DIR EN GREY – Dum Spiro Spero

After a big step in growth for DIR EN GREY in Uroboros, what Dum Spiro Spero holds is a great curiosity. If anything, Dum Spiro Spero is a big left turn from the path of its predecessor as well as the band’s back catalogue.

If you were hoping for a straight forward DIR EN GREY record, then you’ve come to the wrong place. This is as jagged, unsettled, and off kilter as the band can possibly get. Fans should look elsewhere for singalong, easy listening (Japanese) music. “Progressive,” “free form,” and “experimental” may be the best way to describe DIR EN GREY‘s latest venture.

Straight forward tempos and riffs are largely not present. The band predominantly play off-time riffs at trudging tempos in a free form manner, which fit the bleak and lost hell that they are trying to convey. However, there are a few songs or song sections where they will break into a straight forward thrash beat or blast beats. The “true” metal riffs from Uroboros, and TOOL influences are largely absent. There is also a substantial drop in (the j-rock interpretation of) nu metal grooves on the record. Dum Spiro Spero also has basically one ballad in “Vanitas,” which is a big contrast to albums past.

In terms of the guitars and bass, the heavy riffs are often sludgy and chunky in a more subdued way. Harmonics squeal out on tail ends of riffs and a large dosage of clean electric guitars is utilized. The bass cuts through the production with crystal clarity but merely do the usual adequate job.

Drummer Shinya provides his trademark drumming style to Dum Spiro Spero. He does an adequate job, even adding blast beats into his repertoire. Where he comes up short is where the songs float in place. Instead of helping to lift these song parts, he simply just occupies space with uninspiring drum parts.

Vocalist Kyo leads the emotional descent with his array of chants, wails, whispers, barks, growls, yells, squeals, screams, and clean vocals. If there was ever a DIR EN GREY record that showcased all of his vocal stylings, Dum Spiro Spero is that platform. When his passionate clean vocals break through the heavy atmospheres, they sound great.

Dum Spiro Spero is the most challenging, and perhaps, first experimental record of DIR EN GREY‘s career. It’s one that needs a good amount time and repeat listens to even begin to get into. Artistically, it should be considered a ballsy move considering their very zealous fanbase. However, the execution leaves much to be desired. Too often does the music meander about without going anywhere. Nevertheless, Dum Spiro Spero is sure to spark quite an interesting dialogue amongst the band’s fanbase. (The End Records)

35 thoughts on “DIR EN GREY – Dum Spiro Spero

  1. It seems very obvious from this review that you favor Kyo. Shinya is one of the best drummers around and his ‘adequate’ job is better than most could ever accomplish. The same with Toshiya, the bassist.
    Dir en grey has never been a band with ‘meandering’ music, and judging from their newly released single (with one song that’s on Dum Spiro Spero) I highly doubt they’ll start now.

  2. This review makes me feel like I should have lower expectations, so that I’m not entirely shocked if this turns out to be another Marrow of The Bone (too much sludge, not enough catchy – only really liked The Pledge, Namamekashiki Ansoku, Ryoujoku no Ame, Clever Sleazoid – wasn’t feeling much else.

    Uroboros felt like a step in the “right direction.” There was something for everyone that managed to appeal to both the typical J-Rock fan as well as your average metal head. It also felt like it had some of the spirit from past songs/albums.

    You had your nearly 10 minute epic (Vinushka – Zakuro and Macabre from Macabre) but it went all over the place from sing-a-long to pounding shout/chant with machine gun drumming that could’ve qualified it for a War Movie soundtrack)

    You had the sparkling sadistic marry-go-round of Red Soil, which as it was dark was still palatable and had some great “demon singing from inside a drain pipe” vocal effects (Filth from Kisou?).

    Douku to Sarinu, which started off as a shouty / talkie with some Johnathan Davis-style noises ala Freak on A Leash and then went to a smoderate tempo singable chorus.

