The Birthday Eve

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As one of Japan's first heavy metal bands, Loudness was quite literally playing it by ear when the group released its first album, 1981's The Birthday Eve. A somewhat awkward affair, the album finds the young but ambitious members of the quartet struggling to establish their identity by translating whatever sounds and styles they could from the established Western metal bands of the time. Interestingly, Loudness made it a point to give their songs English titles from the very get-go, even though, except for the very basic choruses, all the songs were still sung in Japanese by vocalist Minoru Niihara. Despite this curious arrangement, from a musical standpoint the band is already remarkably proficient here, as seen on surprisingly mature offerings like "To Be Demon" and "Rock Shock (More and More)." Guitarist Akira Takasaki is already firmly established as the band's leader, but his obsessions with Van Halen-styled guitar pyrotechnics sometimes get the best of him, resulting in somewhat derivative tracks like "I'm on Fire" and "Sexy Woman." A promising start nonetheless.

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