Eager to repeat the success of 1985’s Thunder in the East, Loudness regrouped with the same production team (Max Norman and Paul Cooper) on the followup Lightning Strikes. Taking their sound to even wider commercial limits, Loudness wrote a single for the new album, and hoped for American stardom.
When metal bands try their hands at commercial music, the results can be mixed. Fortunately for Loudness, they had the ability. Guitarist Akira Takasaki was in a pop rock band called Lazy when he was 17 years old and could write melody.
Lightning Strikes commences with the lead single “Let It Go“, a triumphant upbeat rock song that any band would have loved to write. The song cannot be praised heavily enough for its sharp catchy riff or singalong melodies. Singer Minoru Niihara delivers with a knack for a good yell. Like icing, Takasaki lays down a melodic and technical solo for the sweet tooth.
Seconds up to bat is “Dark Desire”, a terrific track that encourages you to “start a fire with rock”. This fire goes at a slow burn, but with another notable Takasaki solo as accelerant. “1000 Eyes” is a bit more metal with its themes of storms and destruction, and screaming chorus to boot. Check out some bass slaps from Masayoshi Yamashita too. Then, like a high speed chase, it’s “Face to Face”, pure metal with no commercial considerations whatsoever. It’s not particularly memorable but the chorus scorches. The first side concludes with a textbook Takasaki riff on “Who Knows”, a different but decent melodic metal track. It reminds me of some of the more interesting songs on side B of Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind, but not as accomplished.
Some tricky stuff via the school of Yngwie Van Lynch is piled onto the front end of “Ashes in the Sky”, a phenomenal power ballad that would have been great on a Dokken album. (This song was titled “Shadows of War” and served as the opening title track for the slightly different Japanese release.) “Black Star Oblivion” picks things up with a speed metal track propelled by drummer Munetaka Higuchi. The jagged chorus makes up for the ordinary verses. Another memorable riff makes up the structure of “Street Life Dream”, which grinds along at a deliberate pace. Closing with some dense and blurringly fast riffing, “Complication” sounds like its title. It’s a bit too busy but certainly ends the album dramatically.
Lightning Strikes is not a bad album. It has some great tunes, but it has a few that miss the mark. It houses possibly their greatest song ever, “Let It Go”. It’s a good album to have, but you just wish it was more consistent.