Review Summary: Striving.
When it comes to Dir en Grey post-2007, things have become quite unpredictable. After the much maligned Marrow of the Bone
the band seemed to veer towards the more experimental side of things. Uroboros
was the prime example of said experimentation, blending beautiful/haunting melodies with Dir’s trademark heaviness with some newfound progressive tendencies. Upon the release of this record, it seemed like the band had reached the apex of their abilities…enter Dum Spiro Spero
. With the announcement of the new record it felt as if Dir had backed themselves into a corner slightly. Anticipation couldn’t have been higher as fans deliberated over what the band could possibly do next.
Dum Spiro Spero
is a cruel beast, make no mistake. There’s melody present, for sure, but for the most part this record is Dir at their most disgusting and despondent. Album opener ‘The Blossoming Beelzebub’ is a perfect example of this profound ugliness. With an almost monolithic, plodding pace the track takes its time in building a macabre atmosphere through the sedated instrumentation and murky production. Vocalist Kyo, who is no stranger to obscene vocal range, adds to this aura with his harrowing croons; occasionally breaking out into an almost banshee like howl to create a blood curdling tone. The element of aforementioned unpredictability is continued in this fashion right throughout the record. Main single, ‘Different Sense’, is a sprawling piece that never sees the band settle into a comfortable groove. Instead, the track always keeps the listener guessing as to what musical segway the band will take next through its winding guitar passages and jittering chorus.
Belligerence seems to be Dum Spiro Spero’s
main theme throughout its runtime. However, the track ‘Lotus’ brings some much needed melody into the fold. After the emotional pummelling of the first half, the track almost feels like a transition into a more melody driven second half. Although this never comes to fruition, the songs chorus is quite melancholic and is the only main hook of a mostly sporadic, inaccessible record. Kyo shows his true worth also, switching out his nauseating harsh vocals for some heavenly cleans which makes the track one of the more ‘catchy’ cuts on the record.
Album centrepiece, ‘Diabolos’, is arguably Dir’s crowning achievement on the record. Mixing everything the band has ever done into one song flawlessly and leaving the listener feeling drained and exhausted at the end of its 10 minute run time. Cutting guitars and irregular vocal patterns make the track almost feel almost schizophrenic in nature, with Kyo’s ever changing vocal pitch mirroring this notion of insanity. Furthermore, most of the record features this irregular feel of song writing; making for an intriguing listen even if the immediacy is hindered by this. Multiple listens are required to absorb the full extent of what the band is trying to achieve here.
With Dum Spiro Spero
, Dir have crafted a modern metal masterpiece. Not only is the album unique and fresh to the bands fluorescent discography, but a unique album within the genre of metal entirely. Whether the band is pummelling the listener with pure dissonance or settling into a haunting melody, the record never fails to engage throughout its runtime. If nothing else, Dum Spiro Spero
points to an incredibly bright future to one of metals most promising acts. Only time will tell whether the group can maintain this experimentation and keep their sound feeling fresh and individual. As for now, things are looking very auspicious.