As promised in my previous post ‘POETRY AND MUSIC’ , I am going to talk about a specific band called DIR EN GREY. Which I feel has changed my views on music. I have decided to create 3 separate posts regarding my first Vinyl and my first Album into two separate ones from this.
The reason is that otherwise the post would get way too lengthy and have too much information.
Therefore, be hard to digest.
Both of the other posts are in the editing stage, but I don’t dare to promise to publish them both on the same day.
In This Blogpost
How did I start listening to DIR EN GREY?
My first impression of the band.
Why do I still listen to them?
My first concert of DIR EN GREY that I attended.
And finally, why do I think they changed my views on music.
As a bonus, I have included one piece of DIR EN GREY merch that I own.
It is not a review as much as it is a collection of memories.
Playing as I Write This Post
DIR EN GREY – Arche
the Band That Changed My View On Music
As stated previously, the post will be about a Japanese experimental/metal band called DIR EN GREY. The reasons that I have chosen them vary. One of them is that my very first Vinyl record is one of their albums. The second one is that they are someone I have been steadily listening to for the longest.
The band has been around for quite some time, having their 25’th anniversary events going on currently in the year 2022. Sometimes the fact that they have never changed in the lineup in those years makes me scratch my head. There are many bands like that, but it seems to be rather rare.
I think that since bands consist of people it is easy to get into some conflicts and pretty often members swap. Or a lot of them disband altogether.
I am also lucky that just before the corona came, I was able to finally see them live in person (after many years of wanting to) in Finland.
In the past years, it has been impossible to have live shows. But they have had many online events. And the fact that they hosted a live and many talk events online, truly makes you feel appreciated as a fan.
Next month they will release their 11’th album ‘PHALARIS’. Which (the one with Blu-ray) I have also preordered and can not wait to hear/show off.
How Did I Start Listening to DIR EN GREY
It was around 2005 or early 2006.
I only know it because their album Withering To Death had already been out. And the Marrow of a Bone was something I anticipated from the time it was announced. Even now when I listen to these two and the Vulgar am hit by such nostalgia. Suddenly finding myself grooving to the same songs a 13-14-year-old me would dance to in her room.
But How Not When?
Am putting all the blame here on a friend who was a very big fan of another Japanese rock band called the Gazette. Back in that time, I had been going down the black metal hole. I just got the holy internet and spent hours of my days searching for different dark bands on the bottom of it. But I never found something that made me a fan. I enjoyed the depressive music, it kept me company. But I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed a specific band. There were many and often on shuffle.
The more shocking and unconventional the music, the more I liked it. I dropped all of my previous playlists and became surrounded by black/gothic/doom metal. Bands like Nocturnal Depression, Rotting Christ, Burzum, Tristania, and My Dying Bride’s older songs. They had all introduced me to that kind of a scene. I was reluctant to leave.
The friend tried to “recruit” me for half a year but I wouldn’t budge. It might sound shallow but I was kind of stuck on my aesthetics. I was 11 or 12 when I emerged from my room with full-on corpse paint shocking my poor papa. Needless to say, he was not amused.
I think it took me another year before I finally checked the Gazette out and even binged on them. Dropping all of my elitist rules and opened up to another kind of music.
DIR EN GREY
It is funny when I think about my first interaction with DIR EN GREY. The same friend by now had become advanced, or so to say, in the Japanese rock music scene. I asked her to share more, heavy music from Japan.
She had like a group of 5 teenage girls, all of them trying to pull me into their hole of Japanese music for quite some time by now. So they were happy to share the love or so to say. The plot twist is that her words were: “Whatever you do, do not listen to DIR EN GREY, they are weird and creepy”.
I was intrigued.
They were the magic words: weird and creepy. And I am the kind of a person to do exactly the opposite of what I am being told. It was enough to keep me engaged.
My First Impression On the Band
I still remember it clearly. The day that I open YouTube to check out something, I feel I am not supposed to. The first song and video that I ever saw from them was Obscure. I remember how different it was from what I usually listened to. The shock was there but in a good way.
Never had I seen or felt anything like that in all of my years. I would just sit there and stare in awe and think to myself that I landed on a gold mine.
Needless to say, I was binging all night on that video. Thinking that it was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen and I love it. It was maybe, weird and creepy since the lead singer is munching on baby’s heads and vomits quite at the beginning of the video. But I was intrigued, I did not understand a single word that was sung and that added to the mystery.
I wanted to hear, see and know more.
Felt as if I found horror/shock and emotion in a band, something I had been searching for.
Me Becoming a Fan
After a while, I began clicking on every YouTube link that had theiritstheir name in the title. Quickly I found, that there is not just the shock that I liked. But also the way they convey the darkest emotions in their songs, something I had been dealing with. I found it soothing and suddenly I felt not so alone in my solitude and hopelessness.
