Defined as a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work, ambition is a word that is held in high regard amongst many people. A highly ambitious attitude tends to take people far in life, as they are the ones who refuse to sit around and wait for things to come to them; rather they go after their goals. This is an extremely important personality trait to have in all aspects of life, and one that is definitely not taken for granted from prospective surveyors. Japanese rock outfit ONE OK ROCK has had this trait in their bands DNA since their formation and as showcased over their career thus far, it has paid massive dividends in regards to them reaching their goals. This trait was clearly noticed by others as the band signed to Fueled by Ramen in late 2016 and announced their eighth full-length album Ambitions, which is only their second English language release. Now with the backing of a powerhouse music label and an entire new market to break into, Ambitions is upon old and new fans alike, but does it reach the standard that ONE OK ROCK were aiming for?
In its very core, Ambitions is extremely appropriately titled to fit not only the themes of the record, but also in what is built into the bands DNA. It’s hard enough to break into a bands home market, let alone breaking into a foreign one, but this is an album that clearly has the capability of achieving the desire that ONE OK ROCK has for it. Lifelong fans may have hoped for a shift back towards the heavier or harder sound that was littered throughout their earlier discography, and that’s understandable, but what can’t be stated enough is that the band is no longer at that point in their career. As they’ve previously stated, they have a strong urge to break into a new market and expand their sound, message and style worldwide which has led to what is presented throughout the whole of Ambitions. Furthermore, this is a record that contains three themes in its foundation; ones of hope, ambition and singing together which are all represented in different ways throughout the whole package that makes up the record. The album was built with the intention of having a record where everyone can sing along together in unison about hope and reinforce the importance of not giving up, which this does quite well.
The overall soundscape and scope presented throughout the fourteen tracks that make up the record is extremely lush, vivid and crisp as the production comes across tight and crystal clear. This is heard immediately through the somewhat mesmerizing brief album opener, “Ambitions (Introduction)” which is then carried straight into “Bombs Away” with its haunting synths before Takahiro Moriuchi’s vocals take centerstage over growing back instrumentation that eventually explode into a huge arena sound. These musical and aforementioned thematic elements carry over from track to track in various instances, like the massively rhythmic and toe-tapping sound found on “Taking Off”, the uplifting pop rock “We Are” and “Jaded” or the somber, acoustic driven “Hard to Love” all present to listeners. These are only small samples of what listeners can expect to hear as there’s a slew of variety of upbeat, energetic tracks like “Bedroom Warefare” or pop-driven songs like “Listen” and “One Way Ticket”.
Ambitions is a continuation of the bands stylistic shift towards a more pop and alternative rock sound that plays well with modern day musical trends, but also one that fits nicely into the desire of wanting to be arena-rock outfit. Even if someone isn’t a huge fan of pop rock or the more mainstream side of alternative rock, there’s undoubtedly something on here for everyone, be it in the themes the records foundation is built upon or just in the fact that this is a fun, energetic and positive album. ONE OK ROCK have a clearly defined set of goals for themselves and the new label and new album are ultimately only a taste of what they want to accomplish.