DIR EN GREY
Review by Nhu Nguyen
One of DIR EN GREY’s charms lies in the way they express the dark side of humanity through their music. It can be complicated or simple, but always raw. In their ninth album, ARCHE, Greek for “origin, beginning, or source of action”, a human’s arche is pain. If ARCHE were a person, he’s full of bottled up emotions, a roller coaster of quiet desperation and appalling outbursts.
The title of their seventh album, Uroboros, symbolizing the concept of constant re-creation, fits this band of five men who consistently evolve their sound while remaining true to their current identities. The structure of Dum Spiro Spero and Uroboros was more layered and packed, while ARCHE is purposefully stripped back and simple. This is evident from the opening song “Un Deux”, a straight-forward track compared to the doom drone opening song “Kyokotsu no Nari” from previous album Dum Spiro Spero.
Some of the band’s slowest and softest material emerges on this album. Have they lost their edge? Absolutely not. They might sound unassuming on the surface, but the beautiful melodies creep along then explode in “Kukoku no Kyouon”. A natural groove breathes throughout each song brought about by Kaoru and Die’s guitar phrasing with Toshiya’s cool basslines and Shinya’s dynamic drumming. The phenomenal “Phenomenon” starts off with an odd, disconnected guitar time stamp, the notes weaving together, then builds into a wall of sound. At the 3:08 mark, a simple, gorgeous melody drops that has me dancing like Lorde by the end of the song.
The subtle attention to detail blends these elements seamlessly, bringing the music to the forefront, like the pattern of a Thai xylophone in “Tousei” or the way Kyo’s emotional vocals flies into a falsetto in “Kaishun”. Kyo’s never sounded better than he does in ARCHE.
The musical structure of the past two albums Uroboros and Dum Spiro Spero had the viscosity of honey — thick, calculated and experimental. ARCHE is like water, clean and flowing. The essence of the music is still uniquely DIR EN GREY: atmospheric, dark, beautiful, and poetic.