Review: ONE OK ROCK – Ambitions

Ambitions is available now via Fueled By Ramen.

Ambitions is the eighth studio album from Japanese alt-rockers ONE OK ROCK. The band’s first release on North American label Fueled By Ramen, it sees the four-piece taking new risks and branching out with their sign in a way that’ll leave fans with mixed feelings.

One thing that’s noticeable right off the bat with the album is that it doesn’t primarily feature the prevalent alternative rock ONE OK ROCK are known for. While the majority of the tracks feature an alt-rock base to them, Ambitions also presents the likes of pop, pop-rock and even electronica at times. While this works in some areas, it fails to pass in others, and one listen through will immediately allow listeners to hear where each falls in that list.

Let’s start off where the album falls flat, which is mainly seen in the pop-esque offerings. ‘Bedroom Warfare’ is a track listeners will either love at first listen or hate, as the pop influence is incredibly heavy. Taking a turn into 5 Seconds of Summer territory, ‘American Girl’ is probably the farthest away from the band’s own sound, as is ‘Jaded’, which features All Time Low‘s Alex Gaskarth and plays as if it were written by All Time Low, rather than ONE OK ROCK. ‘One Way Ticket’ follows a similar formula, as does ‘Start Again’, which appears to compensate for its shortcomings by distracting listeners with its fast tempo.

However, there are times where the band’s experimentation pays off. ‘Bombs Away’ carries the alternative rock sound fans have grown to love from the band, as does ‘We Are’, which is easily the catchiest song on Ambitions. ‘Taking Off’, the album’s best track, is melodic, infectious and bound to have listeners hitting repeat time and time again. Those looking for beautiful tracks need look no further than the acoustic ‘Hard to Love’ and ballad ‘Listen’, which feature ONE OK ROCK’s full musical potential, while those looking for more pop-punk influences have ‘I Was King’ in their corner. ‘Bon Voyage’ takes advantage of the band’s ability to create infectious beats and ‘Take What You Want’, which features 5 Seconds of Summer, sees the band staying true to themselves.

Overall, Ambitions is an album that’ll definitely bring in new fans while possibly isolating long-term listeners. It’s clear the band are aiming at bringing in a younger audience and in their journey have left behind some of what made them ONE OK ROCK. While it was a risky gamble that did flounder at times, it should be noted that there are a lot of gems on Ambitions and hopefully listeners will be able to appreciate them.

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