Since 2005, Japanese rock band ONE OK ROCK have been pushing creativity to the limit and establishing a sense of diversity within their own sound. The release of their ninth studio album, 'Eye of the Storm' not only solidifies ONE OK ROCK's presence within the scene, but further demonstrates the positive effect of using different genre influences to entice their listeners. The exploration of genres creates something fresh and unpredictable for old fans, and allows new fans to gain an insight into their sound. 'Eye of the Storm' is certainly an eye-opener.
We launch into 'Eye of the Storm' with the powerful title track, 'Eye of the Storm'. The skilfully combined technical elements alongside the vocals of Takahiro Moriuchi create an equal balance of emotion and empowerment within the track. 'Eye of the Storm' introduces themes of pushing through difficult situations and not being afraid to face our emotions; themes which are further unpacked within the remaining tracks. The lyric "I can barely hold on, but one thing that I remember, it's always darkest before the dawn" remained with me for quite some time. Apart from the fact it is beautifully written, I feel it is a lyric that can really resonate with fans. The early establishment of a personal connection between the fans and the band helps us to understand that the support of this music can help us to push ahead to brighter days. 'Eye of the Storm' creates important themes for the rest of the album, and represents ideas that are expressed by ONE OK ROCK.
The second track visits a pre-released single from 'Eye of the Storm' titled 'Stand Out Fit In'. Even from the title, the audience is reminded of the empowering nature this album portrays, and is further solidified within the song. The track discusses the importance of breaking socially accepted norms in order to create our own identity. Much like track one, the combination of lyrical content and musical elements create depth within the song. Most importantly, ONE OK ROCK embrace their own message by showcasing their cultural identity through singing the second verse in Japanese. With strong messages and thoughtful lyrics, 'Stand Out Fit In' is certainly not a track that "we have heard all before".
Continuing is track three, 'Head High'. In comparison to the previous tracks, this track is slightly more upbeat and heavy in regards to its instrumentals and sounds. It also gives an opportunity for Moriuchi to showcase their higher vocals. The use of these elements creates a twist within the album, working to keep listeners filled with anticipation. However, the lack of a climatic point has a tendency to make this song a little underwhelming in some areas. Nevertheless, the vulnerability showcased throughout and the newly introduced musical elements still make 'Head High' a wonderful track.
With perhaps one of the most interesting titles, track four is 'Grow Old Die Young'. Immediately slowing down the pace, this track creates a contrasting scenario; a world where the audience can be entertained by this somewhat impossible fantasy. This track also displays a lighter side of ONE OK ROCK through various lyrics throughout the song. It is quite a refreshing movement from the previous tracks and is sure to get stuck in your head. 'Grow Old Die Young' is different, but a welcomed change within the 'Eye of the Storm' album.
Track five is 'Push Back'. Once again, this track reveals new techniques, sounds and vibes. The beginning of this song includes layered vocals, something which has not yet been seen in the album. These fresh techniques continue with the use of both isolated and powerful vocals. This was an intelligent move in order to recapture the attention of the audience, and works effectively in doing so. Similarly to other songs, the stomp-clap beats provide a sense of unity and empowerment, relating back to the previously introduced themes. Due to the diversity shown in 'Push Back', it is certainly a standout, and also a personal favourite from ONE OK ROCK's 'Eye of the Storm'.
Following 'Push Back' is track six, 'Wasted Nights'. This is yet another one of ONE OK ROCK's pre-released singles, and evidently so. This song is emotive and powerful, one that hits you right in the soul. If anything is learnt from 'Eye of the Storm', it is that ONE OK ROCK know how to emotionally connect with their audience. The powerful vocals are hard to miss and ooze with passion and feeling, suggesting the song is genuine and the band is true to the themes showcased within the album. 'Wasted Nights' is undeniably a powerful song, and was an amazing choice as a single that would work to promote the album before it came out.
