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)