Review Summary: Withering to Death sheds old sounds and makes the band take their first baby steps towards a direction that will define them in the future.
It's clear DIR EN GREY have found their niche after years of experimentation and fusion of various genres. The band's last three albums have slithered around and tested a wide range of styles from the rock and metal ethos: metalcore; death metal; progressive and avant-garde to name but a few of the types of music they've amalgamated together to create three of the most unique and interesting records to come out of the last decade. But each of the three LP's hold a similarity and bond which make them an instantly recognisable, uniquely distinct experience -- despite how diverse and different each album is. At this point it's also worth mentioning that any album pre-Uroboros
, no matter how solid and entertaining it is, fails to achieve that
sound. Not to take anything away from the other four extremely talented members of DIR EN GREY, but the signature consistency that keeps the same familiarity of the last three, frankly, completely different LP's together, is Kyo. As a vocalist he has always stood out from most for his adaptable and diverse vocal range, even from the get-go of the band's inception; but it's the last 10 years that has shown a significant, and simply awe-inspiring, improvement and level of control over this voice.
With that in mind, it has to be said that comparing anything before Uroboros
with their last three works, truly highlights the band scrambling to find a sound that resonates and represents them best. Though the band has a solid discography, that any band would be proud of, the albums always feel a tier down; and Withering to Death
is no exception to this... but only just. Certainly one of the band's strongest efforts, Withering to Death
shows glimmers of the band we know now; there's a swagger and attitude, matched with a band sounding more aggressive than normal, an overshadowing darkness willing to crush anyone if they let it. The opening track "Merciless Cult" and "Saku" are set to rip the ear drums off the listener, with a furious blend of razor sharp punk speed and a raw metal attitude, it ensures it has your complete attention. The album is lathed in melancholy, but the collection of songs here sound more relentless and unhinged when compared to anything previous. As DIR EN GREY aren't one for sticking to a formula for long, Withering to Death
contains plenty of variety to hold the listeners interest: from the face-smashing opener; the funky "Jesus R'n R" and the atmospheric and gentle epic of "ITOSHISA WA FUHAI NI TSUKI, Because Love Decays" there is plenty of different moods that will cater to most.
This is the album that starts to bring a much better control on Kyo's vocal styles; the demonic, guttural lows, that have become a staple of the band's core sound today, show up occasionally on the likes of "Garbage" and "C", really adding a different dimension to the band and adding a heaviness to the wall of sound the album largely throws at you. Chorus melodies flourish and are easy, infectious and digestible to listen to. But even with a bigger influence on a metal sound this time around, Kyo's voice can still be hit and miss at points; certain melodies or executions can come across dated, or don't quite fit what the music behind it is trying to convey; and it's a shame because it can break momentum at times. There isn't a bad
song here, and certainly not a badly sung song here, but at certain points of a song you'll come across an odd high note or melody that makes you think "eh?"; "Dead Tree" has a rather cringe-induced chorus, more akin to something a generic J-rock band would sing, coming across cheesy and a little forced when compared to what the rest of the song offers, while "Beautiful Dirt" throws this odd line in the verse that stands out infectiously, but not in a good way. "HIGEKI WA MABUTA WO ORO***A YASASHIKI UTSU, Tragedy Is Gentle Gloom Which Closed Eyes" is also guilty of being a throwback to a sound that almost matches some of their cheesiest back catalogue.
However, the flaws found on here are just nit-picks, and do little damage to the songs and what the album has to offer. One of the band's biggest tracks, "The Final", is on here, and there is a bleakly positive feeling to that and "KODOU, Beat" that make them so appealing to fans. Kyo's performance on here is on point, and brings some really genuine emotion to the likes of "KOUDO, Beat", while, overall, screams and singing meld in well with all the songs on here. The band's writing style on this shows the spacey textures of previous works, with a punk attitude and metal base to work on; certainly showing a different side to what they've written in the past. I definitely consider this to be the best LP outside of the last three titans. All the songs hold up well from time, and, in retrospect, while Marrow of a Bone
is the true transition into a much darker world, this album points the band in a direction that leads to the ominous darkness they'll spiral down in later works.
Edition: M̶P̶3̶, CD, V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶
Packaging: Standard Jewel Case.
Special Edition: N/A