The first Japanese metal band to make an impression on the United States was Loudness (albeit a slight one, during the mid-'80s), which led to a few other Far East metal outfits being signed to U.S. recording contracts, such as EZO. The group formed in the early '80s with a lineup that consisted of members Masaki Yamada on vocals, Shoyo Iida on guitar, Taro Takahashi on bass, and Hiro Homma on drums, and issued a pair of recordings under the name of Flatbacker in Japan. Shortly after relocating to the U.S., the band caught the attention of Kiss bassist/business mogul Gene Simmons, who signed the group to his new record imprint, Simmons Records. Simmons produced the group's U.S. self-titled 1987 major-label debut himself, while the group issued a sophomore effort two years later with Fire Fire. Both albums failed to break through to the mainstream, and the quartet broke up shortly thereafter. A few years later, both Yamada and Homma would later turn up as members of the Japanese metal trailblazers Loudness. ~ Greg Prato

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