It seems FTISLAND is ready to be taken seriously as a rock band. Their fifth Korean studio album I Will is the five-member unit’s first fully-composed release. As envisioned by frontman Lee Hong Ki, the 11-track album is a reflection of a heavier sonic style that is perhaps best suited for the band.
I Will moves away from the contemporary, pop-rock sounds that have dominated the earlier part of their discography and are also associated with their label-mate CNBLUE. In reality, there is little need for an agency to have their bands sounding too similar to one another, so FTISLAND’s move into the hard/grunge rock sphere gives them their much-deserved chance to shine and earn credit for being more than just pretty faces.
The title track ‘Pray’, with headstrong rhythms and dramatic riffs, echoes the J-rock genre and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Three of the band’s previously-released Japanese tracks – ‘Black Chocolate’, ‘To the Light’ and ‘Time To’ – are reinterpreted in the Korean language on the album with drummer Choi Min Hwan’s urgent and commanding beats leaving a strong impression on ‘Black Chocolate’. Bassist Lee Jae Jin takes on bigger vocal responsibilities on ‘To the Light’ and he did not disappoint, offering a gentler counterpart to Hong Ki’s raw voice.
Despite the boys’ switch to a hard-rocking genre, I Will does not lack variety. Slower jams come in the form of ‘BPM69’ – a subtle electronic number in which they contemplates their ability to walk out of the darkness that has filled their hearts after losing the one they love – and ‘Do You Know Why’ – a melodic tune describing their boredom in a relationship. ‘Hey Girl’ gives listeners a glimpse of their earlier sounds; its lovelorn lyrics and more upbeat melody is perhaps as mainstream as the album can get.
While ‘Light’ and its stripped-down piano background rely largely on Hong Ki’s delivery to draw listeners in, ‘Please’ is a quirky charmer – beginning as a moody ballad before picking up speed with its guitar hooks. Just like ‘Please’, ‘Shadow’ recounts a dark obsession for a romance they can no longer possess.
Recommended tracks: ‘Pray’, ‘Black Chocolate’, ‘To the Light’ and ‘Shadow