    You had the slow somber song, Ware Yami, Tote which was like a slightly rockier successor to Itoshisa Ha Fuhai and Higeki wa Mabuta from Withering to Death)

    Gaika Chinmoku ga Nemuru Koro, which tricked you into thinking it would be a ballad (foreshadowing of Glass Skin?), with its spacey intro and then morphed into a speeding bullet train of chunky drums and a barrage of bizarre Kyo noises and then occasionally shifted gears into beatiful chorus that any fan at a show could enjoy singing with.

    Toguro, which was a great expiriment in electronic noise, spacey guitar effects and ambiance and stayed purely a sing-a-long throughout the whole track.

    Dozing Green, another great sing-along that was like a slightly faster Ryoujoku with some acoustic guitar parts thrown in for variety and an several great screams at the end.

    And my favorite off the album, Glass Skin, with that beautiful, tinkly piano and just pure sing-a-long at the show goodness. On par with The Pledge, Namamekashiki, and dare I say Mushi from Kisou.

    I don’t get why the band’s desire to get away from Visual Kei must translate to doing away with their entire past and acting like none of it happened. It isn’t like _EVERY_ thing in their past has the magical power to suddenly cause their male fanbase to abandom fandom and leave them to the fangirls, just those really poppy glittery songs like Jealous, Garden, Yurameki, Yokan, I’ll, Cage, Raison D’etre, Ain’t Afraid to Die, Akura no Oka, Taiyo no Ao and JESSICA (and even I’ll admit to liking Ain’t Afraid to Die)

    Other songs like the original Hydra, UGLY, Zomboid, Filth, Gyakujou Tannoi Keloid Milk, Domestic Fucker Family, 24ko Cylinder, Embryo, Undecided, Mushi. Red E.M., Drain Away, Kasumi, Marmalade Chainsaw and Amber could easily be slipped into U.S. sets and their more hyper-masculine “OMG METUL” fans would still like it because they’re just universally appealing songs even to non-wapanese.

    Why do they think they need to abandon distinguishable phonetics in their lyrics and choruses that fans can sing to? When did it begin to -bother- them when fans sang their stuff at shows? I thought they loved that. Why else do they almost always play The Final? People know that one syllable for syllable by now and they’ll probably still play it on the next U.S. tour, I’d be shocked if they DIDN’T.

  3. Try reading again, I wasn’t trying to pigeonhole. Notice I said “appeal to the typical J-rock FAN.” Yeah, they’re evolving, but do they have to do it by abandoning distinguishable phonetics in their lyrics / choruses?

    Maybe I’m taking too much out of this guy’s review. Come to think of it, how did he even get a hold of the album? I thought it didn’t release until August, or was that just the release date for America?

  4. There’s “trying to not do the same album twice to maintain originality” and then there’s hyper-focusing on audio nonconformity to the point you make something that’s alienating.

    What’s next, an album entirely made up of instrumentals? “We’re trying to cull the herd of otaku weeaboos who sing along to our shit at our concerts, so from now on we’re just going to quit having any lyrics at all while Kyo will be playing African Thumb Piano, Theremin and Bruce Haack’s Dermatron. Come see us on our double headliner with Merzbow, if you’re cool enough that is.”

  5. I can understand and see a lot of your points, as the song “Tsumi to Kisei” from DEG’s latest single fits the picture you’re trying to portray. The only reason I’d be worried were if the entire album were as, for lack of a better word, slow (I imagine what you mean when you say trudging), but you seem to affirm otherwise, so I should be covered. I’ve been itching for this album since Dir en Grey covered “Warsaw no Gensou,” as I had a feeling their new work would go to the same place: highly experimental and atmospheric. Namely, different. I’m looking forward to the new Dir en Grey, especially Kyo showing off his talent. I love Uroboros, but I am sincerely glad that Dum Spiro Spero will be a definitive step in a different direction. Also a bit relieved that it features clean vocals, as well, I don’t enjoy when Kyo is limited in any direction. Thanks for your unbiased review.

