By Carl Begai
I recently crossed Black N’ Blue frontman Jaime St. James off my interview bucket list.
No, he doesn’t have the high profile career, matching fame, or “legendary” status of Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford, but St. James is one of those voices from my formative metalhead years in the ’80s that never disappeared. And while I can’t say that I’ve listened to Black N’ Blue religiously since the days I had a full head of hair, I can lay claim knowing every word, vocal nuance, widdly guitar part, drum fill and additional noise found on the Nasty Nasty record. It was and is one of those things I can’t explain beyond the fact it was music that struck a chord with me and became part of my bloodstream. That they have a new album out all these years later on par with Nasty Nasty is nothing short of fantastic in my world.
St. James recently took time out to discuss the record, Hell Yeah, and the interview will appear on these pages soon. In the meantime an excerpt from the chat is available below, as I address something that’s been bugging me for over two decades…
In 1987 a new band called EZO – rumoured to have been discovered by KISS legend Gene Simmons – started popping up regularly on MuchMusic and MTV through their video for the song ‘Flashback Heart Attack’. This was followed by a second single, ‘Here It Comes’. Hailing from Japan, they played the glam metal part well, fitting into the hair-and-make-up ’80s scene running amok at the time as if they were born to it. Musically, however, they were different from their more-pose-for-your-buck peers, making EZO something definitely worth investigating for a youngling with preferences for Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Helloween. Continue reading EZO – When St. James Came Marching In
It seems that not even death is capable of slowing Loudness down. King Of Pain marks the band’s second album since the passing of original drummer Munetaka Higuchi in November 2008 – a victim of liver cancer – their first with new man Masayuki “Ampan” Suzuki behind the kit. It’s a fitting tribute to Higuchi’s characteristic push (according to frontman Minoru Niihara) to make things louder and heavier with every new record. Having regained their footing since previous outing The Everlasting – a cold album overall featuring songs pieced together using archive Higuchi recordings – Loudness unleash a surprising ‘80s flavoured rip and tear on King Of Pain. It’s not the step back into the realms of nostalgia so many fans are clamouring for but it definitely pays tribute to the past here and there, making it the band’s strongest album since the 2001 reunion record, Spiritual Canoe. Lead-off track ‘The King Of Pain, ‘Power Of Death’ and ‘Rule The World’ feature classic ‘80s Akira Takasaki riffs and tones alongside Niihara’s much improved and grittier vocals, the first song swiping a page from the band’s Shadows Of War / Lightning Strikes era, the others a tip of the hat to Loudness staples ‘Crazy Doctor’ and ‘Esper’. Continue reading LOUDNESS – King Of Pain
By Carl Begai
No matter what he does musically, vocalist Minoru Niihara will forever be known first and foremost as the singer for Loudness. Even when Obsession’s Michael Vescera and ex-EZO frontman Masaki Yamada took his place (between 1988 – 2001) Niihara was still regarded as the band’s one true voice. Two years prior to Loudness’ official reunion Niihara launched XYZ-A, perhaps best described as a bare bones garage metal band, arguably the most successful venture under his belt outside the Loudness camp. Like any long time band, however, XYZ-A’s appeal seemed to wane with back-to-back ho-hum albums I.V. (2004) and Wings (2006); neither was particularly bad but both were far from memorable a dozen spins later. Their ten year anniversary record, Learn From Yesterday! Live For Today! Hope For Tomorrow! – a take on Albert Einstein’s famous quote – is a much different and aptly titled story, as Niihara and his bandmates have made a welcome return to the devil-may-care attitude of their earlier records. Top that off with a new major label deal in Japan with Toy’s Factory – former home to Arch Enemy – and XYZ-A are primed for another decade at the very least. Loudness, meanwhile, figures as prominently as ever in Niihara’s life.
Continue reading MINORU NIIHARA – Loud For Life