REVIEW: Loudness – Dragon (1998)

Part Two of Four – Buddha Rock 1997-1999

 

LOUDNESS – Dragon (1998 Rooms, from the box set Buddha Rock 1997-1999)

Lucky 13th album for Loudness?  Maybe not, but it is an uptick from the prior release Ghetto Machine.  The band just kept on going, with only Akira Takasaki remaining from the original lineup.  Their third singer Masaki Yamada was on his fourth album with Loudness, and by now they had established a heavy alterna-metal 90s sound.  It is the strongest of the three albums of the Buddha Rock era.

Loudness had become fearless, blending thrash and funk together on “9 Mile High”.  Those who don’t enjoy Masaki’s growling style won’t be turned around here.  Those who like it fast enough to make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs will not have a problem.  It skips between thrash and funk without warning.

The appetizingly titled “Dogshit” could only have come from the 1990s.  Harmonic drones are substituted for a main riff, and Masaki’s vocal is closer to rap metal.  Yet there’s something irresistible about it.  “Dog shit on my bike boots!” sings Masaki with a heavy guitar backing him.  And that’s why Loudness could get away with doing this kind of music.  It’s the guitar.  Akira Takasaki is one of the best in the world, but he’s more fearless than Yngwie and can play just about anything.  With a virtuoso like that, it’s unlikely you’re going to sound like dog shit.

“Wicked Witches” is heavy, detuned, and it grooves to the max while drilling into your brain.  There’s even a little bit of early Van Halen in the riff.  That leads into “Crazy Go-Go”, a single and album highlight.  Foregoing the nu-metal, this one is wah-wah heavy and just plain rocks!  Flat out, kick ass, rock and roll.  “Backstage go-go babe, like a circus after school, playin’ my guitar like a country horse.”  (Country horse?)  You get the picture!  It’s about groupies!  (Akira makes his guitar whinny like a horse!)

Drummer Hirotsugo Homma gets to have some rhythmic fun on “Voodoo Voices” which is one of the most bizarre tracks Loudness have ever done.  Voodoo voices indeed, as the vocals are buried, ethereal in the mix.  It’s trippy and trip-hoppy.  The instrumental “回想” (“Kaisō”) is made up of backwards guitars playing quietly and hypnotic.  Then suddenly it’s a metal riff on “Babylon”.  Masaki eschews the growl and goes for psychedelic singing.  “Crawl” features a chugging Akira riff, and then some pulsing synth?  This album goes everywhere.

“Forbidden Love” is pretty cool, coming closer to the spirit of 80s Loudness.  Then go for some more 90s funk metal on “Mirror Ball”, which is as hot as Anthony Kiedis’ arm pit.  Another stunning instrumental emerges in “Taj Mahal”, which is not about the shredding but entirely about atmosphere.  A variety of unique sounding guitars are accompanied by exotic percussion and bass.  Unfortunately that leads into a little bit of a dud for an album closer.  “Nightcreepers” doesn’t make an impression.

While this Dragon is an experimental one, not afraid to mess with expectations or traditions, it is still rooted in that 90s nu-metal dungeon.  That is something that dates the disc to certain period in time.  When it rises above that, as it does on “回想”, “Crazy Go Go” and “Voodoo Voices”, it transcends genre and goes somewhere unique.  There are just enough of those moments to make this album a keeper.

3.25/5 stars

 

17 comments

  1. Another Loudness album I had no idea existed. During the ’90s you had to become fearless since there was nowhere left to sink if you were an ’80s metal band.

    No offense, but I’ve got a cuter butt than the lady on that cover.

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        1. Someone pointed out that all three Buddha Rock albums had women with tattoos on the cover. Not sure what that has to do with Akira’s conversion to Buddhism but I’ll go with it. Tomorrow’s album has the third Buddha Rock girl on the cover.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing that you find this stuff. lol You have to hand it to them as they just keep going and going. I honestly thought these guys were done when there records weren’t available domesticaly here in Canada by the late 80s..
    They are the basically doing what Vollmer did with Helix. Keep the brand going.
    Intersting stuff

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember seeing the first video with Vescera on MuchMusic — You Shook Me. Remember that one? With the avalanche over the Hollywood sign? And then I saw ads in magazines for one more album with him called On the Prowl.

      When they got Masaki, I knew about it, because MEAT had a blurb. I thought “Cool! They got the E-Z-O guy! That’s a great replacement singer! And of course we never saw ANYTHING because the albums were only released in Japan! I think they didn’t start putting out albums here and in the US again until 2014. Long time to be off the store shelves!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Check this one out. Great singer, song and riff especially. But you can tell from one note of the singer that it does not sound like Loudness anymore. Not with an American singing.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m enjoying listening! This is a band that I liked as a kid and dropped off the domestic radar. I knew they were still working in Japan because MEAT Magazine said they had a new singer from E-Z-O. Only now in the internet age can I easily listen to these albums!

      A brief but interesting period. They did an awesome album with the new singer in 1992. I’m missing the album after that (for now) and then they finished the 1990s with the Buddha Rock albums. After that they went full-on original reunion, and I’m missing all of those albums. A dozen at least!

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