  6. Right now the only things I’m really digging are Different Sense and Lotus, and Hageshisa. But Kaoru had said in some interview that those were the album’s “catchy / easy listening songs,” which kinda tore into my hopes that this new album was gunna be like an Uroboros Part 2.

  7. @Twiggyay – LOL wow, way to fail. Last time I checked J-Rock meant “Japanese Rock”. And last time I checked, Dir en grey was still from Japan. Can’t really change where you’re from and all that, ya know!

  8. @Twiggyay That’s like saying Judas Priest isn’t British metal. Yes, they transcended the barriers of being only a Japanese band. But they are still Japanese.

  9. This is way too early for a review, and the vague descriptions make me wonder just how legit this is. Sounds to me like this is based off of the recent singles and b-sides, with the bit about “Vanitas” being more of a guess than anything else.

  10. Thank you for the review. It sounds exactly like what they are trying to do and should do. It will be an extremely interesting album. Maybe won’t be most fan’s favorite but it will certainly be their most complex and interesting.

  11. thank you for the unbiased review of this album. all u ppl doubting a review based on ur love for the band makes me laugh… was the reviewer wrong for voicing his opinion of the album, negative or positive? if u dont like honesty, go to websites that give favorable reviews to kiss everyones ass. BTW, i’m the biggest supporter of this band but i always appreciate original, hosest, unbiased reviews..

  12. Fans who prefer their older, more sparkly pop sound bitch at newer fans for not liking it and tell them they’re “bad fans”

    Fans who don’t care for the older material but love all their grindy, growlie, metal stuff bitch at the older fans for not liking it and say that -they’re- the “bad fans” for not maturing.

    Then there’s the fans who like whatever the hell they do, regardless of what it is simply because it has Dir en grey attached to it, and anybody that says anything bad about them or a particular song or album from past or present is a “bad fan.”

    I don’t think it should be a crime against fandom to have your own tastes and to admit when an artist you like puts out something that doesn’t appeal to them… I didn’t like Marrow of a Bone, I also didn’t like NIN’s With Teeth or Manson’s Eat Me Drink Me, or High End Of Low. Why should my dislike of -those- negate my ‘fanship’ of their other material?

    Anyway, I really hope that the reviewer here is just being overly harsh on the band, because I really do want to like Dum Spiro Spero. But the things I’m reading here and in that interview with Kaoru kinda have my hopes lowered.

  13. Until I see some other reviews, I’m going to assume this review is full of nothing but speculation based on the three singles that have already been released. Because while this may make me sound overly cynical, I find it hard to believe that Apeshit would be the lone media outlet to get an advance copy of Dum Spiro Spero.

    As for the discussion at hand, if anything, Dir en grey current output starting with Uroboros shows that they’re finally getting comfortable with being heavy. Withering to Death and Marrow of a Bone were a bit… middling to say the least. They had their gems, but they aren’t great albums as a whole.

    That said, I’m kind of expecting Dum Spiro Spero to be a “difficult” listen. Deg’s cover of “Warsaw no Gensou” and “Tsumi to Kisei” are hinting at them experimenting with sludgy, atmospheric metal. Stuff like that is hard to digest, so I can definitely understand people being disappointed with that direction.

    Should be interesting, though. I have a feeling this album will split the fan base even further.

  14. @leroystanks – We stand behind the integrity and legitimacy of all of our content, including album reviews…that includes this album. Obviously, we are not the first media outlet to get an advanced copy but it does seem like we may be the first to publish a review.

  15. “Withering to Death and Marrow of a Bone were a bit… middling to say the least. They had their gems, but they aren’t great albums as a whole.” – Leroy

    I enjoyed Withering to Death ahelluvalot more than I did Marrow, but I guess its sort of “catchy japanese metal” sound could’ve turned off some fans looking for something with more aggression and eclecticism. I thought it was pretty solid, chunky but not totally sludgy and unpalatable and they still had a little of the “electronica / drum n’ bass” styles they had tinkered around with in past albums (Beautiful Dirt, Kodou).

