Dir En Grey
Phalaris


3.5
great

Review

by Simon K. STAFF
June 16th, 2022 | 165 replies


Release Date: 06/15/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

The build up to Phalaris’ release has been a very unnerving one. This might sound somewhat hyperbolic, but allow me to put all of my cards on the table: DIR EN GREY have been one of the most important bands in my musical development. Around fourteen years ago, I obsessed over every note, beat and melody from every song; I poured over Kyo’s spiritual, cryptic and macabre subject matter, and I became absolutely enamoured by the band’s idiosyncrasies. Without prolonging and repeating any banal anecdotes, after the band’s seminal masterpiece in 2014, I felt the band should have called it quits after Arche (at least from recording albums). This sentiment was only bolstered and verified with The Insulated World, a record that, at the time, was very disappointing. Sure, it was solid in its own right, but three years removed from the honeymoon period, the record has gradually died on a hill and become the most tenuous work of their entire career (yes, even falling behind Kisou and to a certain extent Macabre for lacking any real substance or intrigue). To stress the point – The Insulated World is not a bad record, but its lacklustre songwriting and awful production left a disastrous stain on their Holy Trinity (Uroboros, Dum Spiro Spero, Arche). What’s worse is the quality of songwriting post The Insulated World hasn’t got much better either.

Indeed, anything after Arche now puts me in a perturbed state when it comes out. ‘The World of Mercy’, for example, is a track that can only dream of being as grandiose as ‘Vinushka’, or as poignant, brutal and epic as ‘Diabolos’. As unmerited as it might sound, ‘The World of Mercy’ is a soporific, ten-and-a-half-minute farce with very few redeemable peaks and troughs, which is probably indicative of why it was omitted from the final tracklisting here. Unfortunately, the proceeding singles promoting Phalaris haven’t been much better, either. ‘朧 (Oboro)’ is the most interesting of the singles, which is very electronic and symphonic centric, but ultimately, it’s not a track bringing the band back to their A-game. Couple that with ‘落ちた事のある空 (Ochita Koto no Aru Sora)” – similar to “Utafumi’’s lacklustre attempts, in that it fails to capitalise on the broiling energy their greatest heavy compositions have achieved in the past – and I was left with a clammy layer of cold sweat over my brow, caught in the foetal position pondering over where Phalaris may lie in their discography. Again, this may well sound very melodramatic to some reading this, but I’m REALLY protective over that Holy Trinity of records, and more specifically, still mourning the loss of what could have been a tremendous legacy to leave it at. However, with every passing single and album that proceeds it, they only stand to undermine the precious allure behind their perfect string of records.

Which brings me to the point: Phalaris would determine whether I continued to support the band on their journey going forward. This decision was not made for cvltist reasons, it’s more of a selfish preference, where I can’t accept anything less than the exceptional standards set by their impeccable 2008-2014 run. To Phalaris’ credit, the artwork and album title certainly set the stage for something in the vein of their former glories – being based on the Rodian despot Phalaris, an alleged cannibal who notoriously roasted his victims alive in a bronze bull during his prosperous rule over Acragas, Italy in 6th century BC – but it was going to take more than a dark subject to save this band from the abyss. To the band’s credit, Phalaris sits much more naturally in line with the adulated Trinity, and focuses far more on intricate textures and poignant atmosphere. The songwriting is much more engaging: tracks have their own narrative, with plenty of twists and turns; the guitar work is much more enjoyable this time around as well, as opposed to the austere, bordering on lazy, guitar work from The Insulated World; and on the whole, it feels like a more worthwhile entry from the band.

However, for all the good intentions DIR EN GREY has with Phalaris – and let’s be clear, you can really hear them trying on this one – there’s still something intrinsically off with the songwriting. This is something that has perplexed me for the longest time, being unable to pinpoint what is missing in the band’s sound post Arche. Even now as I sit here, I’m not quite able to form a definitive reason other than it’s some sort of metaphysical aspect that has faded away with time. There was a time where the band wielded omnipotent power and could create powerful tracks with a commanding narrative – using complex rhythms and rich, disparate ideas with impeccable results. Now, despite really trying to go the distance with the prog-metal framework, it still feels impotent somehow. The band have this terrible penchant for ending songs abruptly these days, not knowing where to really finish conclusively, so we get a hiss from Shinya’s cymbals and a case of blue balls from the band being unable to make a promising idea pop satisfyingly. Similarly, the band seem to be relegated to overusing the same galloping groove they’ve been using a lot over the course of the last fourteen years. Where they got away with Shinya riding blast beats a lot, they had an interesting segue to fall into. Here, the band don’t have that luxury. As harsh as it sounds, after hearing Phalaris around seven or eight times, there just aren’t a lot of tracks that stand out. It all feels very homogenous. One of my biggest issues with The Insulated World was the sorry lack of decent guitar work. While the guitar work on here is much better, it still lacks decent – if any – solos, and even the ones we get lack staying power.

