According to press, Japanese experimental metal outfit Dir en Grey wanted to move in a more beautiful, graceful direction with their latest release. While that may be true, there is glorious pandemonium within the stunning configuration and Uroboros winds up as one of the most face-meltingly remarkable metal albums of the year.
Dir en Grey has conquered the Japanese rock scene, delighting audiences with their brand of madness metal for over a decade. Once unleashed on American shores for the first time in early 2006, indie metal fans couldn’t get enough of the diabolical quintet. With the release of Withering to Death, Dir en Grey hit the festival circuit throughout Europe and the U.S. Lead vocalist Kyo was hospitalized for “inflamed vocal chords,” but the band was still able to join Korn on the Family Values Tour in 2006.
In February 2007, Dir en Grey took off on their first American headlining tour. Their sixth album, The Marrow of a Bone, was released and the band toured with Deftones before heading back on a European tour. With their influence in the world of metal growing, the release of their seventh record, Uroboros, gives fans even more bloody and brutal metal to chew on.
For starters, like it should matter, the songs are in Japanese (lyrics in English are included in the liner notes, but they are damn near impossible to read without a bright light and a magnifying glass). Kyo is incredible, thrashing his vocal chords over lyrics that encapsulate the record’s theme of guilt and reincarnation. He screams, shouts, bellows, moans, growls, and sings superbly and smartly. Kyo’s range is almost overwhelming; his electronic-effect free vocals are second-to-none in the metal world.
Instrumentally, this is a complex and rich album. The arrangements are intricate and well-designed, resonating with crunchy guitar, congas, electric sitar, thundering drums, and a mandolin. With guitarists Kaoru and Die recording some of their instrument’s portions directly from an amp, the songs are given an earthy resonance.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Uroboros is just how lush the whole thing is. Dir en Grey is throwing the kitchen sink into the record and seeing what works. And everything works. Arrangements course through like blood in the veins, unfolding with neat piano that meshes gently with Kyo’s vocals (“Glass Skin”) and guitars that drive hard through a 10-minute epic of shocking proportions (“Vinushka”).
“Ware, Yami Tote…” is a gorgeous, expressive cut that uses acoustic guitar and tons of atmosphere to tell its story. And “Doukoku to Sarinu” takes the opposite approach, thundering ahead with head-splitting guitar and a brisk, hammering pace over Kyo’s screams.
Uroboros, translated literally to “tail-devourer,” is one of the best metal records of the year. Coated with an experimental spirit that may shut out some overly obdurate “purists,” this is a ballsy and monstrous record. Dir en Grey has earned every single member of its huge fan base and will doubtlessly continue to grow it with records like this. It is striking, roaring, maddening, breathtaking and fan-fucking-tastic.