ONE OK ROCK - Kanjou Effect

review - 11.11.2008 07:00

ONE OK ROCK continues getting better with this confident, rocking third album.

You often have to remind yourself that ONE OK ROCK is so young. Their music, although brimming with energy and youthful charisma, is a slick and professional affair. Kanjou Effect, their third full album, does little to dissuade this opinion.

Kokoro no aibou, kokoro no cupid marks for a spirited start. Clocking in at just under 3 minutes, it provides a short, sharp introduction that sets off TAKA's punchy vocals against stabbing guitars and a swirling riff from Alex that underpins the track. The following, Doppelganger, is deliciously addictive with hints of the Lostprophets early on. The unusually high pitched, guitar led introduction is perhaps a little too much on the twirly side, but it provides an catchy lead in. The verses build tension perfectly, featuring more contrasting guitars as Toru's semi-acoustic strumming vies with further complexities from Alex. Then it's into the driving chorus line with an interesting vocal melody from TAKA, making Doppelganger one of the more intriguing tracks on the album.

Kaimu has a fantastic Foo Fighters style introduction - even the minimal thudding that acts as a precursor to the music reminds of All My Life. By way of some catchy off-beat drumming that characterizes the verses, Kaimu becomes a thumping rock track. TAKA almost snarls the aggressive choruses, while one moment of calm after an exciting Alex solo shows a beautiful softness.

20 Years Old continues the energetic assault of music, bringing a wild variety to the forefront. Ryota's basslines are particularly prominent, especially in a couple of neat moments where bass and guitar act as echoes of each other. Initially the pop punk sound is a little crowded; the melody shuttles between gentler verses and spiky bridges before a lovely calm moment of soft vocals marks the transition to the singalong chorus. As befitting the name, it is full of energy, although there is a rather intriguing chord change within the chorus that suddenly dips it into a minor key, almost musically depicting the frustrations of being so young.

Unfortunately, the first ballad Living Dolls is a little insipid in comparison. The chorus holds the song together and keeps boredom at bay with wonderful soaring vocals and a grandiose, guitar driven melody. It is a highly competent effort and one that is at times quite stunning to listen to, the only problem is that is has been heard a million times before. Break My Strings though, is more promising. With sonorous echoing guitars that suddenly break off into a thumping melee of a more Enter Shikari style metal, the ominous progression of crunching guitar and bass continue until the darkly pop melody interjects. TAKA's vocals at time seem perhaps strained, but that said, Break My Strings shows a different ONE OK ROCK, one that is darker, with lyrics that verge on gothic.

The influence of Break My Strings is felt in Sonzai shoumei. Everything is just that much more angry, from the edgy vocals to a sudden viciousness in the swirling guitar riff. TAKA almost shouts his words, while behind him Tomoya's heavy drums demand fists punching the air in accompaniment.

Convincing begins with a melee of music; guitars and drums seem to compete for attention until TAKA's vocals provide a measure of stability. From that moment on it becomes one of the band's most confident efforts. The guitars are strong and firm in a positive, feel good melody that in part feels a little Offspring. Convincing is a solid rock song that, while taking few risks, is so full of fun vibes it is impossible to dislike. It takes a few minutes to realize TAKA is singing in perfect English though, and when that shock is overcome TAKA's English becomes crystal clear.

Convincing was only a small taster of TAKA's English abilities as My Sweet Baby shares English and Japanese in equal measures. This is a gorgeous song relying on a soft acoustic guitar melody to create a tender love song. It still contains small punchy moments that work to lift the song into a stunning ballad.

Reflection is an entirely different beast with more Lostprophets influence within the aggressive introduction that make fists reach for the air. At points, the drums become almost metal in style to accompany TAKA's roaring vocals. The verses contain real bite, and while the chorus is a little more ordinary, Reflection has attitude. It is perfectly complemented by the next track; with the subtitle 'Beautiful Moshpit (Utsukushii Moshpit)' it is clear what the boys are trying to reach. Although (ironically) Viva Violent Fellow is less violent than Reflection, it is filled with offbeat ska/punk verses and bridges that are very Foo Fighters. Combined with the simple and catchy chorus, Kanjou Effect is setting itself up for a memorable finish.

It is a shame, then, that Just is one of the least impressive songs on the CD. TAKA's soft vocals and the tribal drumbeat in the verse hold your attention, but the transitions between the parts are too abrupt, and the chorus kind of passes by without much excitement - it feels like a build up to something that doesn't quite arrive. Despite a marvelous, complex guitar solo, it feels flat after the earlier songs left one breathless. Like Yap from Beam of Light, it doesn't have that grand 'finale' feel, and perhaps My Sweet Baby would have made for a more fitting end note.

When compared to Beam of Light, Kanjou Effect seems to take a less experimental path, but this equally shows a band settling into their style and growing in confidence. It is heavier than Beam of Light too, with a general turn away from ska/punk to more metal. There is, however, hardly a weak song on Kanjou Effect, and even then it seems lack of inspiration was more a cause than inability to compose. ONE OK ROCK has produced another sparkling addition to their career that will make their gig at ZEPP Tokyo only the beginning.
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