But it is a weird phenomenon, how it made me feel stronger and more capable of dealing with the emotions I had. Considering that the songs on those three albums I was binging on (Vulgar, Withering to Death, and the Marrow of a Bone) were full of anger and sadness. But in that, I found hope, that that too can be used for something good.
Why I Got Stuck On Them?
I would come home from school or skip it just to stay in my room and listen to DIR EN GREY. It was as if I had no other purpose than to lock myself up in my room with my only connection to the outer world being music. It was a safe place for me, just like reading and writing. I didn’t have to explain anything or try to be normal. I was myself and I was free to deal with my emotions.
It was my joy, as weird as it sounds. I could either mop in my bed and cry or just put on music that I enjoyed and sing along or dance/mosh. I also used to take two-hour-long walks in the woods with my headphones and just sing along with the little Japanese I did not know. Probably was a secret language of a 13-14-year-old. Just like when I first started writing in English.
Back then I did not know the reasons for feeling the way I did and never finding a place I could say I belong. And suddenly finding a band that conveys human emotions in such a way that you feel as if they are not to be ashamed of. Was inspiring.
I felt inspired to not try to be someone I was not and not push away my feelings. It became a way to deal with them and accept what I couldn’t change.
It might sound mushy, but yes, music is something that to this day, is something that I call home.
The Things I Liked
Since I am a person that dabbles in singing and my biggest dream still is to become one. I can not deny that the first thing I hear in music is the vocals. To me, it was the most impressive thing and everything else, I started listening to way later. Shame on me.
The lead singer Kyo has such diversity in his singing styles and it is done with such emotion that he was someone I looked up to pretty fast. Also, the fact that he sings in a foreign language and you can still somewhat feel the meaning of a song is just impressive. I surely think that is their trump.
Even if leaving a lot to the listener’s impetration and singing in a language that many people do not speak. They have a big listeners base outside of Japan.
the Things I Keep Liking
It is as if they never try to fit a box with their music. They are unique, with all of their albums sounding so different that I can never choose a favorite one. If you were to ask, what genre is DIR EN GREY, the answer would be DIR EN GREY.
Their songs range from engaging melodies that make you float to the most comforting tunes. To the anger and screams that pull you back into reality.
For example on their ‘Arche’ album. That just popped into my mind as it is the one I am currently listening to. The diversity of the heaviness and theatrical elements with such beautifully done melodies keep you engaged throughout a song/album. It is something that still makes them stand out to me. The way you can not just play a song without truly paying attention to it. Or listen to them with the expectation that aah, this will be that kind of song from the first “stanza” as it is in poetry. Because it will not, the song will slap you into the face and be like no, it is like that.
Or is it?
All the different elements do not sound out of place or overdone. It is them, and it is very inspiring and truthful. Every album is a different journey. I am more than 90% sure that even after all the hours I have listened to their music, I still haven’t been able to comprehend all of the elements and subtle sounds. And it is good because that means that they work together in creating a sound that is DIR EN GREY.
As weird as it is I have tried to write poetry in a manner that surprises or has a twist like in their music. You know, the buildup and then the slap. It is not easy. I often fail miserably.
My First and Only Live Show
I remember it as if it was yesterday. With the anticipation of seeing them live at the age of 29. I wanted to go for a very long time but never got the opportunity. When living at home I was shy to ask my parents. Later in life, I had trouble with finances. Often have no money left for food at the end of the month or have to get clothes from the waste distribution. Because I had lost a job (Services Manager in a Shop) after being in a coma and then inpatient for weeks after a fatal overdose on medication.
It ended up with almost 10 000 EUR dept together with my student loan. Too scared to ask for help or say hey, I am in trouble. I studied car painting but was unable to work since I had developed an allergy by the age of 25. So I felt I was late, to properly support the bands that I loved. Buying merch and going to shows.
But this year, I managed to pay it all off before due time. It was now or never. When they announced another European tour. I quickly got myself tickets and booked a hotel in Finland. To go and experience them.
For some reason, I was so overtaken by anxiety that I did not sleep before leaving Estonia. Or during my time in Finland, I couldn’t just fall asleep. I have never liked strangers or crowded places, especially traveling alone. I knew it will be hard since my significant other did not want to come, even if I bought him a ticket. Next time though, he will chill in the hotel or on the waiting list with me because he eases my stress tremendously.
The weather did not help at all, I decided to join the waiting list the night before the show. Shivering in the rain with my hair wet and makeup streaming down my face. There were so many people I did not know and I didn’t know what to talk about. Luckily there were some nice people that I did have a chat with. But it was hard for me, I can be very talkative online but never in person.
