REVIEW: DIR EN GREY – “Dum Spiro Spero”

By Leo Kindred

Right, well. It’d certainly be hard to accuse the Japanese obscenists of compromising or pandering to expectations; for their latest work is just as weird as previous album Uroboros.

Continuing their almost chameleon-like evolution Dum Spiro Spero sees the J-rock outfit further growing into a sound which is increasingly more odd, progressive,and macabre.

Oh what a strange isle we’ve washed up on, and I don’t mean Japan.

Blossoming Beelzebub‘ typifies the positives of this recent direction- i.e. bizarre to the point of being like an original score for an avant-garde horror film.

Untrue levels of vocal experimentalism? A bleak, broodingly evil and black sound? Unnerving high pitch falsetto? That’s good. It’s mental, yet great. Like Brian Blessed.

The more progressive work is this album’s strength, but where they haven’t got it right is how tame the heavier sections now sound.

Dir En Grey used to have almost noise-grind levels of punky intensity. Brash, churning riffs of infectious nastiness, angsty screaming, catchy devastating vocal lines a mile wide- it had it all and made J-rock a legitimate musical genre, not just for irritating animé fans with fringes. I miss that.

Now though there’s something clinically flat and sober about the guitars, and instead of savagery in the fiercer parts the guitaring reminds of a mosquito buzzing over conspicuous bass lines and overly-prominent death grunting.

That being said singer Kyo is one of the most versatile vocalists around, so even when the instrumental work alone is not enough to hold the listener’s attention he can be relied upon to screech, yowl, gibber or growl like some sort of one-man schizo vocal orchestra from another world, making you temporarily forget the occasionally mediocre riffs or the over-long track lengths and directionless feel on some songs.

Dum Spiro Spero has moments of grandeur, undeniable originality, and doesn’t bore.

The sheer what-the-fuckery of the produce is so…other it still can fascinate, though as a record it proves that intriguing and entertaining don’t always mix.

Dir En Grey no longer resemble sound-wise the band they were just 5 years ago so what direction they’ll continue in after this is anyone’s guess- playing the guitars with ice skates or something.

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