It might help to explain that Dir En Grey is a Japanese-based group that’s been around for over a decade, and this is their seventh album. It might help to explain that there’s not a word of English on the entire album. It might help to mention that they wanted to go for a more ‘oriental’ sound with this album, and move away from ‘dark and heavy’ sounds.
… If this is moving away from ‘dark and heavy’, then frankly, I’m almost scared to go hunt down their previous work. You can even point out exactly where they decide to forget they ever said that (about halfway through the second track). There are some songs that have a slower pace (or at least, open slower, like the opening instrumental)… and then another track will just explode into a sonic orgy of screaming, bass, drum, and guitar. And yes, mandolin here and there. The singing almost reaches into J-Pop stylings at times, out-screeches most bands on the planet at others, and then will reach a deep growl that would give Satan himself pause. For every almost non-metal hard-rock track like “Ware, Yami Tote…” you get three or four balls-to-the-wall metal tracks like “Gaika, Chinmoku Ga Nemuru Koro.” No, don’t ask me to translate those. Part of me really doesn’t want to know.
I can’t comment on the lyrics much, as the Japanese I know is limited to a few key words, but the singing of the lyrics always blends well with the music through the different styles, the singer’s voice working just like another instrument. The guitars go hard and heavy when needed (which is most of the time), but when slowed down play with a precision that makes you hesitate (or salivate) to tackle their work in Guitar Hero. The drumming and bass are always solid and always there for the song, supporting it and taking center stage when needed. The band’s experience in playing together really shows and allows them to pull off some wonderfully hardcore combinations on their instruments.
The hell of it is… I very, very much want to tell you who they sound like. But… I can’t. They’ve got hints of Korn, Marilyn Manson, Cannibal Corpse, Rage Against The Machine, Anthrax, Rammstein, Slayer and… well, pretty much any metal group you can think of, and some that don’t quite qualify as ‘metal’. And amazingly enough, it all works, and works well. After all the commotion about Metallica’s most recent album, listening to this was enough to make me realize that the Japanese have joined the Europeans in taking metal and making it their own. We’re just playing catch-up now.
The 411: The only reason these guys aren’t more popular in the States is that they don’t sing in English. Dir En Grey provide some of the most hardcore tracks, and yet most melodic metal to be heard in quite some time. This isn’t some group of wanna-be posers; it’s a band of veterans who know what they’re doing. And what they do is make heads explode.