Dir En Grey
Dum Spiro Spero



by Simon K. STAFF
August 2nd, 2021 | 27 replies

Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: While I breathe, I hope.

Ten years removed from its initial release date and Dum Spiro Spero is seen in a much more favourable light. Not that the album was ever ill-received at the time, but over the course of a decade Dum Spiro Spero has garnered a reputation for being a fruitfully rewarding experience if you’re willing to stick with it. Speaking for myself, I can attest to this. As a music fan a decade ago, I was well-versed in metal’s more accessible offerings but hadn’t yet embodied or waded through the extremities of the genre’s darker sides yet. In fact, thinking back on it now, 2008’s UROBOROS was my introduction to metal’s, shall we say, less accessible subgenres – a recipe that straddled death metal, progressive metal, and metalcore with expert handling. I observed the instrumental synergy in awe and wonder, as it shadowed and stalked Kyo’s incredibly versatile vocal range, one that kept enough accessibility in toe in order to ease my own fragile mind and allow me to assimilate the harsher styles of music being presented to me. Indeed, after a few listens I began to adore UROBOROS’ brooding, proggy aesthetic with unadulterated conviction, and by the turn of 2011 I was pining for my next dose of DIR EN GREY.

However, to my surprise at the time, Dum Spiro Spero was in another world from what I had envisaged. Rather than being a tweak on UROBOROS’ ideas, it turned out to be a demonic bastard-spawn of its predecessor. The first handful of listens to Diru’s eighth studio LP left me with intense exhaustion and confusion; its intricate, multifaceted and complex personality was so far removed from anything DIR EN GREY had previously recorded, it left me discombobulated and in a state of utter bewilderment every time I went back to it. Even after repeated visits in the double-digits, it still comported itself with an unbridled chaos – as well as being a textbook case study in subverting fan expectations.

Off topic slightly, in hindsight, when I look back now at 2015’s Arche which straddles and tames the extreme elements of Dum Spiro Spero and melds it with the punctilious progressive atmosphere of UROBOROS, it’s easy to understand why Dum Spiro Spero was needed in order to make Arche not only the most eclectic and emotionally balanced album in their discography, but the one with the most finality and resolve. If UROBOROS is the stoically composed prog-masterpiece that burrows under your skin then Dum Spiro Spero resides on the flipside of the coin and explores humanities most primal emotions, trading espionage and clusters of confrontation for all-out war. Yes, for the most part, this record throws punishing riffs, odd time signatures, explosive drum work, and Kyo’s most vocally demanding endeavour to date in the most abrasive ways possible. In short, it’s the most ambitiously strenuous project the band has ever devised. However, the genius lies not in the masterfully delivered chaos which enshrines Dum Spiro Spero, but in its moments of respite.

Dum Spiro Spero is expertly laid out, and the flow and balance of the album’s transitions from one track to the next are far from being arbitrarily slapped together. Coming from the high-octane “Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami”, with its throttling tempo, thrashy guitars and shrill vocal work, into the therapeutic calm of “Vanitas” isn’t serendipity. The decision to transition like this presents optimum catharsis in a way that’s unmatched by anything Diru’s peers were churning out at the time. The chiming guitar passages and passionate basslines emit a reposed vibe that’s closer to their motherland than the conventional Western shredding of “Hageshisa to, Kono Mune…”. Kyo’s gorgeously formed melodies soar along the octave register, bending the song to his meditative will across several titillating crescendos. Like UROBOROS, Dum Spiro Spero’s songs are built around atmosphere. This is by far DIR EN GREY’s darkest incarnation to date, if only for its mood. The one-two slow burn of “Kyoukotsu No Nari” and “The Blossoming Beelzebub” perfectly affirm the record’s penchant for mood as you venture through this seventy-minute epic. The first ten minutes of the album have you climbing into the jaws of the beast – an environment lavished in abhorrence and despair – where you’ll spend the duration of your stay being slowly digested in the bowels of hell.

Without an ounce of hyperbole from my sentiments; this is one of the most atmospherically distinct records you’re likely to listen to. The main reason for this is the band have the luxury, and skillset no less, of combining Eastern and Western styles together, competently, to form this glaringly unique sonic creature. It has all of the postmarks of a cookie-cutter metal band from the West, but their own culture is fervently encoded in Dum Spiro Spero’s DNA, creating an off-kilter contrast that’s both horrific and beautiful in equal measure. “***ataru Mourou”, for example, is crushingly heavy in style, but Kyo’s soaring verses maintain a welcoming quality you rarely get from a heavy metal song. Which, at the end of the day, is Dum Spiro Spero’s strongest asset. For all of the bombs this record drops on the listener, it maintains this peaceful, spiritualistic undertone that’s symbiotically tied to their Japanese heritage. The album art perfectly encapsulates the mood of the music contained within: a canvas filled with haunted isolation and beauty. It’s hard to argue with this when a track like “Diabolos” takes you on this idiosyncratic journey, saturated in loneliness, poignancy and the macabre, whilst maintaining its enigmatic allure. It also helps that it has, possibly, the greatest build up and payoff structure to any other song in their discography. Lethargy surmounts the song’s entry with sludgy, doomy Sabbathian riffs – accompanied by gorgeous texturing and counter-melodies – before shaking the cobwebs off with punishing blast beats and Kyo’s serrated, shrill screams and guttural lows. The track does this numerous times, easing you in and teasing you before blowing the top right off the song at the last minute, with the band giving you everything they have. “Diabolos” is so special it creates a catharsis very few songs manage to achieve.

