ONE OK ROCK - Beam of Light

review - 06.22.2008 08:00

This confident second album from the young rockers positively bursts with life.

ONE OK ROCK's vocalist TAKA has a bit of history in the music industry. When he started ONE OK ROCK, he started a powerful pop-punk-rock quintet that has been quietly taking the scene by storm with legions of fans hooked on their driving, addictive melodies.

Beam of Light is the second album from the young rock band and a highly confident one at that. Hitsuzen Maker makes for a strong opener with a reverberating guitar riff as Toru and Alex play off each other. This becomes a semi acoustic melody played assuredly with a driving pop punk style. TAKA's vocals match this level of confidence; he is pitch perfect, with vocals that display a range between soft whispers and aggressive notes. This pop punk Americana is felt throughout, although a strong experimentalism with Ryota's bassline in Melody Line no Shibouritsu offers a slight jazz feel to the initial verses. This soon becomes the addictively bouncy rock track that pulses with punchy life. The guitars are rich and complex with variety in tempo and pitch.

100% (one hundred percent) sees TAKA break out the English - and competently too - as he aggressively roars the lyrics. This new aggressive approach is felt in the music, which takes on a harder Foo Fighters style with slight echoes in the main riff of The Pretender. The brash exuberance of 100% is calmed by a beautiful instrumental, Abduction-Interlude. Dominated by a simple echoing guitar melody that trembles in the distance, the two guitarists play off each other until the drums and bass join in to the provide a steady, thudding beat.

This moment of calm is much appreciated as San-san Dama opens on a volley of heavy guitar notes. Interestingly, the bulk of the song is much lighter, with summery notes of ska punk in the bridge seeming to take its cues from Dragon Ash. The choruses are sadly a little more ordinary as they return to being heavy rather than allowing the song to blossom into a light punky number, and despite an interesting climax in a rousing finale, this song fails to shine as bright as the rest. Koubou pulls it back with a storming indie rock piece, although it pales compared to Crazy Botch with its addictive, funky bassline and crunchily distorted refrain. This onslaught of guitar and bass drowns TAKA a little though, and at times he sounds like he is shouting. This is a song for the guitarists, Toru and Alex, as they play with the music varying wildly between distortion and powerful melodies.

It is a shame therefore that album's closer, Yap, is weak. Initially, the beat is off; the drums and guitars barely match. Only TAKA's voice maintains a sense of order - and the attempt at speed ska playing falls flat. This continues on and the unrelenting, out of pace drums are too distracting. After all that has come before Yap, it is a poor point to finish the album on. Live, it would be a lot of fun, but on CD is does not make for the most pleasing aural experience.

ONE OK ROCK is a shining example of a young rock band influenced by the best of American guitar driven work to create something bursting with life, power and youth. Beam of Light assures that ONE OK ROCK is a growing force in Japanese rock.
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