Dir en grey’s 7th album
12th November, 2008
I’m a bit ashamed to say that I hadn’t really been keeping up with Diru news for the last few months, and so the fact that they swapped US labels and were releasing the album a day earlier in the States was completely unknown to me. Thus, I wasn’t prepared with a preorder of the album. I’m not sure how early the leaks got online, but I know Kaoru was ticked about it. I know that it doesn’t alleviate my guilt any, but I downloaded it yesterday and held off on listening to it until today…? I’ll be picking the US release when I go see them in Houston on the 25th, so in any case, let it be known that this band is definitely getting my money in more than one way. ♥
I set aside an hour and half to sit down and listen to this album without distractions. The leak’s quality is definitely not the best, but it’ll do. The album’s cover is one of their best in a while, I think, though I do wish they’d take a break from the monochromatic color schemes. I guess Glass Skin’s cover had color, but other than that, when was the last time they had a ton of colors on their album art? six Ugly? Anyway, this isn’t really a review of the album — I think it’s a lot harder to review music because impressions change much more readily over time compared to other things like series and movies. So these are just first impressions, written as I listened, so the comments are also much more unpolished than they would be in a review. :3
1. Sa Bir: Starts off with some interesting bass buzzing, hushed whispers in the back, and a very haunting melody on some kind of string instrument I’m not familiar with. The feel is very traditional Asian or Indian sounding, which is appropriate considering the title (I have no idea what it means, but it looks Indian or Middle Eastern to me). The voices in the back sound like some kind of story that you only have a vague grasp of — there’s someone threatening sounding and someone defeated sounding. It’s very intriguing… the softness of it does remind me a bit of the first track on MARROW, but the strings and the voices really suggest that something different is happening here.
2. Vinushka: This track seems to start rather suddenly considering how short the previous track was. Kyo’s voice really surprised me when it first came up — it’s mostly soft, melodic murmurs; the strings are more prominent in the back now, and we ease quickly into drums, bass, and guitar. The melody feels very tension-filled and uneasy; the guitars and the drums sound really fantastic. Kyo’s voice shifts smoothly between a normal register, a falsetto, and a very deep grumble… I’m not sure when last I heard him go between the three so quickly, but it works really well. The chorus is really emotional without being forceful… reminds me a bit of the early parts of THE PLEDGE. Chorus eases into hushed, speaking parts; this brings me back to the idea that there’s some kind of story in play here — is this a concept album? Wow, I just noticed the time on this track — 9:35. I think that makes this Diru’s longest song ever. ain’t afraid to die was only about seven minutes, and mazohyst of decadence was about eight. Die and Kaoru (presumably) are doing some low roars now. The guitars have sped up and Kyo’s finally adding to the roars and tension with that heightened intensity. Man, I’m lovin’ the guitars and bass in this. I’m glad Toshiya’s finally getting some good bass lines… song tone shifts suddenly and dramatically. The suspense evaporates and we go back to the easy, haunting melody of strings and Kyo’s creepy falsetto. Drum solo! Almost, drums and flute? Wow. I think this is the first time I’ve heard a flute. Flute eases back to the chorus. Kyo is harmonizing with himself; this needs to happen more often! Falsetto, roaring. Roaring with backup roaring. The roaring has been a lot deeper and grumbly thus far on this album — not so much screaming, which makes me quite happy. :3 The guitar melody and the rumbling lead into the end and then it’s gone abruptly again.
3. Red Soil: Starts off sounding more familiar — guitars, and the voice is there almost immediately. Kyo’s voice sounds substantially different though, more upbeat and melodic than he’s been in a good while. I can’t tell if he’s singing in English or not (haven’t looked for lyrics yet.) Okay, I’m pretty sure it’s English now… Kyo’s English seems to have improved somehow, but it’s still very muddled. Gunshot-like banging in the background, snare drum? Very interesting. The melody feels a little inconsistent here; there are a lot of different sounds in a very short amount of time. Garbled noises — sounds like an alien or a drowning cat or something else equally disturbing — high-pitched whining noises, Kyo’s very good at those… I really like the snare drum sound. This track also ends kind of abruptly, hm.
4. 慟哭と去りぬ (Doukoku to Sarinu): Starts off with panting and forced-sounding whispers. Still getting the feeling that Kyo sounds a bit different though we once again ease into more familiar-sounding guitar and drum sounds. Kyo is doing a lot more talking than singing in this song, and in general, it seems like he’s doing a lot more quick transitions between his various vocal abilities — roaring, growling, falsetto, weird noises, talking, and normal(ish) singing. To some extent, I think that sounds pretty neat, but it really loses the melody and that’s a little disconcerting. Kyo singing over his own roaring in the background… sounds a bit muddled, but the wave of sound in the back really increases the suspense and tension levels. Not so fond of the drums in this song, but the guitars are pretty nice when they actually hold onto a distinct melody.
