In my last blog posts about music, I spoke about instrumental metal and my own band Chaos in Spring in detail. This time I wanted to review three bands that have shaped my taste in music. I will do three posts on three different days: SHOKRAN review, Persefone review, and Dir en grey review – three bands that I just can not stop listening to – my holy trinity. This post is the last one in line and the longest of three.
Dir en grey – Japanese… Metal?!
Out of all the bands that I have mentioned – they are the oldest. Not only that they celebrated their 25th-anniversary last year but I started listening to them around 2005-2006. Bonkers.
So it is not just 13 years that I have been a fan?!?! I have been lying to everyone… Sorry – I really thought that I was younger.
I stumbled upon them because of a friend who was a big fan of Japanese Rock or let’s say Visual Kei which she was eager to introduce me to. Her words to me were: “Whatever you do, don’t listen to Dir en grey, they are creepy and weird”.
Little did she know – I like “Creepy and Weird”
The first thing I did was load up “Obscure” from “Vulgar” on the internet. As someone who loves horror movies and gore… it was love at first sight. The video was easily one of the creepiest and most obscure (see what I did there?) videos I had ever seen.
As you can imagine by now. I have been a fangirl for long enough to have experienced all the stages of it. From blasting them on the speakers in my room (my father was NOT a fan) to posters on the wall and countless hours of watching DVDs of their live shows.
I have also been to their live in Finland on their last Europe tour before the corona lockdowns and I was so giddily and happy that I couldn’t contain myself.
I was latching myself to the front row holding onto the bar as if it was a matter of life and death. Took a lot of waiting outside in the rain to get the spot. We were waiting since the night before the live.
What can I say? We are a dedicated bunch.
Dir en grey Review – the Band
Excuse Me, kind Sirs, What Exactly Are You?!
The answer to the question would simply be Dir en grey.
Listening to this band from “Kisou” to “Phalaris” is a whole experience in itself since they refuse to make an album twice.
You can witness the different faces of the band and their morphing into what they are today (not to speak of pre-Dir en grey). Please hang on as it is a wild ride.
If you don’t like some songs that I have mentioned – please try others, the bands’ discography is very versatile and unique in terms of style. They have this constant morphing into something that you never expected from them.
The band has always been a visual experience (almost theatrical) just as much as a musical one. I recommend watching their music videos and live shows because they form a sublime whole that is Dir en grey.
It is mind-boggling that this whole time, the line-up has been the same:
Vocals – Kyo
Bass Guitar – Toshiya
Drums – Shinya
Guitars – Die and Kaoru
Dir en grey Review – Albums
I will leave out a few releases like “Kai”, “Decade” (Both of them), “the Unraveling” and the collection of “Vestige of Scratches” that actually have some good remakes of my favorite songs! I still listen to the third disc like a maniac.
(1997) When I had come over the first streak of obsession and checked out their first albums I was slapped across my face with the hand that killed my expectations.
But nevertheless, after a while, I was dancing in my room and pissing my papa off by singing along loud in bad Japanese. For me, it was the most old-school J-Rock I had ever gone to after X-Japan, and I spun a bunch of Japanese bands.
What can I say? My curiosity got the best of me after that one friend.
It is one of the songs that made me dye my hair purple, shave half of it, and do my eyes like on raccoons. Again, my father was NOT a fan.
Every morning I got ready for school I looked like a spawn of Satan himself.
As someone who liked old-school punk and heavier bands from Estonia, I fell for it, don’t laugh okay? I have always liked to hear the first works of a band because even if they may not be as good as the new work, technically speaking, or sound as good – they show where the band came from.
(1999) This album has been on the enormous list of “obsess over it”. I remember watching the “Osaka-jo Hall” DVD over and over again and thinking about how cool this band is live.
You can tell that the experimentation which makes Dir en grey unique and stand out was implemented. While retaining the visual kei appeal, it is not just that.
It is kinda poppy, has a speck of heaviness, and is almost goth at the same time. There are very danceable songs and ones that make you listen. The album itself was such a hit that 6 of the songs made it on the Oricon charts in the top 10.
