Review Summary: A party you'd wish you weren't invited to.
Like a lot of the older demographic of band these days, DIR EN GREY have been in a state of stubborn stillness; the last few years focusing on a motif of celebration and review with what they’ve achieved thus far. And in the just over three-year absence of new music —barring the single “Utafumi”— we’ve been patiently waiting for that
new album announcement. Of course, it’s not like DIR EN GREY have been sat on their ass this whole time, we know there is a new album on the horizon and that they never left the scene; they have been just as active and hardworking as any other band doing the circuit today. But, it has been a long, long road of revision and reflection: rekindling every album they’ve ever made and turning them into contemporary overhauls, made possible via their live sets. And I’ll hold my hands up in saying it’s been an interesting period for them; one which really highlights how much the guys have developed and grown as musicians and artists. These Tour 16/17 Mode of…
live DVDs are extremely entertaining pieces that embody their roots and offer a much more experienced handling on the music, in turn rewarding you with a great new perspective, expansion on original ideas, and giving little reason not to go down memory lane with them. But now, with the final two instalments of Tour 16/17 Mode of…
complete, it looks as though we are at the apogee of this period with the band; a mammoth 3-disc best-of collection: 44 “fan-picked” remastered tracks – 3 of which are re-recorded – and a limited-edition bonus disc containing a documentary, interviews and a host of other fan-pleasing Easter eggs which go into detail on 20 years of DIR EN GREY.
Yes, Vestige of Scratches
has the potential to put a big red bow around all the hard-work the band have put into the last couple of years, and I reserved interest for this compilation simply because DIR EN GREY know how to pull out the goods for what the Western world would turn into an apathetic farce. But in a world where best-of compilations hold next to no relevancy, it’s going to need all the bells-and-whistles it can muster for it to be worth half a damn. The most obvious selling point is the “remastered”
tags being thrown around to sell this thing; and with how UROBOROS R&E
turned out with its production rework, I have to say these two words galvanised themselves as the single reason my interest piqued for this package.
Of course, the aspect most will want to know is how the remakes fair, and in all honestly it isn’t good. It’s not that they’re bad versions as such, more the problem stems from how they’ve had the life completely sucked out of them: if I was to pick the best from the three songs it would be “Fukai” (B-side that accompanied the Kasumi EP) because it contains the most energy, while “Beautiful Dirt” (Withered to Death) and “IIID Empire” (Vulgar) fall short by quite some way. But the problems here are far more severe than just picking the lesser evil; the predominantly glaring flaw is the terrible, terrible production which, as I say, literally zaps the life out of these once full and dynamically balanced tracks. Thought the original version of UROBOROS
was muddy? You haven’t heard anything yet: a simple comparison of the remakes and their originals should be sufficient evidence on just how badly mixed these 2018 versions are. These tracks feel as though they’ve had very little care, thought or effort put into them and on a technical standpoint alone, because of this botch job, the new versions fail on almost every level.
My other, equally scathing, criticism comes from just how pointless these versions feel: compare “IIID Empire” to the likes of UROBORS R+E
’s “Hydra-666”; Different Sense
EP’s “Tsumi to Kisei”; or any one of the remakes from The Unraveling
where there is a palpable difference in their contemporary changeup – changeups that hold an excitingly different perspective to the older songs. Are the songs in question heavier? Sure. But that’s about as adventurous as these iterations get. The differences here feel minute at best, in fact, I’ll even go as far to say lazy. An album from DIR EN GREY is a snapshot of that era in their career, showcasing growth and maturity in an uncharted area; so when it came to be the remake phase for the band, every old song made new had an injection of what the band were about at that point in their career. Here? You honestly couldn’t pinpoint where they are in their timeline as the new versions offer very, very little difference. Nuanced at best, but overall, largely copy and paste. So, probably the biggest disappointment for me isn’t the horrendously choppy production, but more on that these renditions are lazy, near identical counterparts. Kyo’s vocal-takes spotlight his progression as a singer a little bit, and you’ll hear a slightly more varied handling to the songs on his part, but honestly, these songs are a huge disappointment as a whole. And when you’re banking on the production rework and the remakes of old songs for this thing, it sets off serious working flags when both aspects fail to deliver.
So, what does that say for the rest of the songs and their “remastered” makeup? Well, it varies in quality depending on the album the song comes from; but my overall impression on these tracks is they hold little difference other than the fact they’ve had the volume turned up. There’s no dynamical layers integrated to bring a slightly different perspective to the songs and, quite frankly, the feeling about as much work went into these as the remakes themselves is unshakable. Earlier works like Guaze
have the most noteworthy differences, but again, it just feels as though the tracks have had the volume amped to the max, rather than giving fans a true dissection and overhaul like we did with UROBORS R+E
. As for the tracks from the latter half of the band’s career, the work put in is laughable at best: “OBSCURE” (the 2010 remake) holds absolutely no difference at all to that of the LOTUS EP
version; while “Different Sense” from DUM SPIRO SPERO
holds a minute difference in clarity; “Hageshisa To, Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shakunetsu No Yami” seems to have been taken from the EP version with little variation to be found; and anything from the UROBOROS
era comes as a tweak from the original version, bringing further disappointment to the table. A positive goes to the track-listing itself, I guess, in that I think it is handled well: the overall flow of each disc is utilised to its fullest and brings a cohesive flow and I like the fact they’ve used their previous remakes on here than the originals. But, I mean, you could easily do this yourself with the original albums, or go on Spotify and make your own playlist.
So, what’s left to this package? Well, if you bought the 3-disc version of this abomination, my condolences are in order, but if you bought – or were thinking of splashing out on – the 4-disc version, you’ll be getting an “in-depth” documentary and music videos to accommodate the new versions of “IIID EMPIRE,” “Fukai” and “Beautiful Dirt.” The catch? If you don’t speak Japanese you won’t be able to enjoy the documentary as subtitles are, once again, unprovided. The music videos are well produced though, and were interesting to watch with the new “renditions,” but overall, the desired effect leaves you with four excellent coasters for your favourite mugs. I have to say, I’m deeply disappointed with the final product here. I expected a lot more from DIR EN GREY, and if this is their way of celebrating everything they’ve accomplished, you can count me out. The bottom line: run as far away from this as you can, it offers absolutely nothing substantial for its fans, and I find it almost offensive they’re charging what they are for this thing. My usual criticisms on a best-of are met intensely with Vestige of Scratches
, the only enjoyment I got from this was that it was nice going through all their catalogue; but that doesn't support the critical flaws with this package. If you're new to the band I'd suggest spending your money on their LPs than this shoddy compilation.
EDITIONS: 3-CD 1-DVD//3̶-̶C̶D̶ ̶1̶-̶B̶L̶U̶ ̶R̶A̶Y̶//3̶-̶C̶D̶ ̶//D̶I̶G̶I̶T̶A̶L̶
PACKAGING: The 4-disc edition comes in a jewel case, CD-sized slipcase box, complete with a nice little photobook and page-hinged CD holders. Decent presentation, but not the best package seen by the band. 4/5
SPECIAL EDITION: Some solid, well produced music videos, but the documentary doesn’t cater to all of its audience; and since this is a project of celebration, no subtitles is a disgrace. 2/5