ONE OK ROCK – Ambitions (Review)


one-ok-rock

ONE OK ROCK are back with another album. After having to wait for 2 years, the band has returned to the fans with yet another release, the first one distributed by the north american record label, FUELED BY RAMEN. One Ok Rock’s last release was 35xxxv,  Always coming back and Taking off, the latter being a message to the fans. 

For those who do not know what actually has been going on with the band, here’s a little background story. In 2014, after the band released 35xxxv, it was announced that they would be recording an English version of it distributed worldwide by Warner Bros., while, at the same time, A-Sketch would manage the distribution in Japan. I remind you that although Warner Bros, is not distributing their newest releases anymore, A-Sketch still manages the japanese distribution of their work. With this arrangement, it would was possible to cater to all of the fans, and spread the band’s success worldwide or at least to allow them to take their first steps outside the japanese market.

As of then, ONE OK ROCK signed a contract with FUELED BY RAMEN, a famous north american record label hosting some well known groups such as Panic! At the Disco, Twenty One Pilots and Paramore, just to name a few. From here on, ONE OK ROCK have had numerous opportunities such singing in South Korea and Shanghai, and even more, to have the possibility to go on a north american tour scheduled for this year was also an amazing feat in itself. 

With all of this being said, without further ado, let’s get this review started.

More information regarding the album.

ambitions540

Regular edition

Title: Ambitions
Label: A-Sketch
Release date:11/01/17
Genre: Punk-Rock/Pop-Punk

Tracklist:

1
Ambitions – Introduction –
2
Bombs away
3
Taking Off
4
We are
5
20/20
6
Always coming back
7
Bedroom Warfare
8
Lost in Tonight
9
I was King
10
Listen (featuring Avril Lavigne)
11
One Way Ticket
12
Bon Voyage
13
Start Again
14
Take what you want (featuring 5 Seconds of Summer)

Track by track analysis:

2-Bombs away

Bombs away has a slightly unorthodox intro, focused around a synth pad that gives place to the guitar and the drums.This will lay out the perfect stage for Taka to make his way into the track. Although the instrumental piece is a complete 180 degrees change from what we are used to from the band, it’s is still clear that some trademarks are still present, take the drums and the background vocals, for instance. However, other than that this track has a clear western influence, which in normal circumstance is not a bad thing at all, the only thing that is a shame is that their “sound” is not so noticeable in this track. The guitar solo, even though it was quick it was not bad at all, but I once again mention that it is different from the usual. 4/5

3- Taking off

This is your perfect festival track. Not only does it make you want to jump and head bang, but it also has ONE OK ROCK‘S “sound”. With the spotlight on the guitar riffs, powerful drums and bass, we have a heavy instrumental that appears to be extremely fast, however the reality is that this track has a slow tempo, but at the same time, its powerful performance in the instrumental alongside Taka’s vocals, make this track one of, if not really, the best ones in this album. Needless to say that if one pays attention to the lyrics, this track is a message to the fans, primarily telling the fans that they’ll be trying their best in this new journey of theirs.  In a live concert, this track is even more epic than in the studio version. 5/5

4- We are

We are kicks off with an intro in which to give place to Taka’s performance we have synth pads and children singing. This track is a little different from the previous one since the instruments come one by one making their way into this track with an ethereal vibe to it, partially due to the synth pads on the background instrumental piece. The chorus makes the fans recall the one in Taking off, namely because of the drums performance. The chorus also makes this track one to bring everyone off the floor. One should also refer that the studio version of this track is a little lacking, whereas the live version sang in the 18Fes had a lot more impact and was even more grandiose. 5/5

5- 20/20

Starting off with an acoustic guitar, we have 20/20. This track is what one would call an unexpected turn of events. Aside from the guitar the slight percussion and the rest of the instrumental makes one remember some pop-rock tracks. In this track’s instrumental the main focus goes to the drums performance, however the guitar and the almost muted violins in the chorus make it something that is completely new to the band, which is always a plus, especially since the band is trying to cater their “sound” to the north american market. 4.5/5

6- Always coming back

Yet another track with a message to the fans, we have Always coming back. This time around, we’re presented with a simple yet so packed full with emotion track in which the acoustic guitar and drums are the first to make their appearance, so this time the bass is not the main focus. The outcome is a slow paced track, with a simple performance from all instruments proving that sometimes less is more. The build up in the outro is full of momentum, however the instrumental piece does not “explode” instead, as it would normally happen if the this was one of the band’s previous tracks released in Japan, however the track remains an acoustic that very well suits the band. 4.5/5

7- Bedroom Warfare

Bedroom Warfare marks the middle of this album, and with this track  we’re presented with an unexpected intro. A very fast and small sample of strings will be the on to leave the percussion make its way in to the track. If one did not know who is the singing this track, it is fair to mention the fact that chances are that one would not associate this track to ONE OK ROCK, especially since this is so different from the band’s usual. One of the problems with Bedroom Warfare is the fact that it does not have a single trace of ONE OK ROCK’s trademarks. Furthermore, the chorus seems empty and to repetitive. 4/5

