Sound — 8
Sa Bir - I guess it's a decent intro to the album. I hear the mandolin on there, but it's buried in the mix. Vinushka - I saw the length of the song (9:36) and thought "yes, the days of their old music are back". Basically, this song is more ballad-like for the first couple of minutes, but with a few pretty kickass metal riffs, even by Kaoru's and Die's standards. Reminds me a bit of "Macabre", but with some of the more "punchy" guitar parts removed. Kyo starts his screaming 4 minutes into the song. I think that's the longest he's gone on a recent record without shredding his tonsils! But strangely, he makes it sound different from The Marrow Of A Bone, and I kind of like the section where he's screaming in rhythm with the guitars. The whole stop/start thing feels progressive. You keep hoping for the first 5 minutes that Kaoru or Die is gonna bust out some sweeps or something, but then they instead break into... acoustic guitars and clean singing. And wtf flute part? In MY Dir en grey!? Stranger things have happened. The song feels quite epic, and for once, I find Kyo's habits don't quite drag the song down as much as they did on the last album. His harmonies are a bit gratingly out of tune though. Red Soil - Anyone who's a fan of this band has heard the song already, but I might as well review it. The song starts off strong, with a more "elegant" sounding guitar passage. Kind of like acoustic metal? Kyo's singing is actually pretty decent in the first half. And funny enough, I like his death metal growls in the second half of the song. He sounds like he's actually been practicing them! But then he has to go ruin everything with one of his frantic death metal freakouts. The harpsichord-sounding instrument brings back some memories of older visual-kei styles though, which is kinda neat. I guess they got tired of the same old dropped-D nu-metal riffing and decided to bring back a few classical melodies here and there. But then they do kind of come off sounding a bit too much like Moi Dix Mois or something. So again, a good song which could use a little less Kyo. Doukoku to Sarinu - I think someone's been listening to a little too much metalcore. The drumming is pretty awesome though. I like it when Shinya remembers how big his drum kit is. The clean guitars are kinda cool. But Kyo needs to learn when to stop thinking he's in a metalcore band. I did like the background whispers in the verses. Those were kinda cooooool. This is YET ANOTHER SONG THAT NEEDS MORE KAORU OR DIE SOLOING. It's obvious that this album, so far, is going to be geared towards their skills. I mean, so far, this album has SHINED for guitar, save for the lack of solos so far. Oh, when the song breaks into a section with sung vocals, it actually sounds really awesome. Toguro - This song starts off reminding me a bit of some old In Flames, only with sung vocals. The guitars are pretty awesome in this song too. Sounds dark and menacing, but funky, strangely. But not in a "Disabled Complexes" way. Think "Jesus Christ R'n'R" if a grunge version of In Flames wrote it. There we go. Some guitar soloing. It ain't much, but it's still there. Kyo shows a lot of restraint in this song too, but still shows that he can actually SING. This is the first song so far that's impressed me the whole way through. I sure hope the rest of the album has a few more songs like this... Glass Skin - One of the two singles. Everyone's heard this one too. But this one is sung in English, apparently. I have no idea what Kyo is singing. But at least he's trying. This will be one where you'll have to open up your lyric books. I think I prefer the Japanese version. And not because I'm trying to hold on to any credibility as a J-rock fan (which I already completely lack). I just think Kyo's singing flows better in the original. Too many damn consonants in the chorus. And if there's one thing Kyo sucks at, it's consonants. He should just sing entirely in vowels. Oh, right, there's music behind it. The intro piano reminds me too much of Linkin Park, but the rest of the song redeems itself with some awesome atmospheric guitar parts. There's no solo or anything (well, kind of), but it's more like just wailing, emotional guitar licks. It's kind of what Kaoru needed to do for a long time. Stuck Man - Besides having the second-dumbest title on the record, this song is just... weird. The intro is so... psychadelic. Then the riff is another brain-dead dropped-D riff. The funky guitars remind me a lot of stuff from Six Ugly. Then there's this jazzy thing going on in the middle. Toshiya hasn't done much to impress me on this album so far, but it almost sounds like he was playing a fretless there. That would have been pretty cool. Oh wait there's this cool walking bass run before Kyo's now-trademark freakout. This is probably the closest this album gets to The Marrow Of A Bone so far. Except Kaoru kind of solos near the end? Reiketsu Nariseba - Here, the band also finds more ways to make us say "wtf". Wait was that a tapping lick I just heard. It's like "Saku" on LSD. Only Saku didn't have a slow, psychadelic bridge with what sounds like sitar and ethnic percussion. Yup. Diru needs to lay off the psychotropics. So far, they've lied about the whole "Kyo focuses more on his singing voice than his screaming". But he does it differently than on The Marrow Of A Bone. He either sings beautifully, whispers stuff, does a DEEP growl that wouldn't be out of place on an Opeth album, or just freaks out. Ware, Yami Tote... - Holy crap that scared me. Acoustic guitars and singing and pretty sounding music. This is the other "epic-length" number. I love the chord progression in the first part. Sounds like it belongs on a 70's prog album of some kind. This might be the closest thing to a classic Diru sound on the album so far. I guess it's comparable so far to songs like "Zakuro". But this is a complete 180 from the previous song. In fact, it's a complete turnaround from everything the band's ever done. It's like Kyo's old vocal style over mariachi-like acoustic guitars, and atmospheric harmonics a la "Glass Skin". But it sounds much