Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Dir en grey's "DUM SPIRO SPERO"

Dir en grey - DUM SPIRO SPERO (2011, Japan) Rating: 4/5

I've been wanting to review this for a long time, but life is constantly getting in the way. The album has been out for a while and I mentioned in a couple v-logs for fans to wait until the release to listen to it and try to support the band by buying it. Perhaps with my somewhat busy schedule, this is a good time to bring out this album with the eve of the band's North American tour.

In contrast to UROBOROS's "SA BIR", "Kyoukotsu no Nari" shares a similar horror movie aura. It uses an aggressive, muffled guitar in the background with loud distortions and a sprinkle of old school horror dramatic piano effects. There's a little vocalization that I wouldn't be surprised that Kyo produced himself, but matches the mood of the album. "THE BLOSSOMING BEELZEBUB" carries the raging, muffled guitaring but adds another layer of great guitar work on top that pulls you in. It's a fairly long track, but it features so many amazing details that make it awesome. Strategically placed piano, haunting vocal harmonization, simplistic drumming that meshes well with the other instruments, and a great range of vocals from growling to singing. There's also some great musical shifts that keep the listener interested for the whole seven and half minutes. "DIFFERENT SENSE" was a promotional song for this album and I already enjoyed the fast pace drumming, the in your face guitar riffs, and Kyo's deep vocals and high screeches. The guitar duet sounded very different than what the band normally produces. It reminded me of the younger, lesser known jrock bands, but I'm not complaining. "AMON" was released with a remix of "ZAN" in a magazine/book to promote more hype...it really didn't need it. Anyway, it's another fast pace, growly song that melds well with the previous track. It's fairly simple, but has some intricate detail work as it trails off at the end. "'Yokusou ni DREAMBOX' Aruiwa Seijuku no Rinen to Tsumetai Ame" features emphasized guitars and bass work with soft vocals. It's a nice shift from all the raging vocals from the previous two tracks. Although, it picks up wildly toward the middle and simmers back down after the solos. I hardly remember "Juuyoku", but it kind of touches similar elements from their older stuff. It's a bit all over the place and wild with fast drumming and various vocal effects. "Shitataru Mourou" appears to be a soft piece for a few seconds then the guitars and bass kick in for a moment. It has an almost poetic vocal arrangement as the music seems to trip over itself. The bass definitely stands out a lot more in this track than the previous. "LOTUS" was another promo track for the album and what convinced me that DUM SPIRO SPERO had the potential to be as good as the previous album. It has a great vocal arrangement and the instruments don't overpower Kyo's singing. Yes, singing. They soften themselves around the verse and bridge, then highlight the chorus beautifully. "DIABLOS", the longest track on the album, brings back that haunting aura. It starts off with classic sounds of horror and soft drums, then Kyo joins and some roaming guitar sounds later. The song is very predatorial [is that even a word >>;]. It's soft and slow and then...it attacks and devours you up! Lastly, it slows down and savors the last bits of flavor, warning you that it's still on the prowl for more. "Akatsuki" brings bits of UROBOROS sound and the more developed elements together. It features contrasting guitars and commanding vocals with a small sprinkle of traditional Japanese flavor. "DECAYED CROW" is another track I hardly remember. It's very fast pace and tons of high and low growling. Very aggressive stuff. "Hageshisa to, kono mune no naka de karamitsuita shakunetsu no yami" is the last of the promotional songs featured on this album. It was featured on SAW 3D's soundtrack...for some reason. It's typical Diru with screaming, growling, and fast pace instruments trying to keep up with each other. It's an entertaining song and appealing to the ears, especially the smooth transition from verse to chorus. Chorus definitely sticks and the section when Kyo's wailing simple echos. "VANITAS" is like a Dir en grey history lesson. It wraps every part of the band from past to present into one masterpiece. It is the softest piece on the album and it really needed it. I enjoyed UROBOROS for it's great balance of aggression and beauty. This track has a great range of what the band is capable of and that they can be more than just hardcore. "Ruten no Tou" reels back the aggressive instrumentals, but keeps it tame to follow the flowing vocal arrangement. An awesome way to end an awesome album!

If you shelved out nearly $200 for the limited edition, congratulations, you poor soul~ I'm kidding. The limited edition included another CD with extra music material, a DVD compilation of lives and a new "ZAN" PV, and 2 LPs. I'll be moving this review along by going over the content featured on the second disc of the album.

Upon first listen of the starting track, it bothered me to no end that I couldn't remember what song they were remaking. After I dug through my discography, then confirmed it online...I learned it was "Rasestsukoku". I was never a big fan of the song, but I never really disliked it either. The new version makes it a little heavy in the intro, but keeps the crowd pleasing high energy to the overall song despite the changes. In essence, it's the same song, it just grew up to a full blown monster that new fans will be pleased with. Next is "AMON (Symphonic ver.)", which features an almost music box sound that would be placed in a Tim Burton movie opener. Once the intro is complete, the heavy guns...er...guitar jump in. Unfortunately, the combination between the original arrangement with orchestral and piano elements didn't quite mesh well. It's a bit messy. "Ruten no Tou (Unplugged ver.)" is next on the chopping block. It starts off with a hard, dramatic piano intro and Kyo singing along the rough melody. The piano is a little all over the place in some spots and I think they should've softened Kyo's vocals or at least reduce the echo. "DIABLOS (Demo2010, Short ver.)" shares similar elements from it's original, but perfectly toned down. I actually prefer this version a lot more. "Akatsuki (Demo2010)" has more instrumental presentation than vocal. Even though I'm not a big fan of the song in general, I think I prefer the other version over this one. When I reached "THE BLOSSOMING BEELZEBUB (remix)", I was curious what they were going to do to this masterpiece. Pretty much they hollowed out and electronicized the vocals, ditched the original musical arrangement, and added minimal sound with a little guitar. Wasn't very pleased, but happy it was slightly shorter than the original. "'Yokusou ni DREAMBOX' Aruiwa Seijuku no Rinen to Tsumetai Ame (remix)" truly reminded me of old school Sega Genesis Mortal Kombat. It has an intriguing overall arrangement between the music, sound effect, and vocal choices. It kinda reminds me "Gyakujou tannou keloid milk (plucking Mr.NEWSMAN) -NEW JAPAN MIX-". "Shitataru Mourou (remix)" has distorted, almost muffled vocals and a brightened musical backing. I'm not very fond of this remix, mostly because of the vocal effects practically destroying the song (and my ears). I guess they really like this song because there's an "Akatsuki (remix)". It has a softened, slightly muffled vocal and an electronic sound meshed with Silent Hill vibes in some places. "DECAYED CROW (remix)" closes out the second disc with minimalistic music, subway screeching noises, flutes, tribal drums, and drawn out, distorted growls. Meh...not impressed.

Overall, the wait was totally worth it and I'm pleased with all the work they've put into the album. It brings over everything I enjoyed from UROBOROS and built upon that foundation with bits and pieces from their past works. I'm expecting an equally amazing show with this burst of new material to keep them more interested in performing again. There's no excuses this year, guys! Although, I'm really hoping, after this, less touring and more writing/composing.

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