Akihiro Yokoyama, the leader and bass player of veteran Japanese metallers UNITED, passed away last night (Tuesday, May 13) at the age of 49.Since he joined UNITED in 1983, Yokoyama participated in the recording of nine full-length albums, two EPs and two singles, and appeared alongside his bandmates at the 2011 edition of Japan's biggest metal festival, Loud Park. Commented UNITED in a statement: "[Akihiro's passing] happened totally out of the blue and it is very hard for his family, UNITED and the staff to accept it, but we wanted to share the news with everyone who has strongly supported both himself and UNITED over the years." The details of Yokoyama's funeral will be announced as soon as they have been finalized. Former IRON MAIDEN singer Paul Di'Anno paid tribute to Yokoyama, saying: "Aki was a great guy and great bass player, and shall be sorely missed. I had the pleasure to have UNITED play with me during my last shows in Tokyo in 2010. Rest in peace, my friend." UNITED formed in 1981, taking its name from the JUDAS PRIEST song on the classic "British Steel" album. Originally a JUDAS PRIEST and BLACK SABBATH cover band, UNITED began to write original material in 1983 when Yokoyama joined. UNITED celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2011 with the release of its ninth album, "Tear Of Illusions", on Spiritual Beast.
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