Review Summary: A pleasing compromise between the old and the new4 of 4 thought this review was well written
For fans of Dir En Grey, the revealing of the tracklist to The Unraveling either signalled a wave of euphoria or a flood of anxiety due to the high percentage of remakes. The band is admittedly hit or miss with these so almost an entire EP of them seemed to spell disaster, surely.
On the contrary, The Unraveling is a perfect mixture of the harmony and catchiness of their previous work and the raw aggression found on their latter albums Uroboros and Dum Spiro Spero. The classic singles ‘Kasumi’ and ‘The Final’, although largely unchanged, now have a bit more depth and power behind them due to the heavier riffs and vocal work. The same can be said for ‘Macabre’ (which is now safely the band’s longest song to date due to the added sequence towards the end). Easily the band’s magnum opus, it has been successfully revamped for their newer audience. Despite being over 16 mins, the song never fails to ensnare the listener with its complexity.
This blend of catchiness and power is also encapsulated within the title track which is surprisingly good in lieu of its grandiose counterparts. Despite showcasing the band’s newfound heaviness, ‘Unraveling’ never gets to that point of sludginess found on Dum Spiro Spero.
However, that’s not to say that the band is going soft. The remake of oldies ‘Karma’ and ‘Unknown. Despair. Lost’, for example, have infectiously brutal riffs and some intense vocals, easily improving on the originals. ‘Karasu’, meanwhile, retains the ebb and flow of tranquility/heaviness from before but in a much eerier manner, making it perfectly suited to their recent style. ‘Bottom Of The Death Valley’ is perhaps the only track which is barely recognisable. Whilst departing from the memorable bass line of the original, the track also features a slower tempo and a more melancholic tone, creating a song which seems completely new and fresh. As a result it’s easily one of the stand out tracks and brings to mind the song ‘Hydra 666’ which similarly deviates from its predecessor through a complete sonic overhaul. Yet despite the adoption of their heavier style, none of the tracks on this EP suffer from the same awkward experience exuded by most of their previous album. Instead, they are more accessible and much easier to listen to.
That’s not to say the EP is perfect. The new sequence added towards the end of Macabre, whilst a nice addition, doesn’t seem to sit entirely well with the rest of the song. Furthermore, the unplugged versions of ‘Unraveling’ and ‘The Final’ seem a little lacking. Acoustic versions of each would have been more ideal in comparison to the discordant (and quite frankly dreadful) piano of the former and the blandness of the latter.
Despite this, the EP is without a doubt brilliant and perfectly blends Dir En Grey’s visual kei past and their recent heavier phase. Admittedly it’s a grower and it takes a few listens to fully appreciate the changes in each of the new songs, but once they’re apparent they become a sheer pleasure to listen to. Instead of picking out all the things the band chose not to include with these tracks, you actually begin to pick up on the new things they have included. As a result, each song seems new and open for exploration.
The Unraveling is an effort from a band who are clearly trying to appeal to their entire fan base and in doing this they have crafted a set of songs which stand apart from their original counterparts. In doing this they have also honed their sound into something aurally challenging, yet accessible (unlike their previous album). Recommended for fans of all eras of Dir En Grey, this EP shows the band at their best and only generates more excitement for what is to come.
‘Macabre’, ‘Kasumi’, ‘Karma’, ‘The Final’, ‘Bottom Of The Death Valley’