    Withering is one of those albums like Kisou, Vulgar or Uroboros that I can just set on repeat, lay down with my eyes closed and drift in my head and not feel like I want to get up to skip anything.

    I don’t know how to feel about Missa, Gauze and Macabre though, because those were made in a different time when the band had a totally different aesthetic, it’s like a Metallica fan going back and listening to Kill ‘Em All when all they’ve heard is ReLoad.

    But that isn’t to say that I hate -everything- from them because there certainly is some nice stuff nestled in there. Again, its that whole bit about personal tastes and I guess my tastes gravitate more towards the “straight forward” stuff than I do those early poppy sparklers, or the droning sludge n’ muckers. I’m kinda in the middle.

  16. Agree wth you Durpy_Hewvz
    I’m really scare about this new release too. I like a metal and some heavy-drive songs from Uroboros, Six Ugly and more but I don’t want a stupid doom or continuous growl and bark. A frightening strange but foolish sound it’s not a vocal. I don’t think that the growl or something the same there’s a something so special, interesting or (Oh! My!) very experimental. That’s too much U.S. bands who makes doom-metal and growl.

  17. I had to reconstruct your post,
    I hope you don’t mind.

    “I’m really scared about this new release, too. I like metal and some heavy-driven songs from Uroboros, Six Ugly and more but I don’t want stupid doom or continuous growls and barks. I don’t think that the growl or something like it is something so special, interesting or very experimental. There are already too many U.S. bands who make doom-metal and growl like that.” – Anastasiya

    I don’t really -mind- Kyo’s weird scatting sounds, the shrill screams, or his deep growls… but when that becomes the only content in the entire song, with no break away from that like the clean vocal chorus in Different Sense, then it becomes redundant and boring to me.

    I need variety, and when there’s just nothing but walls of fuzz and just random shouts or unintelligible growls all the time that’s not being varied, that’s being confined and I don’t like to see Dir en grey put themselves into a genre box (and no, J-Rock is not a “genre,” it just signifies the country of origin) I liked the fact that Uroboros had so many layers and multiple directions and instruments in the same song.

    I love their straight forward catchy rock songs, I love their somber acoustic ballads, I love their piano, sitar, mandolin and whatever other random instrument they decide to throw in; be it synthesizers, turntable scratches or cut up jittery samples of the Amen Break, but just continuous growling is so limited.

  18. Thanks for some corrections, my English is not so good at all))
    And yes, I’m tried to say that I like different variations in their sound but the identical black growls in the whole or in the most part of album – it’ll be very boring and sadly for me. And the lowed harmony for guitars it’s not a good sign for band. Hope it’s not for ever.

  19. Reading the comments here, it seems to be everyone simply having different preferences, different ideals for what they want the band to be, and/or not fully understanding the music, itself. I, personally, am not a fan of most of the Gauze-era songs simply because they don’t “match” up. Even Kyo, in some interviews, wasn’t pleased with how some of them turned out (Berry being one example) because of how the lyrics and music just didn’t mesh well for him. He would look at the band member suggesting it and ask, “You want me to sing THAT?”, for example.

    I noticed a trend: with each successive album, I liked more and more of the songs on the album, until by Withering to Death, I liked all of the songs on each of their albums. This corresponds well, I think, with the band’s statements that, as time passed, they had become more and more in-tune with one another.

    I also noticed that each individual song would become more and more cohesive within itself with each successive album. There wasn’t a clashing between singing style, instruments, and/or lyrics. It all fit together as a believable, real mood and atmosphere. Until I find another artist who can do the same thing, Dir en Grey will likely remain my dominant source of musical pleasure.

    I personally believe that this latest album will be a demonstration of the band’s deepest desires for cohesion in sound and ideas. They seem very, very nervous about it, yet that nervousness is also tempered by excitement. Perhaps this is what they had been looking to accomplish over a career of conflicted musical interests and heavy outside influence. At the very least, they spent a great deal of time on this album; more than they had spent on any album prior, in fact.