8- Lost in Tonight

Kicking off Lost in Tonight with the drums and a pad as well as the vocals, we have a track created to bring out all of the band’s potential. The instrumental is heavy – just like we like-, especially in the chorus, even if the piano in the rest of the instrumental gives this track a different aura. Lost in Tonight is by far not a bad track at all, however if one had to name a problem in this track, one would most likely mention the fact the this track is a little to short. 4.5/5

9- I was King

I was King has yet another surprising intro with the strings, with the cello on solo mode, we make our way into a track that appeared to be heavy and fast tempo but one that betrays our expectations, that is until we reach the chorus. Even without the track speeding up the tempo, it gets heavier. For all those bass lovers out there, it is a shame,  however the bass is by far the main focus in this track, be it in the chorus or not. The pre-chorus also had a different twist to it being the opposite of what we are used to from the band.  At some point, the main focus in this track’s instrumental piece is the strings, even if the guitar was also in the background. On the other side, this track’s build up is a little weak, lacking in momentum and once again not make the last chorus into something powerful. 4/5

10- Listen (featuring Avril Lavigne)

Listen was a complete surprise by how good of a track it turned out to be. Heavy drums  and some pads on the background, plus the high pitched notes that Taka sings at ease make any previous skepticism go away. Although one might be a little setback when they see who is featured in this track, since Taka never sung with another woman before, it is fair to said that this was a fairly good match. The instrumental was able to attain a certain power that was not present in some of the previous tracks.  4/5

11- One way ticket

This time around, One way ticket kicks off with the guitar and the synth pads being the stars of this track’s intro, alongside with the bass. Although the piano also has an important role in the pre-chorus and helps create the right instrumental piece, being that the chorus is a little too fast, one does not have enough time to listen to it carefully. This track make would be perfect for summer, since the synths and the pads alongside the guitar really give off that summer music festival like vibe. 4/5

12- Bon voyage

Synth and ambient synth pads create Bon voyage‘s mysterious intro. The rest of the track is an all in all punk/pop-rock western track. The instrumental resembles Always coming back, especially the guitar and drums’ performance. The chorus is heavy, with the focus on the guitar and bass that seem to be battling for the spotlight while the drums are on solo mode. The piano, synth pads and the drums plus the guitar make the pre-chorus a really good instrumental.In this track, the solo is different from the rest of the track but one must say it really mixes in perfectly with the rest of the instrumental piece. 4.5/5

13- Start again

In Start again, the guitar and drums in the intro hint us that this track is going to be a fast tempo one, and they don’t betray our expectations. The bass appears to be the main focus in the pre-chorus, however on the other hand in chorus itself the focus goes to the in the harmony in the instrumental piece as a whole. Despite the fact that this track is good, the chorus could use some more work. 4/5

14- Take what you want (featuring 5 Seconds of Summer)

Reaching the end of this album, we have Take what you want featuring 5 Seconds of Summer. With this track’s intro, one is left with the hope that this the album is closed in a good fashion. Although this track is not as powerful as Always coming back or Taking off, it still has its own character. Also we should refer that the collaboration with 5 Second of Summer was not bad at all, the vocal performance from both of them was on point, and really suited the instrumental piece, in fact it didn’t sound out of place at all, which is always a good thing. 4.5/5

Final rating:4 stars

Ambitions was ONE OK ROCK’s debut in the north american market and one must say that all in all this album is actually pretty good, even if you already were a fan of the band when they only sang in Japan. With this opportunity, although for some of the fans the band might sound a lot more mainstream, it should be taken into account that this album is catered for the north american market and therefore may not please the japanese fans.

At the same time, I cannot stress this enough, one should take into consideration the fact that the current objective is for ONE OK ROCK to get the people’s attention in the US in order to get more recognition, and afterwards the members can continue to do what they’ve been doing all this time, and sing songs with their “sound” that we were so used to.

However, one must say that there are some tracks that could’ve used some more work on it, be it because they were too short, like the case of Lost in Tonight, or be it because the chorus was lacking, like is the case for One way ticket. On the brighter side, Always coming back and Taking off are the two tracks that one could easily refer to as being the best ones in this album, naturally We are is also right behind these two.

In the near future, we hope to see ONE OK ROCK gain more recognition in the US and to be able to release more of their work, both in English and in Japanese, since the fans are always eager to listen to something new from the band.

Ambitions is available on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

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2 responses to “ONE OK ROCK – Ambitions (Review)

    • Thanks for commenting. Regarding this fact, what we meant to say was that it is the first time the band has a collaboration with a female artist in their own discography and not the other way around.

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