Sound — 7
Dir En Grey is a Japanese metal band, originally a visual kei band, though the band has moved away from theatrics over the years and focused instead on a diverse style of metal that incorporates elements of many genres. The band was formed in 1997 after their previous band broke up due to disagreements with the bass player, who was replaced by Toshiya. "Arche" is the band's ninth studio album. The album was mostly recorded in the latter half of 2014, though parts were recorded much earlier. The release of the album was preceded by the release of the singles, "Rinkaku" and "Sustain the Untruth." The album contains 16 tracks and has a runtime of 68 minutes.
The album opens up with "Un Deux," which has a synthesizer-heavy opening, but quickly becomes very heavy with guitars, overdriven bass and pounding drums, with mostly crooned vocals. "Soshaku," which translates to mastication according to the internet, opens in a very promising manner, with a little bit of growled vocals included, and some almost stereotypical Japanese metal guitar soloing. "Uroko," which translates to "scales" in English - this is another track with some really good metal music, but the majority of the vocals sound like what I'm used to hearing in the intro or credits of an anime. The music really shines for the few moments when Kyo is providing heavier vocals. "Phenomenon" opens up with an awesome bass riff and a melody that sounds very reminiscent of NIN, and this is one track where I appreciate the vocals and the vocal delivery throughout - even if I don't know what Kyo is singing about. "Cause of Fickleness" is next up, and it definitely has a kind of urgency to it and a more original vocal delivery for portions of the track that really shows Kyo's skill. "Tōsei" translates to "roaring," and it is really heavy-handed with the wah pedal in the beginning, but mostly redeems itself later in the track.
The single, "Rinkaku," is really more of a straightforward metal song, though with Kyo singing portions of it in falsetto. "Chain Repulsion" is one of the more interesting tracks on the album, reminding me almost of Stolen Babies or some of the more creative stuff by Faith No More. "Midwife" is another fairly interesting track on the album - it would definitely be somewhere in the top half of my list if I rated from best to worst song on the album. "Magayasō" has a really strong bass part, and Kyo has a lot of high pitched singing on this one. "Kaishun" may win the prize for the most awesome bass groove throughout the track, but I couldn't get behind the vocals on this one. "Behind a Vacant Image" shows the band working together to create a rally awesome track, though not very heavy at all compared to the rest of the album - one of the best tracks from the album, in my opinion. "Sustain the Untruth" was maybe the most obviously inspired by nu-metal songs from the album (though several do have a touch of nu-metal). "Sustain the Untruth" had some of my favorite vocals from Kyo. "Kūkoku no Kyōon" almost has the sound you would expect from a metal ballad from an '80s movie about vampires or something... I like it. "The Inferno" is definitely one of the most aggressive songs on the album, sounding like some extreme death metal. The album closes out with the track "Revelation of Mankind" which has a heavy metal carnival type of feel to it, and some fairly diverse vocal stylings by Kyo.
Lyrics — 7
Kyo is potentially the Japanese metal equivalent of Mike Patton as far as vocal ability goes, and he uses his voice to great effect on "Arche." While I personally could do less with the very melodic and crooning vocals on several of the songs, he definitely demonstrates his range and versatility, even with sporadic death metal growls. At the end of the day you can't deny Kyo's skill as a vocalist, but I think I could get behind what he's doing if there was a little less croon and processing in his vocals. The language barrier provides an obstacle for me to appreciate the vocals, sometimes.
Here are some translated lyrics from the single "Rinkaku": "As it outlines the silhouette/ Dreams and love become colorless/ Our vows declaring the end/ In the burnt field, I gather emptiness/ Your transparent white skin/ I dedicate these words to the spirit lights/ From the dream/ From dream to dream and onto the glass road/ Even tears fade away from the dream/ From the dream/ Awakening into this world from the dream/ Even memories become dreams/ Capturing that moment when it's about to fly away/ The beat of the heart points out the way/ I play the melody of lies/ Expressing is as real as you possibly can/ Just like a realist painter/ I want you to stay with me/ Changing it into a smile." I'm not sure if there is any syntax lost in translation - I had to rely on a translation I found online as I don't speak or read Japanese.
Overall Impression — 7
I worry that potentially I'm not cultured enough to appreciate this album - I can't get behind the most common type of vocal delivery on the album, and I can't overcome the language barrier on some songs. Unfortunately, what I like the most and least about this album was Kyo's vocals - they were the strong points on the good tracks and they were the weak points on the tracks I didn't enjoy. My favorite track was "Cause of Fickleness," and then probably "Chain Repulsion" and "Rinkaku." While Kyo seemed to either make or break each song, I felt like Toshiya (the bassist) was definitely the MVP of the album and had the most standout awesome moments on the album.