5. 蜷局 (Toguro): Somehow, songs that start off with sound on only one side really throws me off, heh. Guitars on one side, then Kyo comes in on the other side. I’m lovin’ how his voice sounds in this though — feels more consistent; there’s still a very Indian/Middle Eastern vibe in this. I can’t decide if it’s his voice or the music or a combination of, it’s very pleasing. Lyrics feel more solid here just because his singing is more even and the melody isn’t lost in a bunch of transistions. Interesting background noises in the bridge; guitar has quite the awesome melody weaving in and out of the other ambiance in the back. Kyo has some really beautiful sustained notes. The mood feels very urgent; he has an awesome bit singing in the upper register, but not quite falsetto… fades out and dies. I think this might be my favorite song thus far.
6. Glass Skin: I like the Glass Skin single a lot; Kyo’s English here feels much improved and reminds me a bit of hyde’s — it’s very heavily accented, but you can just barely make out the words. At the very least, I feel like you can tell it’s English immediately, even if some words are hard to pick up. I wonder if it’ll keep improving if he keeps writing songs in English? This is the first time they’ve redone a song in English after an initial Japanese release. It’s interesting. Love the drumming in this song. Hell, love the guitars and ambient noises too. Melody is very prominent and the song feels much more orderly… English is pretty distracting at parts though; Kyo’s “f” and “s” sounds are really weird. Ending doesn’t feel as smooth as the Japanese version.
7. Stuck Man: Very different sound, whoa. For some reason, the scene that came to mind immediately was some kind of film noir club or bar… [KR]Cube, anyone? The sound is really different from even that though. Guitars have a good melody — bass lines! Awesome bass lines! Kyo’s all over the place with his vocals here — mostly very aggressive-sounding speaking/roaring, with some really weird squealing I don’t think I’ve heard before. Background participation comes in with the roaring. Drums feel uneasy, but it really adds to the mood here, I think. Kyo sounds something like a dying alien here, hm. I’m still glad he isn’t outright screaming as much though. Whoa.. I can’t tell if Kyo is having a roaring/speaking exchange with himself or with Die. It kind of sounds like Die. o_o Very sudden ending!
8. 冷血なりせば (Reiketsu Nariseba): Very abrupt start! High energy and high tension. Guitar has a very bouncing and awesome melody; the drums are really helping with it too. A lot of roaring in this, low and angry… explodes for the chorus into some higher and more substantial roars. Melody cools off after chorus, eases into more of those strings and foreign-sounding instruments. I wish I knew the names of some of these things, but I love hearing Diru experiment with different sounds. Beautiful sustained wail by Kyo… sounds very Indian… then it pitches upwards, sounds more like Kyo, and goes back to roaring. Wow, that was a really well done transition. :O Drums and guitar swap to a different sound, but still carry a really nice melody. More roaring supplemented with a bout of shrieking. And it isn’t an abrupt ending for once! We echo and fade out instead. o_o
9. 我、闇とて･･･ (Ware, Yami Tote…): Very mellow introduction; it’s another long song. Not sure what’s in the background, but it’s a nice sound. Vocals are reasonably melodious, but the drumming is all over the place and it doesn’t feel like it matches really. Minimal guitar in favor of whatever weird thing’s in the background, but there’s some nice bass supplementing the weird drumming. Something sounds almost like a piano — oh, man, sexy bass lines. The drums still sound scattered, but it’s starting to feel like it fits better. The bass is really helping. Chorus feels kind of hopeful; it’s more upbeat and I’m halfway between feeling inspired and really surprised. (Watch the lyrics be inexpressibly depressing though, lol.) Kyo has some upper register, strained-sounding notes that are really beautiful. Guitars finally take over the other instrument that was in the back; Toshiya continues to play a sexy bass part. More semi-inspiring sounding melodies; Kyo’s putting up his powerful voice again, very emotional. Okay, torturous roaring/strained screaming line, but it gives way into more melody, excellent guitars, and it eases beautifully towards the ending.
