Review Summary: Arche celebrates the bands 15 year career in style.
DIR EN GREY isn’t the easiest band to pin down for sound and style, nor are they quite like anything else you’re likely to hear. Since starting their career in 1999 they have gone on to write nine studio albums and several EP’s, each album bringing a new level of growth and musical maturity. When they write music it never feels contrived and rarely follows contemporary trends, the band do what they feel is best for them, and for that approach their career has always felt like a very organic and natural process. Music aside, as the years have gone on they have slowly shed their Visual Kei image most Japanese bands are known for and gone for a more common image found in western culture.
Their ninth studio album, titled “Arche”, which translates to “origins”, is a fairly obvious nod for returning to the bands roots, or even seen as the band reflecting on everything they’ve achieved in their 15 year career. Further evidence of them looking into the past has seen band members slowly wearing a less exaggerated Visual Kei the last year or so, showing they’ve definitely been tapping into their roots.
2011’s Dum Spiro Spero was an album you either got or you didn’t; a mind-bending, head scrambling exercise of Death and Progressive Metal that rewarded you with countless layers hidden within the album if you stuck with it, offering huge amounts of replay value. Arche however mostly turns its back on the sound Dum Spiro Spero offers, but it doesn’t completely cut all ties. Arche is littered in Kyo’s signature screams and wails, tracks like ‘Uroko’, with chugging guitars and fast paced drums as Kyo bellows his lyrics out, a key sound found on Dum Spiro Spero, and ‘Inferno’ are proof DIR EN GREY haven’t shed the sound they’ve been building the last three albums .
But there’s a lot more to this record, overall. Yes, it’s been toned down and is more accessible and straight forward when compared to DSS, but the production alone will constantly remind you of the heavy wall of sound that was found on the previous record. What Arche offers is a celebration of almost every sound they experimented with in the past. You’ll find countless catchy hooks, great melodies and fantastic guitar work. Songs like ‘Soshaku’, ‘Tousei’ and ‘Kukoku No Kyouon’ offer all of these things, and really show the band at the top of their game. You’ll also come across the Uroboros style experimentation with tracks like ‘Behind A Vacant Image’, which also blends a lot of the Vulgar-esque guitar riffs and melodies in the song, and my favourite track on the album ‘Phenomenon’ which is quite an odd sounding track which starts off with drum and bass and guitars build up to its last minute where it peaks with a fantastic guitar riff.
Overall, it’s hard to really pick any flaws with Arche, it will appeal to every DIR EN GREY fan going, and if you’ve never heard the band before it’s also a very good starting point. My only real criticism is that the DSS and The Unravelling production doesn’t quite fit the sound this album goes for. I feel a different approach to the production would have really made this album go that little bit further. But, all-in-all, what this album proves is that DIR EN GREY really is special and they will constantly push themselves to the limit. Arche manages to amalgamate almost every sound they’ve ever used and make it look effortless. The tone is fantastically dark, beautiful and consistent and is a joy to listen to on its 16 track length.
This is a great way to celebrate 15 years of making music, and every DIR EN GREY fan, new and old, owe it to themselves to listen to this album.