For Fans Of
For Japanese hardcore, your best bet is to go for Crystal Lake, the Asian equivalent of Stick To Your Guns. For more synth, mash-up fuckabouts in the vein of Enter Shikari, you best to go with Crossfaith or Maximum The Hormone. But, for something a bit weirder (no, not like Babymetal) and something that’s definitely heavier, look no further than Dir En Grey.
A few months ago, the band’s lead-guitarist Die (no one’s really sure on his real name) said that this album was their most accomplished work to date, and for once, a group wasn’t just talking out of their own arsehole because he was right on the money. The band’s ninth album, ‘Arche’ (that’s ‘origin’ for us) is just really bloody good. It seems these Japanese folks have that little something extra that the Western bands we see and listen to day in, day out don’t have, because this full-length really stands out amongst 2014’s heavier releases. Though don’t be fooled that these guys are strangers to the West, with the band hitting up Download festival last year and you may have even seen them repping the Land of the Rising Sun at this year’s Soundwave as well.
Now, the band have had some classics over the years (especially… this), and this is ripe with new classics. Musically, it’s similar to what you’d hear in Slipknot, Disturbed, Machine Head, In Flames and other big metal bands – pounding, pummelling drums, moments of beautiful, clean guitar melodies, strong choruses, plenty of heavy guitar riffs and solos, crunching bass, great song-writing, tight grooves and a whole lot more.
Writing a review of ‘Arche’ is interesting, mainly because the song lyrics and most of the titles are not in the language you are currently reading, and because the ‘add to dictionary’ option received more of a work out than ever before. All of the lyrics are in Japanese, and even though bands such as Caliban sometimes release songs in their native tongues, this is all in Japanese. Actually, a lot of other bands from their homeland sing and scream in English – Crossfaith, Crystal Lake, Her Name In Blood just to name a few – but Dir En Grey (like Kvelertak, for example) don’t, and that actually puts them apart from their peers, even if you have no idea what the songs are about. The only thing that you have going on for the songs is that the theme of the album is about pain and loss, so yeah… do with that info what you will.
Aside from linguistic differences, one thing that helps Dir En Grey stand out is their lead vocalist Kyo (no one’s really sure what his real name is either). This dude has a powerfully high, angelic and soaring voice and, at times, the vocals are surprisingly catchy (opener ‘Un Deux‘ is a strong example of this). You may not speak Japanese but holy fuck, those hooks will really stick in your head, and that’s something that has really aided this band in their 17-year plus career. These massive, soaringly clean choruses do make up a lot of the songs but that’s not all that Kyo (and the band) can do, as that’s only half of the talent right there. Kyo frequently drops some insanely heavy growls, like demonic soundingly heavy; sounds that could easily rival the best death and black metal vocalists we have out here.
The album itself is 16 tracks at just over an hour long. So yes, it’s a bit of a slog to get through at times. Thankfully, the 16 tracks all bring the goods. Half of them are more melodic and dynamic, but still ultimately heavy. While the other half is just pure heavy and aggressive, baby. So as a good contrast, look no further than ‘The Inferno‘ and ‘Kaishun’ as opposing opposites and as the two real standouts of ‘Arche‘. The former is bat-shit insane vocally, and easily the heaviest and punchiest of the collection of tracks. While, the latter is powerful in its building dynamics and eerie and beautiful in tone, and just shows why this group is so revered in their home country. Other notable mentions (all 16 would have been picked but that would take way too long) go to ‘Cause of Fickleness’, which goes from mid-range screams to high-pitched squeals and then low growls in mere seconds. Then there are ‘Chain Repulsion’ and ‘Midwife’ where those insane crazy squeals and screams can be found littered throughout. Lead single ‘Rinkaku’ has some ear-carving low-end and despite Kyo’s soaring cleans, it’s still quite a heavy track, and another great entry to what is already a fantastic album.
At the end of the day, when you have good songs, people will always come and listen, and when you couple that with a pretty solid mix then you’re making peoples ears orgasm and that’s basically what ‘Arche‘ does to you for an hour or so.
If you’ve ever watched Japanese anime (like Death Note, Full Metal Alchemist, etc.) and didn’t like their opening or ending soundtracks, then you probably won’t get a kick out of this album. If you’re looking for something that’s good and a little different, then Dir En Grey’s latest is exactly what you’re after!
1. Un Deux
5. Cause Of Fickleness
8. Chain Of Repulsion
12.Behind A Vacant Image
13. Sustain The Untruth
14. Kūkoku no Kyōon
15. The Inferno
16. Revelation Of Mankind