With some big shoes to fill, 'Change' is next as track seven. Once again, this song was released prior to the drop of 'Eye of the Storm', and it is clear to see why. With so much electricity and passion, this song is hard not to love. However, this song does display new, technological elements which may place old fans in an unfavourable position. Ultimately, this song highlights the importance of change, whether it be in life or the music industry. "If we're not moving forward, then what are we moving for?" Without experimenting or development in their sound, the band would become irrelevant. ONE OK ROCK have proven they can skilfully and successfully change their sound to remain prominent, and through the song 'Change' have informed fans that it is a needed step in the right direction. 'Change' holds a significant message which is important to fans and to explaining the musical direction of 'Eye of the Storm'.
Track eight is 'Letting Go'. This track is toned down and stripped back, feeling a bit more genuine as oppose to the electronic instrumentals found within previous tracks. Due to this, it acts as the sad song of the album, something filled with vulnerability and rawness. The personal connection is gained through the relatability and concepts of letting go of the memories of the past. The emotiveness is backed up by the stripped back vocals of Takahiro. 'Letting Go' slows the pace, and acts as a time of reflection, not only upon life, but upon the album that is 'Eye of the Storm'.
Following 'Letting Go' is 'Worst In Me'. The tone immediately turns to one of an unforgiving nature. For the first time on this album, this track holds negative ideas and throws blame on to individuals from the past. Despite shaking up the themes of the album, it is important to have such a track. It is a reminder that within feelings of positivity and empowerment, the road to success will not always be clear. There will be obstacles and elements that hold you back. Considering this, a track like 'Worst In Me' has never been so needed. Due to its importance and eye- opening nature, it is fair to say that 'Worst In Me' is not the 'worst' song off 'Eye of the Storm'!
Track ten follows and is the first song on the album to feature a guest vocalist. 'In The Stars' features Kiiara, an American singer most commonly known in the scene for her collaboration in 'Heavy' with Linkin Park. The verses of the song are beautiful, packed with emotion and meaning. However, the chorus of the song has the potential to come off as slightly generic. The inclusion of Kiiara is different, but adds an alternate perspective to the track. She sits comfortably and does not sound out of place, which is something that is often hard to achieve. 'In The Stars' displays that collaborations can be favourable, but thrive off the musical and lyrical content in order to truly shine.
'Giants' is up next as track eleven. The beats previously introduced in 'Push Back' somewhat reappear here. Due to this stomp-clap beat, the sense of empowerment returns, and by now, it is evident that ONE OK ROCK are masters of delivering feelings of strength and perseverance. The lyric "So, walk with me and I'll walk with you" stood out. Perhaps this is a comment directed at fans, solidifying the idea of loyalty between band and fan. As a result of many fans years of dedication, the band wants them to know that they are never alone. This feeling of personal connection is a reoccurring theme, but feels more comforting each time it is shown. 'Giants' proves that 'Eye of the Storm' is an album filled with empowerment and personal connection between ONE OK ROCK and the fans.
This emotive track is chased by track twelve, 'Unforgettable'. This track offers another chance for self reflection, asking rhetorical questions which we as the audience can build upon. "Who is the person you see when you look closer?" ONE OK ROCK create songs that provide a sense of greater self worth and attempt to re-evaluate the qualities we see in ourselves. Throughout 'Eye of the Storm' this guidance and acceptance is seen on multiple occasions. The depictions of these themes through the use of calming and catchy vocals make 'Unforgettable', unforgettable!
Concluding 'Eye of the Storm' is track thirteen, 'The Last Time'. With connotations of a battle sequence within the instrumentals, ONE OK ROCK make sure their finalising song is not underwhelming. The strength within the chorus is something I feel was not yet fully showcased within the album, and if used in other songs, could have prevented them from merging together. Although I would have liked to see more of this, it expresses the saying of 'saving the best until last', and perhaps points in the direction of which the future projects of ONE OK ROCK will be heading in. 'The Last Time' is memorable, powerful and wraps up the album of 'Eye of the Storm' with a bang.
Overall, ONE OK ROCK's ninth studio album 'Eye of the Storm' showcases important themes of strength and empowerment. Generally, the songs in which these themes are displayed in are effective and powerful, however some can be a tad anti-climactic or repetitive. If anything, I think the messages are the most important part of the album, and ONE OK ROCK should be applauded on relating so heavily to an audience. If you have not yet listened to the album, do so and leave a comment below with your opinions of 'Eye of the Storm'.
Written by Georgia Haskins
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