Indeed, time has been very fortunate to Dum Spiro Spero, which is why, coupled with the intense nostalgia I have for the record, I would inch towards it being my preferred choice from DIR EN GREY’s holy trinity. This isn’t because it’s a better album than the other two, merely that I have an emotional symbiosis with it. In 2011, and for many years afterwards, this record would get me through some harsh life lessons and hardships that would make me the person I am today. We all have at least one album in our memories that, when thought about, opens a floodgate of emotions and feelings – like stepping into a time machine and observing the very first time you heard it, right down to the smells, tastes and feelings you had at that point. Dum Spiro Spero is that album for me. Ironically, despite its nihilistic qualities, I regard this LP as a summer album, simply because of its release date. And I can remember vividly, during a birthday party for my sister with friends, sitting in my first house I’d just moved into with my, then, girlfriend (now wife), smiling from ear to ear when the album arrived from Amazon that same day. The sun was bright and there was a breeze coming from the backdoor leading out into the garden over chattering and drinking. Memories like this are to be treasured, and it certainly helps me adore what this album achieves all the more. Yet, understand that even without my own biases towards Dum Spiro Spero, this album is an unprecedented accomplishment for the band: a deep, complex behemoth that requires numerous listens in order to unpack its hidden genius. If you’re currently frustrated with the stagnant safeness metal music is in at the minute, and you’ve never heard of DIR EN GREY before today, check out Dum Spiro Spero as you’re undoubtedly going to find something different, if nothing else.

Happy birthday Dum Spiro Spero, it’s been emotional.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

today, this is 10 years old!

this one has some weight to it as it was the first review i ever uploaded when i came onto this site (if you read it, you'll know how terrible it was lol). so i thought, since it's a decade old now, i'd revisit it with a redux review to celebrate.

Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Dummy Thicc Spyro Ben Shapiro

Digging: Penfold - Our First Taste of Escape

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 4.0

Great writeup. I can't believe this shit's 10 years old already

Digging: Knocked Loose - A Tear in the Fabric of Life

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 4.5

Really good review, nice work.

Such a desolate and intimidating album, creates an atmosphere like no other.

Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 4.0

nice nice nice, huge album - absolutely fraught final three, good shit all round though

"It has all of the postmarks of a cookie-cutter metal band from the West, but their own culture is fervently encoded in Dum Spiro Spero’s DNA, creating an off-kilter contrast that’s both horrific and beautiful in equal measure"

broadly agreed, although (smol quibble) I think the specifics of DEG's q unique brand of profane weirdshit (lyrical/surrounding imagery) + their background as a v-kei band (re. how these songs are crafted for performance and how that tradition feeds the atmosphere) might have been a more fruitful counterpoint than lumping the spiritual/uncanny side with wholechurch Japaneseness

"For all of the bombs this record drops on the listener, it maintains this peaceful, spiritualistic undertone that’s symbiotically tied to their Japanese heritage"

probably unintentional, but I'm deeply ashamed at how much I chuckled at this

dope rev though, happy to see this boi featured. wonder how it'll sit with another 10 behind it...

Digging: Teenage Jesus and the Jerks - Teenage Jesus and the Jerks

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 4.0

That 2.0 review still kills me.

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 4.5

pog album

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 4.0

This is the album that really got me into Diru. I didn't care for the earlier stuff and Uroboros totally flew under my radar at the time but damn I'm glad I gave it a shot after this blew my mind

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

Delightful Review.

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

yay for a redux review. time to listen to this again.

Digging: Nakanoise - Otomenoinori

August 2nd 2021


scared me here for a second, made me think they broke up with that front page feature

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

This album was there for me when I needed it; it feels part of my DNA at this point. I wish I could take the title to heart more nowadays.

Happy 10th DSS, thanks for this Gonzo.

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

Glad you decided to do this very sweet write-up for the album's 10th anniversary.

This was my first DEG album (the one I still consider my favourite as well) and it's surreal thinking how the years passed by along with it. I also have some very distinct memories associated to its songs, including the numerous live renditions from official releases.

Digging: The Answer Lies in the Black Void - Forlorn

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 4.5

Ten years? Already? Christ

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

Sick review

Sick album

August 2nd 2021


Album Rating: 4.5

Definitely not my favorite by them, and it’s still a 4.5 for me. This band is incredible. Easily my all time favorite, and there’s nothing else like them.

Digging: Today Is the Day - In the Eyes of God

August 3rd 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

Agreed, nothing like this album out there.

Digging: Sentinels (US) - Collapse by Design

August 3rd 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

Ive heard this album like a billion times, and Different Sense a billion times more. Basically perfection. It goes without saying that Kyo is probably one of the best metal/rock vocalists working now, but the band itself is just brilliant. Shinya specifically I think goes largely unnoticed, but delivers so many interesting and technical drum patterns.

Space Jester
August 3rd 2021


Cool review. Def one of the band’s best albums

Staff Reviewer
August 5th 2021


Album Rating: 5.0

thanks guys. super nostalgic for this record, and honestly, it's aged like a fine wine.

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