Review: DIR EN GREY – “THE UNRAVELING”

Dir En Grey

DIR EN GREY‘s new EP “The Unraveling” follows their latest full-length album ‘Dum Spiro Spero’ which was released in 2011. The Unraveling has a new track, ‘Unraveling’, and 6 ’re-recorded’ tracks, but they’re much more than just re recordings. These are some of Diru’s older tracks completely re-imagined in the style of progressive metal that they now play, which has a lot more in common with deathcore in places, minus the breakdowns. But to fully understand “The Unraveling” requires placing it in the context of the incredible musical journey Japanese metal band DIR EN GREY have been on since their inception.

Their early years were characterised by a fairly conventional Visual Kei aesthetic with pop-centric songs, but also a surprisingly dark atmosphere. Since then, the band has grown and evolved on every release. Their second and third albums ‘Macabre’ and ‘鬼葬 (Kisou)’ witnessed the band beginning to delve into a definitely more metal-centric sound, as well as the avant-garde. Their fourth album ‘Vulgar’ is where they really made their mark, unleashing a very heavy, dark, grotesque album that began to move more towards a more American metalcore sound. This evolution became way more apparent on the subsequent albums ‘Withering to death.’ and ‘Marrow of the Bone’. Their two latest albums, ‘UROBOROS’ and ‘Dum Spiro Spero’ are where they really came into their own, however, and are now firmly a progressive metal band. The closest artist I could compare them to would be Opeth, but a significantly more twisted, heavier version with more Eastern influences.

The new track ‘Unraveling’ is an absolute stunner. It exemplifies their technical, heavy style of metal they now play, and if this song were imagined as an animal I’d suggest it would be a spider. The extremely heavy, down-tuned guitar and bass intertwine and weave their way through the song with Kyo’s hypnotic vocals, turning quickly into demonic screams, demanding the full attention of the listener. It’s quite a catchy song, but heavy on atmosphere, down-tuned instruments. Definitely worth listening to this track if nothing else if you’re interested in the direction Diru might be going in in the future.

The second track ‘業 (Karma)’ is a particularly old track originally. From what I can tell the only place it has been released was as a music video in 1998 and was only ever available as part of some kind of music video collection package Diru used to sell. The re-imagining continues in a style consistent with the first track. Extremely thick, heavy guitar and bass leads lurching onwards with Kyo’s twisted, demonic howls on top of them. It’s much heavier though, at about 1:30 picking up the pace significantly and taking on a more technical style, before heading into an almost-breakdown about 15 seconds later, followed by a pretty cool guitar solo. Diru effectively juggle the many sounds encompassed within their style of metal, moving into a softer sung section, then back into the heavy guitar madness.

The third track, ‘かすみ (Kasumi)’ was originally released on 2003’s ‘Vulgar.’ This is undoubtedly superior to the original version. The production is far better, with beautiful, ethereal guitars, contrasting perfectly with the downtuned, heavier sound of the lead guitar. Kyo makes full use of his great singing voice to help top off by far the slowest, most melodic track of the EP.  The unplugged version of this track included on the bonus CD is absolutely fantastic as well and simply must be heard to be believed.

The final track on the EP is a re-imagining of one of their most well-known fan-favourites, ‘THE FINAL’, originally from 2005’s ‘Withering to death.’ Reception to this has been fairly consistent with my personal feelings, which is that it’s a big improvement to an already fantastic track. It maintains the extremely catchy aspects of this song, emphasising the consistently incredibly bass (Seriously, bassist Toshiya has some serious skills, not just on this song) but also morphing the song to fit the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere of their newer songs. The guitar solo is also outstanding but doesn’t hang around long before making way for the awesome chorus again, this time emphasised by Kyo’s tortured screams and some amazing guitarwork in the background.

I’m a pretty big fan of this EP and this band, honestly. I like that this EP gives a taste of things to come with ‘Unraveling’ but scores huge points with fans like myself by taking some old favourites, and some older tracks some may not have yet heard, and re-imagining them in the modern Dir en grey style. This EP has something for everyone: for fans of their new heavier style, with distorted, down-tuned, heavy-as-fuck guitars, astonishing basswork, and tortured, animalistic vocals from Kyo, you have the great new track ‘Unraveling’, and for both fans and newcomers alike there’s new versions of older tracks. Strongly, strongly recommended.

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