ONE OK ROCK – Ambitions (Review)

ONE OK ROCK are Takahiro Moriuchi (Taka), Toru Yamashita (Toru), Ryota Kohama (Ryota) and Tomoya Kanki (Tomoya). Debuting in 2007, their name came from the time of their band rehearsals, 1am or ‘One o’clock’, sounding like ‘One O’crock’ due to the pronunciation of L’s in the Japanese language. This became ONE OK ROCK as we know it today.

ONE OK ROCK signed with Fueled by Ramen in September 2016, and on 13th January they released their first album under this label; Ambitions. Ambitions‘ bold yellow cover was chosen by the band due to yellow signifying hope. Fans can now contribute yellow images to their ‘WORLD AMBITIONS’ website to further support this concept of hope, all across the world.

Having had a taste of the album already with the pre-launch releases (such as “Taking Off” and “I Was King”), I couldn’t wait to go deep into Ambitions, the seventh album for ONE OK ROCK.

Ambitions begins with an instrumental track, “Ambitions (Introduction)”. It is hype building and exciting to listen to, with goosebump-inciting electronic chords, sound effects and deep beats. This track says ‘we are here’ in sound and vibe. And I AM SO READY!

“Bombs Away” continues the similar chords and adds high pitched vocals as the track starts. The vocals start and it’s so freaking good, at first listen it already has the feel of a song I’ve been listening to on repeat for weeks. The chorus is mind-blowingly good, made even better by a pre-chorus build up (“The higher up I get”). I’m wondering how so much awesomeness can fit into those bars of music. I love the heaviness of sound courtesy of guitars and drums as well as a choir adding another layer. It’s all very Bring Me The Horizon with this massiveness of sound.

Still on “Bombs Away”, the guitar riffs during the verses work as a teaser, and along with the drumming seeming to foreshadow something awesome coming ahead: The chorus. This is such a perfect rock tune and I just want to jump along with it. The bridge is a moment of stillness, where all of the sound is reined in and it’s just vocals and a guitar. A sassy drum beat brings us back to the massiveness again and we’re back to bouncing. The outro of chords and high vocals sees us out to silence.

I can’t express just how GOOD this is. And it’s only track 2.

“Taking Off” is the third track and we’ve met this particular creature before, with this track already having already been released. This track has such a wide open and warm rock sound. The verse pulls focus onto a situation of frustration:

“Stuck in the same routine
Living an empty dream
When am I gonna wake up?”

This follows out into a pre-chorus, like a single thread back into an open sound again. It has a feel of temporary worry before reassurance that they’re doing what they love, even if it’s not what they feel they should be doing (“Drag me all the way to hell / ‘Cause I’m never gonna let it go”). The guitars make this song, adding a sense of strength and forward movement, which feels so good in the face of the doubt-full and stuck verses.

“We Are” is the fourth track, and opens with waves of electronic sound and a beautiful choir sound. There’s instantly a feeling of unity, reminding me of the concept of Ambitions by way of hope and the colour yellow. This is such an amazing song and incredibly moving.

“Never tell yourself
You should be someone else
Stand up tall and say
I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid”

“Jaded” is the next track and features All Time Low‘s Alex Gaskarth. The blend of voices is fluid and works well. Oh boy, am I ever in love with the heavy guitar sound leading into the first verse. The pace is electrifying, along with the inspiring lyrics:

“Never stop forgetting who you are,
Jaded, feeling like you want to hide
I believe, I believe, I believe in you,
Even after all this time.”

The song is accented by electronics and drum beats that feel like collisions in parts. That beautiful choir sound is featured again and it’s ever more impressive rock on the ride out of the song (the last 10 seconds put a smile on my face).

The next track, “Hard To Love” is a slower song and has an acoustic and sweet sound. It’s a touching tribute to a parent’s love (Taka wrote it about his father) and is so very beautiful. It gave me goosebumps with the tenderness described in the story that is told in the lyrics.

“We’ve been down,
We’ve been up.
I hope I made you proud enough.
You make it look easy, even when I’m hard to love.”

“Bedroom Warfare” is another song we’ve got to hear already with a prior release. It’s such a sexy track with thumping bass, heavy drum beats and distorted guitar. The entire song sounds like a build up and it works so well. The dance beat interludes (“Keep your enemies close, your enemies close”) are killer.

“American Girls” feels so damn fun and veers into pop punk. I love the entire premise of this song, the hand claps, the sunny beat. It’s done so brilliantly. All it’s missing is a cheesy music video.

“Come and break my heart you American girls
How’d you get that reputation for taking over the world
Can’t you see I’m out of my head for you”

And what a difference it is to the track that follows; “I Was King”. This is a far more serious track, featuring strings and a steady beat. It’s another stellar track, showcasing ONE OK ROCK brilliance. The verses are so beautifully simple with a catchy melody and drum beats that get in under your skin. “I Was King” feels like encouragement to keep moving. What a song!

“When am I, when am I gonna start living?”

“Listen” is a lighter track with electronic focus. The Japanese version of Ambitions includes Avril Lavigne on vocals on this track, sharing the beautiful message contained in the lyrics; to listen to your heart as you go through life:

“It feels so hard to watch you hurt
From the pain, a lesson learned
This is how you find your way”

“One Way Ticket” includes a heavy beat and a dance flavour. There’s an 80s feel to this song, especially in the chorus, with the ‘hey!’s and hand clapping along with the booming drum beat. It’s a light sound for what is a song describing missing someone they love (“Anywhere you are is where I want to go”) and its sweetness would be right at home in the finale of a romantic comedy.

“Bon Voyage” brings back some heaviness to Ambitions, with a sprinkling of electro effects (the hand claps are still there). I love the guitars so much on this track, it was hard to give attention to the rest of the song because of how intently I was enjoying them. And then the bridge happened and I died and went to heaviness heaven. Then the drums joined in on the outro to make sure I was truly dead. Bliss.

“Start Again” is a rock anthem and a half. It’s fast paced and has a slick sound, including ‘woo!’s and ‘whoa-oh’s. It’s incredibly catchy and I am in love with the drums on this track. This is an awesome anthem for being yourself. What a lyric:

“I’m not always perfect
But I’m always myself
If you don’t think I’m worth it
Find someone else
I won’t say I’m sorry
For being who I am
Is the end a chance to start again?”

The last song on Ambitions is “Take What You Want” featuring 5 Seconds Of Summer. The song is an epic, with big drums, layered vocals, and waves of bass. The vocals are emotionally belted out by both parties in this collaboration. It’s a great closer and we love the long notes as well as the guitar in the choruses.

I am so in love with Ambitions! Every song feels like a classic and an old favourite with many many replays in its future. ONE OK ROCK have excelled, showcasing their skill with a number of different sounds and sentiments, as well as toying easily with genre boundaries at times. You can feel the energy the band put into their music and it makes it sheer joy to listen to. I don’t think I could ask for anything more than this in a rock album.

The album can be streamed below. So run, don’t walk, and get your headphones on and go deep into Ambitions! Tell us what you think on Twitter or Facebook.

Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it. [Loved the read? Shout Kel a latte.]

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