All this might sound like I’m unfairly lambasting Phalaris, but in truth the LP is a big improvement over their last record, it’s just that, once again, when you’ve been given the pinnacle standard for so long, it’s hard to listen to a record like this with an unbiased ear – and it’s even harder not comparing the band’s highest accolades with a record that is essentially decent, but engulfed in the shadows of greater works. ‘The Perfume of Sins’’ black metal tremolos, ‘13’’s thoughtful journey, and the fist-pumping ballad ‘響 (Hibiki)’ bring some of Phalaris’ greatest qualities to the forefront. However, there is a lot of flab in the mid-section of the record too that isn’t bad, but it’s not all that engaging to listen to either. To add another back-handed complement to Phalaris, like the songwriting, the production is an improvement over 2018’s disastrous sound, but it doesn’t quite break out of the chains and get away from the problem. The record still feels quite muddy and compressed, and I feel like the bookend tracks suffer the brunt of this mishap, because of what they set out to do.

As it stands, even though Phalaris is a decent enough record that is sure to please most Diru fans, I feel my time with the band has passed. It is clear DIR EN GREY have jumped the shark and are merely going through the motions at this point. I can’t call out the band for not trying to do something honourable here, because it’s clear they’ve really tried hard to please the fans with this one, but ultimately, it lacks soul – for lack of a better term. Or at the very least, the magic that made their previous works so enthralling.

ALBUM UNBOXING: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D56ckcJqE6Q



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3.8
excellent
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Comments:Add a Comment 
CalculatingInfinity
June 16th 2022


9498 Comments


This is the most negative 3.5 review I have ever read, god damn.

About to listen it to in 20 minutes, lets see if I feel the same.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
June 16th 2022


17538 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it's a weird one for sure. if this wasn't dir en grey, it would be a very positive 3.5.



i wanted to love this record so much, but i've come to terms with the fact they can't write like they used to now

Space Jester
June 16th 2022


10239 Comments


This reads like you accidentally clicked 3.5 instead of 2.5

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
June 16th 2022


17538 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nah, it's a 3.5. i enjoyed it, but i lament the drastic dip in quality this past 8 years

CalculatingInfinity
June 16th 2022


9498 Comments


One thing I'd like to add just for posterity The western fanbase didn't like TIW at all but amongst the most die hard fans who loved them pre Uroboros and fans in Japan they liked the album a lot, particularly because it translates to a live setting well.

Space Jester
June 16th 2022


10239 Comments


@Gonzo unfortunately I agree :[

BigPleb
June 16th 2022


65022 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This review is spot on, some solid songs and the occasional flash of brilliance.

Just feel like the songwriting is scattered and the band is struggling to write cohesive songs with consistency.

EvoHavok
June 16th 2022


8000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh, I thought you'd dig this more, Gonzo. Nice write-up as always, of course. Your score makes sense based on the music descriptions, but the dominating personal feelings do make the review seem more negative. The passion you have (had?) for the band is really palpable.

Small note: in the 4th paragraph there's one word that should be "cymbals".

BigPleb
June 16th 2022


65022 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The Vinushka/Diabolos epic days are over, unfortunately.

Props to them for really trying on this one, though.

SteakByrnes
June 16th 2022


27098 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

summary is a good In Fear and Faith song



also good rev lol

Digging: Earthists. - Have A Good Cult

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
June 16th 2022


17538 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@evo



Damn, well spotted.



Yeah, I should put a disclaimer on this review really haha. It reads super negative, but that’s primarily down to my personal feels towards the band’s decline. I’m glad you saw where I was coming from though evo. It’s still a very decent album, but there’s something so off with their writing these days

BigPleb
June 16th 2022


65022 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It lacks a spark, it's convoluted in the wrong way if you get what I mean.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
June 16th 2022


17538 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah. The production doesn’t help matters either. It’s an improvement but it’s still muddy as hell

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
June 16th 2022


17538 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

#bringbacktue

EvoHavok
June 16th 2022


8000 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

If it makes you feel any better, he mixed the tracks from the bonus CD, but they're still mastered by Brian Gardner and it shows.

Brabiz
June 16th 2022


1756 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I literally have no idea how I feel about this. Whenever I come to a conclusion, I just sink into disappointment upon relisten. I’m trying to make myself love it, and I’m hoping it’s just a grower like Arche was for me

Digging: Kate Bush - Hounds of Love

FadedSun
June 17th 2022


3020 Comments


" but it’s still muddy as hell"

I don't know if I just have good ears due to being a bass player, but I can hear everything I need to be hearing on this album. It doesn't have a super clear sound that you'd expect from other genres, and that's fine. I don't know what you all keep expecting from this band on production, but you guys seem to really HAMMER them on it. Jeez haha. I've heard way worse production over the years than any DEG album.

Space Jester
June 17th 2022


10239 Comments


Yea but I’ve also heard way better from Dir en grey

Laen
June 17th 2022


787 Comments


This has made me want the new Sukekiyo even more.

Dantegugunava
June 17th 2022


23 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think sukekiyo will release a new album too this year





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