Review: Dir En Grey – The Insulated World
Dir En Grey has always been billed as a weeb band but I don’t really think they’re something that appeals to the average weeaboo, at least they haven’t been for quite some while with a change in direction for them that began with Withering to Death. What I’m getting at is that I don’t think the average weeb is going to be into avant garde prog metal.
Now, on another note, maybe it’s time to start worrying about Kyo, because this album is bleak even for Dir En Grey. Further instability from a man who regularly cuts the insides of his cheeks to spit blood everywhere can’t really be seen as a good sign. On top of that, they’ve gone back into the visual kei aspect of their J-metal background but Kyo seems to want to dehumanize himself as much as possible when it comes to his costumes, with gruesome and sometimes almost painful-looking designs. The fact that the lyrics routinely contain strains that translate to things like “It’s not your fault that I want to die / I’m just regretting ever being born / It was already a mistake when I was born” are making me think that Kyo’s bandmates may want to keep an eye on him.
Now, setting aside any worries about the band’s frontman, it’s incredible that not only has his range and variety of vocal styles and effects stayed strong, I would go as far as to say it’s grown, with some impressive high ranges despite his grating and guttural screams and howls. Things aren’t as death metal-heavy as on Dum Spiro Spero, Uroboros, or Marrow of a Bone, but Kaoru, Die, and Toshiya are still keeping things heavy with rolling and groove-heavy guitar and bass lines. Shinya is also keeping the drum work interesting and showcasing his abilities where others might resort to simply abusing bass drum rolls and blast beats.
“Keibitsu to Hajimari” (Beginning with Disdain) starts the record off with a death and thrash forward banger heavy on the groovy bass work. The chorus also features the line “I should just die” as its main point of repetition.
“Devote my Life” starts mixing in more of the band’s penchant for odd harmonies and experimentation, again over a thrash-forward base to work from. And again, Kyo’s poetry is worryingly suicidal.
“Values of Madness” is the first track from the band I’ve heard that has a rap section, though Kyo goes through a pretty wide variety of vocal styles and effects. I think he’s playing the parts of different characters, though the lyrics wouldn’t reflect that idea.
“Downfall” features some of the grooviest and catchiest guitar lines, and Kyo’s lyrics are intensely critical and self-deprecating, speaking of wasted value and a life devoid of meaning as he looks back. “Keigaku no Yoku” (Insatiable Greed) features some of the most interesting textures in the record so far, folded into one of the most dreadfully angry feeling tracks, which flits back and forth between a plodding and tense crawl with syncopated clusters before frantically barking and growling. No resolution to this one, just dissonant electronic noise at the end which leads into the hopelessly lonely “Zetsuentai” (Insulator). “Ah / Anyone can find / Happiness and love / If you deceive each other.” Whatever’s going on, Kyo, I hope things start looking up soon.
The album closes with the reflective ballad “Ranunculus,” with Kyo at his most dehumanized for the music video. There are official translated lyrics on this one so I’ll let it speak for itself.
The Insulated World is a strong mix of Dir En Grey’s more recent turns toward avant garde experimentation and a slight look back at their old visual kei style. It’s also worryingly bleak, with constant mentions of unending loneliness and a want to die, to be destroyed. While there is a part of me that’s grown somewhat deeply worried for Kyo, I also think this is one of their best records.
5 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
The Insulated World is available now through Firewall Div.
Banner image taken from the official Dir En Grey website.