IT WAS probably the loudest concert ever staged in Hong Kong. But then again, by naming itself Loudness, the Japanese heavy metal band has already warned us that they are serious about being LOUD! Yet the 730 long-haired hard-core heavy metal fans who packed the Chan Shu Kui Hall in North Point last Tuesday night did not clamour about the volume. Instead, they blissfully indulged themselves in the two-hour concert from the group's latest album Heavy Metal Hippies . For starters, Loudness is the only Asian heavy metal band which has made it into the US market and it has undergone a major overhaul since their 1989 concert at the Ko Shan Theatre in Hunghom. Vocalist Mike Vescera, bassist Masayoshi Yamashita and drummer Munetaka Higuchi, whom the Hong Kong audience saw six years ago, had all left the band to pursue their own projects. Legendary guitarist Akira Takasaki found the former EZO vocalist Masaki Yamada, drummer Hiro Honma and former Anthem bassist Naoto Shibata to continue their rock mission. At the peak of its career in the 80's, the group was featured alongside US heavy metal big names like Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Poison, Warrent and Skid Row in music magazines. But that was the past. The band has now downplayed its focus on good melodies, which brought them classics such as Crazy Night, Loudness and We Could be Together , and has injected some heavy rock scores, like Freedom and Desperation, Desecration , into its music. Its latest album is a good demonstration of the change. As part of the national 'Heavy Metal Hippies '95' tour which started early this month, the gig in the North Point hall featured mostly songs from the group's latest album. It was a long overdue treat for local heavy metal-lovers whose rock frenzy has always been overlooked by the Canto-pop-dominated music market. But the 1995 Loudness concert failed to bring the kind of climax the band did six years ago. The band performed 13 songs (six from Heavy Metal Hippies ) including two encores. But climax came only when their all-time classics such as Crazy Night, Crazy Doctor and S.D.I. struck a chord in the crowd. Frontman Yamada, dressed completely in black - leather pants, shades, gloves and vest - attracted most attention. Yet the impressive skills and techniques of guitarist Takasaki and drummer Honma were the only thing worth remembering. After the fifth song Eyes of a Child , Takasaki displayed his signature minor-scale riffs with right hand tapping (using his fingers to tap on the guitar strings, instead of using a pick to strum) in a breath-taking solo. Honma continued with an eight-minute drum solo featuring his impressive double bass drum stunt. But he was too shy for applause and fanfare which prompted Yamada to say: 'Hiro, you're too humble. Spotlight on him, not me!' For extra excitement, Yamada jumped [and partly being pulled by the fans] into the standing front-row audience. Loudness is, without a doubt, still one of the best Asian heavy metal bands, although the 1989 line-up featured a stronger feeling of rock stardom.