better than I describe it. About 4 minutes in, the song picks up a bit with some distortion, but it's not exactly "intense". It still sounds very 70's-ish. I think it's the drumming. Shinya's been taking some lessons from Keith Moon and Neil Peart, I suppose. Kyo did a scream that seemed a bit out of place, but it's forgivable. This is another song that thoroughly impressed me. It might even make me consider buying this album. Bugaboo - and the dumbest title on this record is... yup. Well, it's not so much dumb as "unexpected". Wait, it's Kyo we're talking about here. I got some serious Pantera vibes from the first bit of the song. Reminds me a lot of "This Love". This song is pretty cool, for one of their heavier tunes. The growling is deep and guttural, instead of shriek-y. And then Kyo sings some high harmonies over it, but it seems buried in the mix. The part about 4 minutes in is pretty epic. This should have been on their last album. It probably would have improved it without making it any less "intense". Gaika, Chinmoku ga Nemuru Koro - Another all-out metal basher from the start (after a pretty trippy electronic-ish intro). Now the whole growling-then-singing thing works if you're Between The Buried And Me or Opeth, but not so much for Dir en grey. The sung chorus is nice and all, but it seems so out of place. This is probably my low point of the album. Dozing Green - This song is over a year old now, and after the rest of the album, I came to this one as a sort of respite from Kyo's antics. I guess now that I hear this song in the context of the album, I can honestly say that I wasn't expecting this song to be one of the SOFTEST on the album. I mean, so far, they've been telling us how Kyo'd be doing more "singing" and that there would be more "elegant" instrumentation. But so far, there's been even MORE harsh vocals and even HEAVIER instrumentation. I think they're getting at how Kyo, when he DOES sing cleanly, sings better than ever (but this is rarer than ever), and that the melodies are a little more sophisticated than on The Marrow Of A Bone (less nu-metal pandering and a bit more metalcore minor-key stuff). Also this is the English version of the song, which, again, enforces my belief that Kyo needs to stop trying to pronounce things. In any language. That leaves one more song: Inconvenient Ideal - Why did the intro make me think of 80's hair metal until the rest of the band kicked in? Hahaha. Well, there's another soft song, it seems. Oh wait, some heavy guitars. But like "Ware, Yami Tote... " before it, it doesn't exactly match the intensity of the rest of the album. Kyo sings some decently high notes in the chorus. This is probably the best track, vocally, so far. It sounds kind of prog, which is definitely cool. And Kaoru almost gives us a little solo. I know I probably sound like a broken record about how there's still no lead guitar all over the place, but man, think of how an album like this could be spiced up with a few solos. Technically, the album's not quite finished yet. They gave us the Japanese versions of "Glass Skin" and "Dozing Green", but only as bonus tracks on certain editions of the album. So any first-time listeners to the two singles can compare the two with fresh ears. Instrumentally, the songs are exactly the same as their English counterparts, but the lyrics and vocals tend to flow better in Japanese. And again, I'm not just saying that to be "cool" in the eyes of J-fans. Kyo can just pronounce his mother tongue better. It's not so grating to listen to him butcher Japanese as it is English.
Lyrics — 9
As mentioned above, the lyrics are sung either in Japanese or English, but they kinda come off as Kyoish. There are plenty of cool vocal effects, and some of the heavier parts are some of the best parts Dir en grey have created to date. The lyrics themselves are a bit more mature, according to the postings on songmeanings.net. I bought the CD, and lemme tell you, the lyric booklet doesn't really help as it's dark grey printing against black. Curses. But, we still get a bit of Kyo's trademark profanity and anger on a couple of tracks ("Stuck Man" and "Reiketsu Nariseba") while the rest of the album is pretty much dark, but mature. The lyrics actually impress me. And for someone who can't sing in English very well, Kyo sure has a decent English vocabulary.
Overall Impression — 8
So my impression is that this album is completely the opposite of what I thought it would be. I was almost expecting an acoustic album, but instead they gave us probably the heaviest album of their career. But there are a few really good songs on here. Some that might even give some faith back to old fans of the band that gave up on them after Withering To Death. This isn't the "return to form" the band promised, not by a long shot. But I think, based on my first impression, I would rather listen to this than The Marrow Of A Bone. At the very least, the entire album isn't braindead-sounding nu-metal pandering, and there's actually SOME sophistication in the instrumentation. I guess even Kyo can only handle so much dropped-D riff syncopation before he wants to do something meaningful again. My final verdict on this review? I think I'll give it a 8/10 for now. Kyo's vocals are the only thing keeping this album from being a 9 or 10. But even he has shown a bit of improvement. His growling is better than his shrieking, but he still freaks out too much. His clean vocals are some of the best of his career, though. Kaoru and Die are fine on this record, even without playing a lot of solos. Their atmospherics and their riffs definitely keep things interesting. Toshiya doesn't exactly impress me like he did on their older stuff, but he does a good job on the bottom end. Shinya really impressed me this round, by discovering that behind his drum kit's mirror, there's actually more drums! It's like giving a kid a box to play in only to have them discover there was a toy inside! If someone stole this CD, I'd probably hunt them down. For all that this record has wrong with it, it's still one of the best albums of this year and was well worth my purchase.