I was so in love with the darker song “Mazohyst of Decadence” from this album that I would rewind to the exact point on the DVD that I just spoke about just to see it over and over again.
They also made a remake of this song which is on the “Phalaris” Limited Edition Box that has two CDs and a DVD. I personally thought it was awesome and loved to hear that song as the band itself has evolved.
(2000) This album has a more progressive, mysterious, and almost ominous feel to it in the beginning. It packs a few catchier songs like “Audrey” and “Wake”, hence having a little bipolar feel to it.
The album can be a little hard to get into from the first go as it seems to jump all over the place but I personally like the variety it brings. While it doesn’t tie together flawlessly, it surely is an interesting listen.
is a song that later in life helped me through a really bad breakup and a lot of painful emotions that came with it.
While my emotional connection to the song may skew my perspective it certainly is not a bad song. It is slow and melancholic and I gripped onto it with my dear life.
I hid behind this song as a kid looking for protection from their parents.
(2002) as you have probably noticed by now I like when music is highly experimental and thrown into a blender. Especially when it results in this mixture of different elements and songs.
From “24ko Cylinders” to “the Domestic Fucker Family” and the pop-rock reminding “Jessica” to “Embryo”. Even the EDM tracks that a lot of people seem to dislike…
I loved every speck of it passionately.
The album is such a genius piece of art that showcases the creativity of the band well. It may come off as kinda bipolar as it seems to shift the nature of the songs on a regular basis while still being heavier and darker than their previous work.
It is highly experimental and reminds me why I love this band so much. Not just from an emotional standpoint and the lyrical representation but musically.
Presents a more vulnerable side to the band’s repertoire and I have always thought that it is an exceptional piece of art. This song also has a remake of on the “Glass Skin” single which is just as beautiful.
(2002) It has Byou Shin again! Nothing else really matters.
Jokes aside, I can’t count the times I danced in my room to “Ugly”. There is something about this song. Something sinister and sexy and danceable.
And “Children” sounds like an early nu-metal craze?!
(2003) this album has been one that I have been so in love with from start to finish that I played it regularly.
Right off the bat, it adapts to more Western Sounds and it is nothing like they have ever created before. It has the nu-metal groove to it with some core-like vibes while still making it known where the band came from with songs like “Increase Blue”. Still, this album feels more cohesive.
It simply is one of my favorite songs ever written. I love the chug of it, the nu-metal-ish vibe it gives off, and the clean sung parts. When we get to the 1.21 mark you can hear what drives me mad. So listen to it!
And you know what? “Shokubeni” has a killer remake on “Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami” – Try to say it out loud fast. I dare you. It was the SAW3 soundtrack too and it surely is one of their newer works to check out.
“Withering to Death”
(2005) It has some quite aggressive songs -more than any of their previous work like “Merciless Cult” and “Saku”. While still having funkier/poppier songs like “C” and out of nowhere it hits you with “Higeki ha Mabuta wo Oroshita Yasashiki Utsu”?! Excuse me, Sirs, what are you doing?!
To sum it up, the reminiscence of what they are now can be noted as much as who they were before this album.
It was also their step onto the American Soil with joining bands like Korn and Deftones and appearing on “Rock am Ring” and “Family Values Tour 2006” which DVD I watched over and over again. Unless you are not put off by bleeding and the evident shock factor, don’t watch it.
For some people the vocals might also be the weak part, please give it a spin, perhaps you will start liking them. He is one of the most diverse singers I have ever heard.
The songs that I have personally spun the most must be “Dead Tree” and “Kodoku ni Shisu, Yueni Kodoku”.
“The Marrow of the Bone”
(2007) I remember young me waiting for this album like a little kid waiting for Christmas. When I finally heard it I fell in love for the first time in my life all over again which has become a regular occurrence with this band.
Whenever I think “I will listen to one song” from this album, I end up listening to it in its whole glory.