10. Bugaboo: Creepy sounding from the start. Something sounds like whales in the back; they sound really awesome. Familiar sounding guitars and roaring, but they both sound great. Roaring overlapping with soft cooing sounds from Kyo? More sustained wailing, more roaring (I really can’t tell if its super-deep voiced Kyo or one of the others). Some really awesome, low roars intermixed with the occasional squeak/whine. Whoa, distorted deep voice sounds really weird. I really like the secondary guitar line here. Most of this song feels like pretty generic post-Withering Diru, but there are definitely some sounds I haven’t heard here before — the distorted deep voice really throws me off, for one. Fade out ending.
11. 凱歌、沈黙が眠る頃 (Gaika, Chinmoku Ga Nemuru Koro): Very ambient-sounding intro — reminded me immediately of a futuristic-style Sonic the Hedgehog level… but that might just be me… Eases into more normal-sounding Diru. Heavy drums, energetic and tension-filled guitars, roaring, deep voices… Enjoying the guitar melody here too. Chorus has more of Kyo’s helpess/almost hopeful sounding tones, that really moving and tragic kind of voice he likes to use. Faster, steadier lyrics, angrier or more frustrated. Guitars in the chorus sound really awesome. The accumulation of roaring and shrieking sounds in the background suddenly made me think of dinosaurs, and then I had a strange vision of a PV taking place in a jungle. ._. Bridge sounds pretty awesome though. Now I’m thinking about concentration camps and screaming… hm. Fades out to raspy breathing, always fun. I’ve always preferred fade-out endings to sudden endings though. ♥ Oh, wait, Dozing Green is next. :P
12. Dozing Green: Dozing Green was a pretty awesome single too. It’s like a perfect mix of the styles on Withering to death and THE MARROW OF THE BONE — perfect blend of haunting melody and Kyo’s impressive vocal range. English here is also recognizable as English, though specific lyrics are still difficult to pick out. I just heard “ice cream,” and I’m sure ice cream has no place in this song, lol. Keep trying, Kyo! You’re getting better! Annnd, sudden shrieking and screaming at the end. Actually, it doesn’t sound that bad, but it always throws me off because the rest of the song is very melodious… but there is a bit of echo/fading afterwards, so that… probably just confuses me more, lol.
13. Inconvenient Ideal: This track has the most awesome title ever. Starts off with soft with cooing and a mellow voice. Drums and guitars and bass ease it into the main melody. Whoa, some very interesting high-pitched harmonizing here. Sustained wails bring me back to the Indian/Middle Eastern feel, but now there’s some weird… I don’t even know how to describe that sound in the back, but it’s definitely new… eases back into the chorus. This song feels a little disorienting, but I think it might be one of those that I’ll like a lot later. I definitely approve with the continued experimentation with sounds though.
14. Glass Skin (Japanese ver.): I think I prefer the Japanese version of this song, but that may just be because Kyo’s English is still dancing that line between interesting and absurd. The Japanese just feels more natural and doesn’t distract from the actual feeling of the song. Speaking parts are too muddled to make heads or tails or the language, really. Love the chorus in this song; the drum beat in the back really grounds it and I love the steady feeling it has. The way the chorus extends and goes into the ending is really great too — great demonstration of sustained falsetto. I can’t tell if there’s much difference between this version and the single version though; might take a few dozen more listen-tos.
15. Dozing Green (Japanese ver.): Did I mention how much I love the guitars at the beginning of this song? I also prefer this song in Japanese, probably for the same reasons. Maybe someday, Kyo will get his English to feel less jarring and out of place? His voice just sounds more melodious in Japanese, so all the sustained notes sound better — you wouldn’t think it’d make that much of a difference, but it does. :o Screaming bit at the end is again extended so it doesn’t feel as sudden! And then it goes into an echo-phase that sounds really Indian… really, really appropriate ending for this album!
OVERALL: I’m pretty pleased with UROBOROS for the most part. I’m really glad to see that Dir en grey is continuing to experiment with new sounds and styles, and that they aren’t afraid to try different things. UROBOROS had a really concept album feel to it because I felt that a lot of the tracks were connected in some way — the Indian/Middle Eastern/Asian string instruments really helped with that, and I also think Kyo’s learned a few new tricks with his voice. Various noises and sounds he makes here are definitely debut, and I’m interested to see where he takes them. The experimentation in the album feels a bit muddled at times though, and it really bothers me when I’m not able to pick out a distinct melody. I don’t like songs that are just a jumbled mess of different noises that may or may not fit together. It’s very disorienting. That said, for Diru, it always seems to take me a while to adjust to their stuff — a lot of their melodies are more subtle, and it’ll take me at least a half dozen more listens to pick it out for sure. At the moment, I’m not sure that I like it quite as much as MARROW, but that may well change. The Asian/traditional elements are really helping — I’m a big fan of mixing traditional with modern. :3