1984’s Disillusion album turned some heads, especially when Loudness re-recorded the vocals in English. Now they were signed to an American label and worked with an American producer (Max freakin’ Norman), ready to break into that lucrative market. Thunder in the East was their debut to many fans outside Japan. For the occasion, the band shed some of its more challenging heavy metal arrangements in favour of mainstream rock and metal.
Out of gates first, “Crazy Nights” is a virtual sledgehammer. The riff is trademarked “heavy metal” and the chorus has the galvanised sheen expected from a song like this. The lyrics were designed for the concert stage, with lines like “Let me hear you all go wild,” and “Come on get on your feet”. But the line that confused fans worldwide was the chant “M! Z! A!” after every chorus. It turns out that “M-Z-A” stands for nothing. It’s just some filler lyrics that were meant to be replaced in the final version, but left in because it sounded cool. Fortuitous for Loudness, as it became a bit of a catchphrase.
Regardless, “Crazy Nights” is the one Loudness song you need to get if you only want one Loudness song. The riff just bites, like a mean old dog. It’s the “big hit” and deservedly so. Lots of chances to sing, shout and headbang. You are the heroes tonight.
A blistering “Like Hell” turns up the temperature in short order, with a fast blitz including melodic verses. The chorus however is a simple shout: “Like hell!” Loudness founder Akira Takasaki is not only a master of the six string (usually compared to Eddie Van Halen) but also a hell of a songwriter (pardon the pun). His knack for riff and melody resulted in a collection of songs running the gamut from vintage Priest to Dokken. “Like Hell” could have been on Defenders of the Faith. More on the old-school Scorpions side of things is “Heavy Chains”, a metal dirge with a foothold in early Maiden territory to boot. This brilliant track showcases singer Minoru Niihara’s impressive range and power. A frantic “Get Away” takes its speed and melody from Van Halen, but cranked up to 11. Takasaki’s multitracked guitar solo is neoclassical nirvana right up Malmsteen Avenue. Sheer melodic thrills embody “We Could Be Together”, a song Don Dokken could have felt at home singing, and with some licks that sound positively Lynchian.
The second side commenced with “Run For Your Life”, a complex track that sounds at times like a ballad and others like a heavy metal hurdle through a minefield. It’s the first track that doesn’t have the same structural integrity as the others, though it challenges in other ways. “Clockwork Toy” is more straightforward, solid riff and chorus, but not as memorable.
Things take a cool, funky turn on “No Way Out”, a very different track but also very addictive. The guitar playing on tracks like this proved Takasaki could do a lot more than people assumed. Impressive too is the chugging “The Lines Are Down”, which is located right in Dokken Town. Except heavier, because make no mistake, Loudness are heavier.
The final track “Never Change Your Mind” is harder to categorize. Ballady, with light and shade, it’s unique. It sounds like an anthem at the halfway point…an anthem with guitar divebombs. It’s a dramatic way to end an impressive metal feast.
Since Thunder in the East contains Loudness’ best known hit, it comes highly recommended. It’s a solid piece of metal history. It might not be their pinnacle but it’s a damn fine album indeed.