lineage, the older, more experience band emerges
and displays its ability to create some seriously heavy metal that
can’t be relegated to overpowering J-Pop as Pandemonium is
likened to be by some of the more critical and astute fans.
What we have here on King of Pain is a pleasant mix of crushing
chords that could just as easily strangle you as entertain you,
providing an enticing listen for both older fans as well as newcomers.
“Dragged Into Hell” is a brilliant track, providing some visages of the
past glory and brief glimpses as to just how mature the band has become
as musicians. Takasaki’s ringing clean-tone chords between violent verse
riffs break so subtly and perfectly that I listened to it three times
in a row because it’s so good. There are even elements of doom herein as
well, especially in the following track “Straight Out of Your Soul”.
The album seems to have a hundred different things going on in its track
listing, most of which are highly laudable.
Every aspect of metal is touched on from ballad-like tracks (“Where Am I
Going?”) to thrash metal (“Doctor from Hell”). I can’t say I’ve been a
fan of everything Loudness has issued in its storied career, but for my
ears King of Pain is a clean step up in a very lengthy existence.
Sometimes change is good and positive, especially if the changers in
question understand how to implement change accordingly.