It was the first release to be widely spread to America and it shows their ability to incorporate and flirt with different genres in a way that doesn’t sound awkward. I blame Dir en grey for making me dip my head into the world of metalcore.
The album sure does throw metalcorish vibes in your face with “Agitated Screams of Maggots” and feels great as a whole. The transitions from song to song don’t feel as much out of place as with some older of their releases.
The opening act “CONCEIVED SORROW” with its’ ominous intro and melancholy-ridden keyboards is a definite mood setter. By the time the vocals and acoustic guitars hit I am feeling an arrangement of emotions. From the sadness to the wow moment of the brilliance of the piece.
Naturally, my emotional ties to the song and album are way too tight to form any constructive thoughts.
(2008) also has a remastered & Expanded version from 2010. If you listened to any of the other two band’s songs that I wrote about, or from the instrumental series. You can tell how much this album has shaped my taste in music.
Never has a band managed to give me three heart attacks in a row – starting from the last album. I swear to God, they are toying with my feelings. You never know what to expect from these guys. When you think you know the direction the band is taking they throw “Uroboros” in your face?! With the Studio Live DVD?!
Pardon me but that was a little unexpected and there is only so much a heart of a fangirl can take.
The Fangirl Squealing Aside:
This album demonstrates the constant thriving for something better of the band and the blending of different genres into what makes Dir en grey. The vocal abilities of the singer have really started to show in this release.
The oriental influences are just beautiful, the progressive elements of the band are more prevalent, the structure that we are used to is destroyed, and tradition in songwriting is under question as always.
The complex constructions and layers of textures had me by the throat and yelled at me to listen once more, yet it retains perfect balance and flow. The album is so well put together that it forms a whole – you could say it is immaculate. And the talent of these very skilled musicians is in your face.
The mandolin on many tracks makes me tingle in all the right places, the heavy and aggressive parts are just enough to fill my hearts’ desire, and the soft singing is perfectly accompanied by screeches and harsh vocals.
It is a journey of a perfect balance between melody and brutality. This whole album is truly a piece of ar. Please listen to it as a whole.
It could fill most Progressive Metal enthusiasts’ wet dreams like their next album.
The song I would take with me if I had to take one song with me on a deserted island.
Not because it is better than the others, but the feeling I had the first time I heard it. I had never heard a masterpiece as such. It was something so complex yet flowy – from death metal to tribal and eastern vibes to Doomy things. Oh, I love Doom stuff in songs.
As someone who was a big admirer of “Opeth” ( My favourite song is “Black Rose Immortal” and will forever be), I naturally fell in love with “Uroboros”.
But it is nothing like “Opeth”, it is Dir en grey.
Try to not headbang to it. I dare you. Just listen to it, it is everything I love in a song.
“Dum Spiro Spero”
(2011) I have no other word to say than WTF Dir en grey. How can you do such a thing to my poor heart? It wants what it wants. It wants more Dir en grey and odd time signatures. There was I, fixated on my next dose and it hits harder than anything before.
The emphasis on atmosphere (which is beautifully dark and intricate) and songs riddled with complex compositions and textures are what make this album stand out from others.
Without mentioning the ominous keyboards, the vocal range and abilities of the singer, the bass that slaps, and the drums that just need a few go at the album to comprehend… The brutality and the mesmerizing melodies of the guitars that send the whole album are so well laid out that it is one of the most enjoyable albums I have ever listened to.
I am so sad that back in the day I didn’t get the BOX editions with Vinyl for this and Uroboros. I own only one Vinyl from them and while it is this album… IT IS NOT THE BOX!!!
It is the song that when I was done with the whole album I listened to at least 2 hours in a row. Obsessed much? Yes. I couldn’t get enough. This song has rendered me void of descriptive words. There are none to express how much I adore it.
(2014) I have to say that after “Dum Spiro Spero” up to “Phalaris” the albums as a whole needed some time to get used to. I was still not over the last two and needed time. Maybe that is why I listened to the newer material once or twice upon release. And again in 2019.
