Key Sly - Key (BC Concepts) 1996

1. "Mankind's Children" (5:50)
2. "Mass Media" (4:22)
3. "Sleeping Dogs" (5:12)
4. "Key" (5:22)
5. "Eternally" (4:57)
6. "Ghost Of The Past" (4:25)
7. "My Horizen" (5:26)
8. "New Reality" (3:54)
9. "Magic Blood" (4:22)
10. "Running" (4:24)

Apparently in the years that Minoru Niihara was out of Loudness he formed this band. Sly brings back the heaviness of early Loudness albums, without the pop metal sheen. As a matter of fact "Key" is a bit heavier than anything I had heard from Loudness up to this point. Imagine mixing the aggression and vicious guitar playing of early Loudness with a heavy 90's production and just a touch of King's X low-end groove and you might have an idea of what you get here. For the most part, Sly is just straight forward heavy metal. It is only on a few tracks, like in the opening moments of "New Reality", that I am reminded of the groove of band's like King's X. As with Loudness it is Minoru's distinctive vocals that give this band a charm. However, guitarist Shinihiro Ishihara also add a lot to this disc. Not only does he churn out some slick guitar leads, but it is his rhythm playing that grabs and holds my attention. All this is helped out by studio guru and veteran knob turner Max Norman who has worked with Loudness in the past and has also worked with everyone from Ozzy to Megadeth to Dirty Looks to Savatage.

Sly - Vulcan Wind (EastWest/Japan) 1998

1. "Green Revolution" (3:13)
2. "Vulcan Wind" (4:45)
3. "It's You Or Me, Babe" (2:57)
4. "Can't I Be Forgiven" (3:24)
5. "The Sun In Your Heart" (5:18)
6. "Snake Oil" (3:51)
7. "Hypocratic Oaf" (3:33)
8. "The Loss" (4:38)
9. "Nameless Streets" (4:21)
10. "Fly By Night" (4:04)

"Vulcan Wind" is blend of Loudness (thanks mostly to the vocal harmonies of Minuro Niihara), more modern influences like Alice in Chains and a slight 1970's vibe. This is especially true of "Fly By Night", a song that reminded me slightly of Jimi Hendrix. ("Fly By Night" is not the Rush song of the same name, although that would have been cool.) I actually prefer the older influences myself, but as with the newer Loudness CDs, the musicianship and songwriting is quite inviting. Within a day of listening for the first time I was already popping the disc into my CD player for another listen.

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