Review Summary: Dir en Grey has done it again! The Marrow of a Bone is adorned with many beautiful gems but some tracks remain uninspiring, resulting in an album that is excellent yet falls short of being wondrous.
Dir en Grey are:
Kyo - Vocals
Die - Guitar
Kaoru - Guitar
Toshiya - Bass
Shinya - Drums
Hailing from Japan, Dir en Grey is a band with an agenda of darkness and despair. Their songs are by no means easy-listening stuff and revolve around sadness, anger, pain, madness and loss. Despite this, DeG continues to gather a huge following in their native Japan and are recently breaking into the American and European markets.
Dir en Grey has been described as an "acquired taste" and I cannot disagree. Their music can be off-putting to first time listeners especially if you start with some of their more outrageous tracks, but they are a band that you can fall more and more in love with the more you hear them. I will describe their music as controlled chaos, always on the brink of madness yet with an indescribable element of twisted beauty. If you are not looking for gut-wrenching music that makes your head about to explode and your heart ready to burst, really do look elsewhere.
So what about the latest offering from the boys from Japan? Since 2003, the band has delved into seemingly heavier and heavier tendencies with their music. Some say this has not been a change for the better, as much of their music lacks that indefinable soul that they managed to capture and convey in their earlier works. Let us have a look at the new album, track by track.
Dir en Grey's latest album opens with the slow and dark CONCEIVED SORROW, which also happens to be one of the best tracks here. True to it's name, this is a song that conveys deep sadness. From Shinya's and Toshiya's plodding rhythm to the quiet piano and guitar overtones to Kyo's sorrowful vocals, the song builds and builds towards a truly heart-wrenching chorus. This is an extremely beautiful song, however, I do not think it makes for a good opening track as it does not set the mood for the frenzy fest we are about to experience in the next 4 tracks.
From sorrow to anger... the 2nd track, LIE BURIED WITH A VENGEANCE, opens with a heavy guitar riff followed by Kyo's screaming voice before the whole band rocks it up in full force. This song is a good deal of screaming and banging, driven most notably by one of the best head-banging drum pattern Shinya has ever produced.
DeG follows with yet another heavy song. THE FATAL BELIEVER follows the tried and tested formula of screaming vocals leading into a catchy melodic chorus. Look out for Toshiya's great bass breakdown at about 1:30.
AGITATED SCREAMS OF MAGGOTS comes next, and it's a prime example of DeG's reputation as masters of chaos. The track is 3 minutes of manic mayhem, it drives the listener into a state of frenzy even as Kyo repeatedly screams "I'll rape your daughter on your grave!!!" Behold the wrath of Engrish!
DeG relentlessly serves another dish of madness in track 5: GRIEF. Another manic moshpit song, I really like the tribal-feel "interlude" starting at 1:57. Kyo really shreds his vocal cords from then on with some of the harshest screaming you'll ever hear, especially with the painful shriek that can be heard at 2:53.
After the four-track frenzy, DeG finally gives us a bit of a rest with RYOUJOKU NO AME. It's still heavy, but not Over the years DeG have often used distortion samples to good effect, and the main sample in this song is a great example.
Track 7: DISABLED COMPLEXES start of with a subdued, funky feel to it but at 1:30 turns heavier. The intro makes for a nice change, but otherwise this is another screamfest with a melodic chorus.
The next track ROTTING ROOT is a strange song. The general feeling I get from this song is one of discomfort. It's definitely a rotten feeling, not the exhilarating fury that you feel from, say, AGITATED SCREAMS OF MAGGOTS. I'm not sure if that was what the band wishes to achieve, but this song makes me feel uncomfortable.
And finally, we get a real break. NAMAMEKASHIKI ANSOKU, TAMERAI NI HOHOEMI is a very melodic song in which Kyo barely screams at all. Definitely a welcome change at this point as we have had basically half an hour of screaming. This song is very beautiful and has all the bittersweet emotions of a DeG ballad that fans have come to love. On a side note, ever since Vulgar, DeG really seem to have a penchant for very long song names :|
THE PLEDGE is in the same vein as the previous one, which makes me wonder if they should have be placed one after the other. Nevertheless THE PLEDGE is still one of the album's standout tracks with its bleeding heart chorus. I really wished they would put a cool guitar solo here, like in RED...[em].
And then, back to crunchtime with REPETITION OF HATRED. This song largely has a very good feel to it with the whole band working together seamlessly, however the chorus as well as the guitar solo let me down a bit.
THE DEEPER VILENESS along with ROTTING ROOT is probably the least remarkable song in the album. While I can see that it would work well live, where you can have the whole crowd's through-the-roof energy levels to feed the song, it is somewhat lacking here.
Dir en Grey decides to close the first disc with a re-recorded version of the album's first single CLEVER SLEAZOID. CLEVER SLEAZOID is storm-in-a-can, a great blistering moshing song. Personally I think the original recording was better, its raw feel really works well with the song. However, this is still a great track. I question its placement though, this track really shouldn't be placed at the end of the album. Or perhaps it is a good thing, because it leaves us wanting more. Oh wait, we do have more! On to the bonus tracks...
The bonus tracks are softer, more soulful remixes of some of the quieter songs on the album: NAMAMEKASHIKI ANSOKU, TAMERAI NI HOHOEMI, CONCEIVED SORROW and THE PLEDGE. NAMAMEKASHIKI ANSOKU, TAMERAI NI HOHOEMI was beautifully rendered with just a single piano. CONCEIVED SORROW's new arrangement comprises mostly electronic samples. The bonus version of THE PLEDGE was sweetly done with just acoustic guitars. All three tracks are brilliant and most would argue that these arrangements work better for the respective songs (with the possible exception of CONCEIVED SORROW). I can see why they were placed in a bonus disc though: the feel of these songs are completely different and would likely ruin the mood of the album were they placed in disc one. However, these tracks really do show that Dir en Grey are more than just a bang and bash band.
So how does the album rate overall? There are some real gems here, such as CONCEIVED SORROW, AGITATED SCREAMS OF MAGGOTS and THE PLEDGE (especially the bonus acoustic version). However, many of the other tracks seem rather forced, and it does feel at times that the boys are trying a little too hard to be harsh and heavy. In too many tracks they resort simply to screaming and heavy riffs. The result is that, while sometimes it works well (like in MAGGOTS or SLEAZOID), at other times it becomes rather uninspiring, even boring. However, there are still enough brilliance on this album to make it worthwhile.