I was riding on the previous two for a long time. Not because the newer ones were bad, but because I was emotionally hooked. I was not ready to come out of my bubble yet. So much so that I stopped listening to their older work before “Uroboros” completely for a few years.
Back to the album
This album brings together the newer feel of Dir en grey and the feeling you get when listening to their earlier work. I think it is one of those albums that can tell you what Dir en grey is in just 16 songs.
It may not be as dark as “Dum Spiro Spero” but yet again, the work is creative as hell.
I think when I heard that song again in 2019 I felt the huge array of emotions that I have felt for this band throughout the years. All of my love in just one song and I had brushed it off for years. It made me listen to their older work again just to feel the love.
“Kukoku no Kyoun”
I can not put into words the feelings this song gives me. It is something of a higher love.
You, Dir en grey, have left a poet speechless. It is truly breathtaking. Please take a listen to this one, a truly intricate piece of art.
“The Insulated World”
(2018) They played a lot of songs from this album on the live I was at and my neck gets this weird pain every time I listen to it now. I wonder why…
Odd melodies that seem almost eclectic and the way the old meets the new once again is very well presented, it has many danceable and headbanger songs. It sounds like their whole career came together and made a baby.
Every album they spawn out from God knows where slaps me on my wrist every time I expect something...
“Devote My Life”
Someone figured out that dissonant sounds make my knees weak… I think I was the happiest girl in the whole venue when they played it live and every time I hear it it makes me make stupid faces for some reason. Like a clown – I like weird sounds okay.
I like it.
I wish this song was longer.
“Values of Madness”
And we are dipping into voice acting, electronics, and me dancing again. Thanks, Dir en grey. I don’t think I will recover from this.
This freaking masterpiece.
I have not felt such an instant love for an album on Dir en grey’s repertoire since “Dum Spiro Spero”.
I listened to this album on repeat for three days… just taking everything in. The symphonic, electronic elements, the harmony, the vocals.
I think it is very beautiful and imaginative, and I certainly did not expect this kind of album. No matter the backlash some fans have given “They made a complex album just for the sake of it”.
I am in love and am not taking my pink glasses off. I refuse to, I live in a world where Dir en grey never fails me.
This song could make me cry and I just want to drown myself in it. One that really takes me on a journey and the lyrics are insanely good – look up the translation.
It is oddly comforting and peaceful. I want to be mean in saying please lose your guard with this song and put it on high volume. The buildup to the culmination is just so darn good.
“The Perfume of Sins”
Has this blackish metal type of influence that I can not get enough of. Just lovely. I can’t say any words about this song, you just have to experience it for yourself.
More Songs?! Just STOP ALREADY.
If you haven’t listened to any that I spoke about, please check this one out, this time I bring out one song because I just brought many on the table since their discography was long:
“The World of Mercy”
When this single came out I couldn’t fit in my head that Dir en grey has done it once again. It was just another masterpiece. I think it is on par, from the emotional standpoint, with the “Diabolos”, “Vinushka” and later released “Kamuy”.
And not just emotionally, the composition is beautiful.
As someone who was relentlessly bullied and always hid behind anything she could find, the video and the lyrics made me cry at first. But also I really appreciated the complexity of the song.
The way it pulls you in right away and the way it just keeps evolving over the course of 10 minutes. The build-up, the things you can’t hear at first, it is of such beauty that I can not even begin to comprehend.
Don’t get me started on the vocal performance… – Listen to it and experience it, please.
I also saw it live and the mere thought of it made me cry. It was a whole emotional experience on another level.
This song really drowns me in itself, wraps its’ arms around me. Please listen to it if you stopped after the first songs I mentioned. It is different.
I also watched the DVD a few times like a proper fangirl. Am I a good girl?
Links To My Work
Poetry: Dragon of Alcanmore, Poetry of a Love So Cold.
Stories: Six-Sentence Stories, Short Stories, Romance and All That, Elves and Fantasy
Posts on music that I love are here.
I am on YouTube where I also have created lyric videos.
Here is my Spotify
My band can be listened to on YouTube, Spotify and other streaming services.