Review Summary: Chockful of songs following a rebellious path, One OK Rock's third full length proves to be their brightest moment so far.
Forming in 2005, One OK Rock, honestly, had very low expectations from the get go. Frontman, Taka (born Takahiro Moriuchi, later Morita), was a part of the humongous Johnny's corporation (which includes bands like SMAP, Kinki Kids & Arashi) as a member of the group, NEWS. In 2003, he left for some reason, and was left as a solo artist without a path. And when word got out that he was going to form a rock band, the majority of Japanese music fans were very confused on this sudden music change. In 2007, the group made a breakthrough with their debut album, "Zeitakubyou", which ranked at number 15 on the Oricon, an impressive feat for the brand new group. The group kept making slow progress, until 2010, when the group released "Niche Syndrome". The album was a huge surprise success, ranking at number 4 on the Oricon. This helped lead the way for the group's fifth full length album, "Zankyo Reference", which is not only their brightest moment thus far musically, but also their loudest, minimizing the alt rock influence a notch, for a more crunchy, post-hardcore sound.
The album kicks off with "Lost and Found", which has a melodious, driving sound to it, and has Taka mixing a post hardcore vocal style, with his usual immature, semi-rugged vocal style. A nice opening track. "Answer is Near" is a highly melodious-based track, which has a muscular emotional punch to it. A nice track that shows One OK Rock reaching mainstream status, while still maintaining a unique wail. The next track, "No Scared", is one of the best on the album, which showcases One OK Rock's unique style perfectly: chaotic, melodic post hardcore with a pinch of metalcore thrown it, mixing jarring rhythms with crooning radio friendly melodies. A killer track, and definitely one of the best on the album. The next track, "C.h.a.o.s.m.y.t.h.", sheds the previous melodic post-hardcore influence, and follows a much more relaxed pattern, akin a bit to "Answer is Near", only not quite as soft. The track is moving by itself too, as it shows Taka exercising his signature vocal style, which, like I previously described, is a semi-rugged, heart-in-throat type of vocal style, which works wonders with the emotional music the band is playing. A great track, but nothing as quality as the "No Scared" track before it.
The next track, "Mr. Gendai Speaker", is a heavier track than the previous "C.h.a.o.s.m.y.t.h.", but still follows a radio friendly pattern. Pretty much the same breakdown as "C.h.a.o.s.m.y.t.h.", only a tad louder. "Sekenshirazu no Uchuhikoshi" is a terrific track which follows an ozone-like atmosphere. A great track, and kind of breaks down the path of more conventional radio tracks that followed previously. "Sekenshirazu no Uchuhikoshi" might very well be the most experimental track on the album, which works great as an easter egg in the mostly radio friendly album. "Re:make" follows a sound that most Americans can find easily on their local hard rock radio station. A decent track, but really is nothing more than sub-par. Only Taka's vocals add a bit of uniqueness to the cookie-cutter 'hard rock FM" track. "Pierce" is the signature ballad on the album, and really is nothing more, and nothing less. For a ballad, however, it's decent. Overall though, it's really nothing spectacular. "Let's Take It Someday" is another really good track, which has a frantic band performance, with Taka's unique vocals bleeding all over the track. The sheer melodious kick in the track is outstanding, as it distances itself from mere empty radio fillers, and hardcore melodious poundings (No Scared). This alone makes "Let's Take It Someday" one of the best tracks, alongside "No Scared" & "Sekenshirazu no Uchuhikoshi". "Kimishidai Ressha" is the last track on the album, and it follows a melodic execution, just like "Let's Take It Someday". Needless to say, the melodious emotion in the track, like "Let's Take It Someday", makes it yet another great track for the album. A terrific closer for a damn good album.
Overall, the album is a very satisfying one, indeed, with a rebellious sound, tinged with melody and chaotic war cries all the way through, which is what makes One OK Rock such an impressive young band. One can even say that "Zankyo Reference" takes some influence from metalcore, but without the "woe-is-me", self pitying crap which follows so many mainstream metalcore bands today. Not to mention the ridiculously long song titles. The album is essentially a terrific radio friendly album, which follows an overall emotional basis. The only thing that holds back the potential of "Zankyo Reference" is that the album reuses a lot of the same foreground, and really doesn't explore that much ground. But for what it's worth, "Zankyo Reference" is one hell of an album, tied strongly with a driving sound and a melodious background. One can only hope that One OK Rock stick with this sound, and explore a few styles with it. And once they can do that successfully, there will be no stopping the group.