I was restless, manic, and just wanted to be inside and be done with it. When the VIP photos were taken I wanted to escape the room as fast as possible because first of all, I looked like shit, and secondly I am weird with strangers. The only reason I got the VIP was to be in the front row of the stage but I thought to myself. If I don’t get the photo I will regret it later.
Getting Closer to the Live
There was this 29-year-old seeing her idols for the first time. I think the child in me was jumping up and down and so happy that I couldn’t contain her. The moment I stepped into the venue she begged to come out and play. The fear was gone, with the intro song playing.
I did bring the nicotine/hemp pads (no THC) with me to help ease my anxiety about being in a room full of strangers. But it was the music that took it away. Because before that I felt as if I will either throw up or pass out from the fear of being alone. Surrounded by people I did not know. ThinkingThink they thought that I am weird because I stutter when I say something.
Weird things that anxiety makes you think.
Early Access and a Gift.
Why does my camera/lighting make everything look dusty?
During the Live
I thought that I will go and make a stone face and not pull any attention on myself. Well, that certainly was not the case. When the band showed up on stage the first thing I did was scream so loud that the reindeer’s even jumped from their slumber. I am not exaggerating, I think they have nightmares about my scream, which is loud since I dabble in screaming vocals.
15 minutes into the live I had headbanged so hard that I hit my face on the metal railing before me and had a nose bleed and saw stars around my head. To this day I don’t know how it might have seemed to people around me when I crouched before the stage. Surely did not knock sense into me as I proceeded to windmill that head of mine. It hurt for 3 days after, and my whole body hurt.
About the Live
But my God, when I say that that band is intense on stage. I mean it. The lighting and the videos behind them contribute to the theatrical element. The way the singer and the drummer are like marionette dolls that have become alive is wonderful to witness.
Seeing and feeling that such intensity conveyed by mere humans. I don’t know what I had thought up to this point. Maybe that all musicians were alien and not from this world.
Being one with the band and the strangers in the room that I feared so much. It felt empowering as we all were there for one reason. Our love for the music that was played for us.
What to Expect From a Live
With this DIR EN GREY, the live is not just about the music or the connection to the fans.
It is a SHOW, written in uppercase.
During the live, it feels as if you want to headbang and sing along a lot, like at any other live. But also you don’t want to take your eyes off the stage. The videos and the movements of the members create an atmosphere you can not help but feel a part of. It is like watching a musical at the theater.
I have never seen, before that live, anyone put so much effort into little elements of their live shows as this band does. Also for that to come off so natural and truthful. It is done in a way that is so engaging you just need to watch because you don’t want to miss anything.
And a lot can be felt from the music, maybe it is because some of their audiences do not understand the lyrics. So that also makes you feel more than just listening to the lyrics of a song which often is the first thing that people listen to.
Why Do I Feel That DIR EN GREY Changed My View On Music
Listening to DIR EN GREY was like opening a gateway for me.
As if all the labels, boxes, categories, and understanding of every lyric suddenly lost their value.
Up until then, I had been dabbling with rewriting lyrics and poetry. To make a connection to the song I had to understand and feel the lyrics. I still don’t speak Japanese even though I studied the language for three years. On good days I understand like 15% of the lyrics. And it doesn’t matter, the message can be given in many other ways than words.
If you need to, you can just scream into the mic with no words to convey the emotion. It is not about the words, but the diversity of sounds that make a song a song. Not everything is about poetry, even if I am a poet myself. And well, reading the English subtitles does make me feel that the singer is an amazing poet too, but I don’t understand every word when I hear the songs.
You don’t have to fit a box to be successful in music, experimentation is good. Not only in sounds but also in ways to convey the message, be it videos or the way you move on the stage. It is a package, that creates the whole picture.
I think musicians are one of the most diverse beings. You need to be an actor, and writer and know a thing or two about business it is not just writing songs. It is how you present them that creates connections with other people.
One Piece of Merch that I Own From My Collection
DIR EN GREY – the World of Mercy, Single, Limited Edition with a DVD straight from Japan.
I am particularly proud of this one and super stoked that they played the song live.
I remember when the official video for that one came, I was holding back tears and smiling at the same time. Just how good it was, musically and in the video.
It includes postcards from which one of them (the bassist Toshiya one) I gifted to an old coworker who had just begun listening to their music.
I have used it probably twice (once the CD and once the DVD) and now it just sits on my small bookshelf.
It is a decoration piece.
I think it is one of my favorite artworks, but if I were to choose I couldn’t.
What Will the Next Posts Include
I will share some thoughts on one of my personal most listened albums by DIR EN GREY and the beginning of a collector’s life.