    I think that this review is just that: a review. Nobody knows the author, really, so no one can understand quite where he/she is coming from. Really, I don’t think it’s a big deal. If you are concerned about it, however, I invite you to check out the Album Samples on Amazon and make up your own mind. That, I think, should be more important to you than what other people say or what other fans may think of Dir en Grey’s new direction.

    Don’t waste time worrying or arguing; you listen to this band for you, not for anyone else. Find out for yourself what you think of the album’s previews, then go from there. Though knowing these guys, the previews are likely to be full of surprises, when compared to the actual album… heheheh.

    Peace, and thank you all for the… interesting read.

  20. I remember the review Kieth Bergman at Blabbermouth did when WtD first came out… it tore into everything the band were, insulted them and their fans and dropped the typical “HURR HURR, ANNIEMAY MEWZIK!” descriptions and referred to them as Japanese imitations of Slipknot and Manson and complained about every song on the album having a “pop sheen” and how they’re a “mixed bag.”

    http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/showreview.aspx?reviewID=573

    Maybe their translator guys read some of those nasty stereotype-laden reviews to them and that set a course for them rebelling and trying to distance themselves from the reviewers’ descriptions as much as they could just as they had tried to do with “Visual Kei.”

    But I don’t see what’s so bad about having a “pop sheen.” I mean, if a song is catchy enough that it gets stuck in my head to the point I can’t help but want to sing along even when I don’t know the language, I think that’s just a testament to how good it is at transcending the language barrier. That and singing along at the show makes me feel even more a part of the moment. But if there’s no discernible phonetics and it’s all just sludge, fuzz and growls, then I’m just kinda “bleh…”

    As shallow as it is to say, I think a lot of us like Dir en grey because they sound “exotic” to us, much in the way American music sounds exotic to the members of DeG and other people living in Japan… they probably got burned out on the music that surrounded them the same way I got burned out on Country Music since it was the only thing anyone around me listened to when I was growing up, so I can totally see -why- they’d want to emulate the Western aesthetic and sound because to them its something fresh and distant, but in doing that they begin to lose what makes them exotic to -us-

    I don’t wanna see them turn into just another sludgie cookie monster band. I want that “mixed bag” because I -like- variety and I wanna get picked up a carried away by a song, like Machiavellism or Saku did when I first heard them. I don’t want to be listening to an album or standing at a show, waiting for a song to end and hoping for something better.

  21. If you all want to know where I’m coming from, please read all of our previous Dir en grey album reviews. You’ll see that I am a fan of the band.

  22. ^ I get that you’re a fan as much as the rest of us, I was only talking about how, when Diru first started breaking into the U.S. and getting noticed by folks, reviewers like Kieth at Blabbermouth tore them a new ass simply because of the band’s nationality and stereotypes of the fanbase which then lead others to do the same. I wasn’t -trying- to lump you in with all of that. Apeshit is a pretty kewl guy, eh likez Diru and doesn’t afraid of anything.

  23. @Durpie_Hewvz – Yeah, I know what you meant. No worries.

    Yeah, that blabbermouth album review was totally stupid. If you don’t know anything about the band and are not willing to educate yourself and open your mind, then don’t review it.

  24. I come from a background of writing classical and metal music and I must say that the 30 second samples of Dum Spiro Spero have me very excited.

    From what i’ve heard the music is very complex, but detailed and concrete so I’m not sure I’d call it “free form” or “floating” that would imply ignorance to the music.

    I’m not sure if the reviewer is a musician or has enough experience in advanced timing to follow Dir en grey’s sound, so he writes it off and meandering or jagged.
    Shinya is a very impressive drummer, the phrases he writes are very creative, yet mathematical. His fills are meant to flow with Toshiya and the other members so what may seem “uninspired” may simply be
    the perfect puzzle peice that holds the sound together.

    That being said I only disagree with what the reviewer has to say about the quality of the material and what the band members bring the table.

    Personal preference is still going to determine the success of the album in the eyes of a consumer.

