Dir en grey is perhaps the quintessential heavy metal act when it comes to Japan. Forming in 1997, members consist of vocalist, Kyo; lead guitarist, Kaoru; rhythm guitarist, Die; bassist, Toshiya; and drummer, Shinya. Having been together for 17 years, the band not only has a firm grip on how to play music, but the technicalities of putting on a show as well. Coming from a visual background, the band has grown into itself as full on metal machine. The band works through Kaoru and Die’s double harmonies on guitar, with technical drum beats from Shinya; while the lower end is kept with bass lines that groove in and out of songs, all kept with a finger-slap technique that is key to Toshiya. All of this is lifted up by vocals from Kyo that range from as high as an G♯7 in soprano and as low as A2 within his bass vocals. Paired with technical styling and operatic performance, it is no wonder Dir en grey has gained a following within the overseas market.
While debuting in 1997, Dir en grey did not play overseas until 2005 during the Family Values Tour in which the band gained a large following for the grotesque visuals they displayed on stage. The band continued to grow into itself with the 2005 release of Withering to Death, which was the predecessor and break into the mainstream before Marrow of a Bone was released in 2006 which saw the band experimenting with heavier riffs and vocal presence.
After successful tour after successful tour, the band released their 8th studio album Uroboros which took the band to a new level for experimentation. Possessing a darker ambiance, the band experimented with different musical presence and composition that would lead to the band furthering their career into their latest album Dum Spiro Spero which harbors a darker feeling with a lining of hope. Dum Spiro Spero was released after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The name of the album itself is Latin for ‘While I breathe, I hope, ‘ which embodies the band’s current world view. 2012 saw the band taking a break.
Dir en grey is a band that constantly tours, and consistently releases albums within or between those tours. Kyo however, had injured his vocal chords due to overworking as well as the techniques used for his type of drastic screaming during tours. By 2013, the band was back after Kyo had underwent surgery for vocal cord dysphonia, and intensive vocal therapy. This is nothing new for the band, as in 2000, Kyo was hindered by a pyrotechnic malfunction and was rendered unable to hear lower registers within his left ear. All of this is important for a vocalist, so for the band to overcome this, was a large step. All of this lead to a change within not only the band’s musical direction, but their general outlook as well. The songs changed from more of an upbeat, visual theme, to a darker, more cynical world view. The band’s live appearances formed into something of a metal show meets religious experience. A sight to behold within Dir en grey lives is most definitely Kyo’s solos which are called ‘inward screams’. Within moments between songs, these solos become fillers. The stage fills with fog and the lighting creates an atmosphere that has no rival. The way Kyo uses his vocals with backing tracks, seems to have one blending continuously into another. The solos sometimes have Kyo dropping the microphone and with only his voice, it seems to constantly surround you until all at once, a new song begins.
Dir en grey has reached a status within 17 years that bands could only dream of. Their work ethic and marketing are strong, lead by lead guitarist, Kaoru. Ultimately, the stage presence this band possesses is something special, and something that only few bands can actually grasp. The band has something for everyone; from melodic singing that borders on operatic at times; heavy guitar riffs; thick bass lines complete with stage show that involves Toshiya spinning around without a care that you’re terrified he’s going to drop it; catchy melodies, to even guttural screaming. Dir en grey is a band you can go to see to get all of your frustration out and leave the venue feeling satisfied after an almost two hour set. Overseas, the band does not have time out for MC. Once they hit the stage, they are there for the entirety of the show. It is plain to see during a Dir en grey live that this band is not there to talk, they are there to play, the only thing that matters, and the thing that they live for: Music.
SUSTAIN THE UNTRUTH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GQDfmlDLck
輪郭 Rinkaku: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlJxiSdJSF8
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Guest writer: Kala Dunaway