Review Summary: It's a tragedy really, watching a truly creative band buckle under the weight of their own ambitions.
Years ago I grew fond of a young lady in my town. I wished to know everything about her, her favorite books, where she liked to spend most of her time, and most importantly, her favorite music. It didn’t take long for her to tell me the latter, as she had a rather large “DIR EN GREY” tattoo right on her person. Obviously, I tried desperately to search this “Dir en Grey” out. In my research I found out many a thing. Firstly, the existence of a place called “Sputnikmusic.” Secondly, that Dir en Grey are one of the most noisy and inconsistent bands on the face of the planet. But post-research, the most important thing I discovered was this:
The girl was about as hinged as, well, Dir en Grey’s newest release, DUM SPIRO SPERO
You see, the most glaring issue with DUM SPIRO SPERO
is that it’s a million things at once, with neither excelling at any given time. The album is filled with ideas, so much that they’re bursting at the seams. However, despite the fact that Dir en Grey is a truly creative band, these ideas never fully form, so what we’re left with a garbled mess. There isn’t a flow within the album, let alone within each song, as it feels like the album was initially written but got thrown into a wood chipper.
And this is a damn shame, because as always, Dir en Grey manages to do a lot right. For starters, they really are a creative group of guys. DUM SPIRO SPERO
sifts through a myriad of genres, ranging from alt rock to death metal. The attempts at each are impressive, as the band is able to capture a very wide array of styles and sounds. The band as a whole stands out as very technically proficient. Instrumentally, the album is very diverse, with each member impressing at least once. Yet the most controversial and arguably most talented member of the band comes in the form of Kyo, the vocalist. Despite how easy on the ears he can be, it’s tough not to admit the guy’s range is almost inhuman. Effortlessly he glides between death vocals, clean singing, and bestial screeches. They man is intense, and really that’s all that can be said, as he gives an unbelievable amount of life to DUM SPIRO SPERO
It’s good to see Dir en Grey chart new territory in regards to their sound. However, a lot of the new choices and changes come off as questionable. After all, it felt as if they’d truly become comfortable with themselves on UROBOROS
. However, DUM SPIRO SPERO
, which is ultimately something that will come as a disappointment to many. There’s an exploration into a “core” sound, and the dual vocal layering only makes this even more unbearable. Some more breakdowns are thrown in, giving an uncharacteristically juvenile sound to the entire package. Yet what’s most disappointing is the lack of a killer track in the vein of “Vinshuka” or “The Final.” Sure, “The Blossoming Beelzebub” is a dark, sprawling metal epic, but it meanders more than anything, never really captivating. This seems to be the case throughout the entire album, with everything leading back to the albums inability to remain even remotely consistent. Just when you think things are going to come together, it devolves into a noisy incoherent mess.
Regardless of how confounding the music really is, Dir en Grey has a big hurdle: the western appeal. Yes music is universal, and yes typically the language barrier isn’t really a barrier at all. However, Dir en Grey is from Japan, and incidentally has a very Japanese sound and aesthetic. Vocals are warbled and melodramatic, lyrics are exceptionally pretentious, and the entire “visual kei” movement is, well, the visual kei movement. That being said, this really isn’t a fault of the band per se, but it speaks volumes of how DUM SPIRO SPERO
will appeal to anyone unfamiliar with Japanese music, and Dir en Grey specifically.
DUM SPIRO SPERO
is truly a tragedy. It could have been a sprawling metal epic that challenged musical conceptions as well as metal as a genre. Sadly, the album buckles under the weight of its own ambitions, disintegrating into a maddeningly disastrous product. There are some exceptional ideas found within, but it’s not enough to save an album that didn’t know how to use them.