    This album is definately going to be an atmospheric journey of emotion rather than “radio ready”.

    It takes an experienced ear and an artistic mind to get the full appreciation of dir en grey’s new sound.

    A pair of Shure 440s can’t hurt either.

  25. @Cody – Dunno what “Sure 440’s” are like, but I still have my pair of HD 280 Pro Sennhesiers I got at a Guitar Center in 2006, the seems holding the ear leather in the left cup started to come apart, didn’t wanna part with ’em, so I sewed them both with some neon green thread. Also been screwing around with a proggie called SRS Audio Sandbox, a nice little “surround sound” simulator.

  26. @Durpie_Hewvz – I definitely understand your fears about DSS being nothing but noise and unintelligible growling based on the Kaoru comments and Tsumi to Kisei. In my own opinion, a song like Tsumi to Kisei is a bit too close to the noise side of the noise/music line. Dir En Grey is a rock band and the members are musicians, therefore they should be creating music which is defined by Webster as:

    a : the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity
    b : vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony

    All that being said, I’ve listened to the samples of the songs, and the album is NOT heading in that direction. Regardless of what everyone else says the music speaks for itself. I think you should listen to the samples , I thought the songs were layered, creative, diverse, and uniquely Dir En Grey. They aren’t trying to please or speak to anyone except for their fans (the people who understand/identify with the mission, essence, and soul of Dir En Grey). Because of this, I still respect and love DEG even when their music isn’t the most appealing to my ears, because they stay true to themselves as artists. I’m very excited about the new album and already I’ve pre ordered it. It seems like it will be an interesting listen and not just a mess of noises.
    What do you think of the samples and the future of Dir En Grey?

  27. ^ That gives me a lil more hope that I might enjoy this album. As for the samples, for me, a snippet isn’t enough to judge on. I’m definitely going to buy the U.S. release when it’s available though.

  28. @Durpie_Hewvz – Yeah, no worries. The album is not going to ruin fans’ hopes. It just shows new dimensions to the band’s sound. It’s an album that takes time.

    By the way, I’m interviewing Kaoru and Die in a few hours today! We’ll post it soon after. Stay tuned.

  29. I live in the US and I was able to pre order the album from here:
    http://www.theomegaorder.com/DEG-dss

    I got this link from Dir En Grey’s official english twitter so it’s legit, and it’s cheaper than other sites ($12).

    If you only want the digital download you can also pre order the album in the US itunes store, i checked and it’s there ready for pre order ($10)
    Please spread the word, cause this album is inexpensive and super available in the US!

  30. @Dr. Park – Damn.. Wish I had know that a bit earlier, I would’ve thrown in some questions for the band.

    Like…

    1: Some of your international fans have been following you almost since the beginning of your band. They knew about you and were listening to your music before there was any localized record distribution or tours in their countries. How does that make you feel?

    2a: Back in the old days, it was alot harder for fans outside of Japan to obtain your music by legitimate means. Was the U.S. release of Withering to Death a reaction to this problem?

    2b: If you had never released an album outside of Japan and had never performed shows outside of Asia, would Dir en grey have still evolved the same way?

    3: Because of their early exposure to your music, many of your international fans have nostalgic feelings for songs from your older albums. How do you feel about that and do you have your own nostalgic attachments to songs from the past?

    4: Over here in the states, there’s a phenomenon where young American kids are reaching out to Japanese music and using it as an escape, they see you as something unique and exotic. However, sometimes this interest turns into an obsession. For example, some fans who attend a concert for a Japanese band will talk badly about the non-Japanese support bands or leave the venue once the Japanese band has finished playing. Does a mirrored version of this phenomena exist in Japan when a Western band is performing with a Japanese band?

    6: Is there a such thing as “best fan / #1 fan?” or do you see all fans as being equal?

  31. This review does not serve justice to how great this album is. It did not take a second listen to get into this album, I was hooked on the first song! Dir En Grey has always experimented with new sounds and styles, each album is so different from the one before! First experimental album? please!

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