Part Three of Four – Buddha Rock 1997-1999
The Masaki Yamada era of Loudness ended with the 1990s. Masaki felt (correctly) that Loudness would be best off reuniting with its original lineup in the year 2000, and so Engine is the last album to feature Yamada, drummer Hirotsugo Homma and bassist Naoto Shibata.
As with the previous two Loudness albums (also included in Buddha Rock), Akira Takasaki’s penchant for experimentation is at the forefront. “Soul Tone”, the opening instrumental, makes that much clear with its atypical exotic guitar drones in place of a song. Then Akira cranks up the string harmonics on the bizarrely rocking “Bug Killer”, a 90s song if there ever was one. He must have been listening to Rage Against the Machine. The track descends into guitar mayhem by the end. It’s incredible to think how Akira transitioned from an 80s guitar hero compared to Eddie and Yngwie, to a 90s master borrowing from Morello and the Middle East.
“Black Biohazard” chugs unremarkably just like much of the 90s did. Leaning on a groove, “Twist of Chain” has certain 80s delicious metal elements hidden under the distortion. It’s the kind of song that makes these lost albums really worth hunting down. Similarly, “Bad Date/Nothing I Can Do” buries its hooks under vocal distortion. Unfortunate that they didn’t just let it loose. “Apocalypse” fails to build on this with a forgettable alterna-dirge. “Ace in the Hole” has more going on, with a menacing far East vibe. The guitars are like razor blades.
A sudden left turn on the partly acoustic “Sweet Dreams” almost sounds like a great lost Stone Temple Pilots song from some unknown era. “Asylum” focuses on the bass, as a lot of the album does, choosing a heavy psychedelic feel. A long guitar solo section is the track’s highlight.
Without warning, the oddly titled “Burning Eye Balls” goes to acoustic exotic Zeppelin territory. This refreshing change is followed by “Junk His Head”, a pretty straightforward headbanger that does away with the distorted vocals. Hirotsugo Homma lays down a killer beat on this one. The penultimate instrumental track “2008 (Candra 月天)” doesn’t have any particular hooks to relay which is unfortunate since previous Loudness instrumentals have at least been interesting. This leaves it to the closing track “Coming Home” to make final impressions, of which it makes few. It has echoes of the old Loudness track “So Lonely” but without much of the feeling or structure.
These three final Masaki-era Loudness albums all have some cool tracks; enough at least to assemble a good single-disc compilation. Owning all three is for fans only. It is fun to sit and listen to a band evolve, and watch them try on all kinds of different hats. If that’s your obsession too, pick up Engine and check out the complete Buddha Rock box set while you’re at it.