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When you look at the state of rock music in 2019, you will see that it’s all about one thing: reinvention. Whether it’s heavy groups dabbling in softer sounds, once raw, gritty bands trialing with electronic, synth-driven instrumentals, or even a cookie-cutter gateway band trying to add some extra edge, the genre of rock is fast becoming even more fluid.
The next band to take the leap into an evolved sound? ONE OK ROCK.
Hailing from Japan, the foursome isn’t exactly unfamiliar with switching things up, with influences from Linkin Park’s heavier material all the way to the care-free punk more akin to the likes of Good Charlotte having a part to play in their stylings across the years. Since their formation in 2005, they’ve consistently kept things fresh, exciting, and always delivered big.
Their latest album, Eye of the Storm, seems to follow this trend. Starting with the first track, coincidentally titled “Eye of the Storm,” the band goes for a bold, softer approach. There is less of the traditional instrumentation fans may be used to, instead, with more electronically-fused beats seen in a lot of modern chart music taking centre stage. Still emphatic and full of vigour; it’s well layered, has a fantastic rhythm, and frontman Takahiro Moriuchi (commonly known as Taka) stands out with an impressive vocal performance.
“Stand Out Fit In” continues in similar fashion. Lyrically poignant, it’s another pop sounding track that is catchy whilst successfully retaining a sense of originality and meaning. It’s hard to find fault with this particular method of making music when it works so well, and it feels like a natural progression for the band. The next track, “Head High” allows the listener to gather that the theme for this particular record is positivity, and is a natural follow-up to its preceding effort.
That’s one of the main charms of this particular album, the meticulous flow. Nothing feels out-of-place or underwhelming, but rather everything works in tandem as an important piece of a well-crafted jigsaw. It’s fascinating to see such care taken when putting together a release nowadays, particularly with the dwindling demand for the traditional album.
With the central component of the record clearly uplifting and inspiring those who listen, it’s full of upbeat pop bangers. Amongst these is “Wasted Nights.” Starting slow, it builds to a euphoric climax that feels invigorating. The chorus is catchy, and it’s another feel-good, cheerful effort that will bring a smile to your face.
There are some elements that don’t particularly work as well, however, with some cheesy lines that sprinkled in that might make you cringe, and particular elements of songs that don’t work as well as they potentially could. That feels nit-picky though, as the spirit of the record doesn’t waver, and everything still remains impeccably solid when you take into account the bigger picture.
When searching for a highlight, “Change” is the track that comes to mind. Instrumentally idiosyncratic, it’s a perfectly produced song that has a powerful, thought-provoking chorus to boot. When music is this fun to listen to and still manages to have an impactful message to it, it’s easy to invest in, and encouraging to hear. In a world filled with so much negativity, it’s refreshing to see such a positive outlook portrayed in both the sound and texture of the songs, as well as in the lyrics. Rock music has always been about making a change, and ONE OK ROCK is the flag-bearer of such a message in 2019.
It’s not all fast-paced mood-lifters though, with “Letting Go” providing an acoustically-geared (but still electronically-fused) slower track. It’s a change of pace from a lot of the album’s content, but one that is worthwhile. In a similar fashion, final track “The Last Time” provides the sounds people are more adjusted to, with the guitar riffs back in full colourful form, and the strength of the song tangible. As fantastic as it is to listen to yet another successful experiment from the Japanese rock band, it’s always nice to hear just a little nod to the sound that helped make them the global megastars they have cemented themselves as.
In conclusion, this record is a triumphant success that once again emphasises that ONE OK ROCK are capable of anything. From the great collaboration with Kiiara to the overall vibe of this release, there’s something for everyone to enjoy here. Showing phenomenal talent and versatility in an industry that can appear one-dimensional in 2019 is good enough, but to once again shift sounds so effortlessly deserves all the plaudits possible. Now nine albums in, there’s no confusion as to why the foursome are still selling out arenas, with their consistency in quality almost flawless. If you’re still in a winter funk, then this is the release that will get you out of it.