Album of the Week 21-2016: Dir En Grey – Uroboros

Ever since Dir En Grey singer Kyo discovered he possessed an almost inhuman grunt, the band’s music grew increasingly heavier to accomodate this quality. Despite the presence of a couple of excellent ballads, they took it too far on ‘The Marrow Of A Bone’. Being the type of band they are, follow-up ‘Uroboros’ is a reaction to that. It retains the heavy elements, but the key word here is balance. More ambtious songwriting and the perfect light-and-shade dynamics in both the music and Kyo’s vocals make it the most progressive Dir En Grey record to date. Possibly also their best.

Ambition is something that never eluded the Japanese quintet, but ‘Uroboros’ opens – after excellently setting the mood with an intro called ‘Sa Bir’ – with their most impressive song to date. ‘Vinushka’ is the type of song any progressive band would want to write; the way the acoustic guitars fuse with the tastefully layered electric guitars, Kyo’s dreamy vocal lines and the interesting accents in Shinya’s drums is unequalled. And that heavy passage contains such amazing riff work by Kaoru and Die! A listening experience that is progressive in the purest definition of the term, yet sounds nothing like all these Dream Theater clones.

‘Uroboros’ lasts slightly over an hour and while after ‘Vinushka’ only eleven and a half minutes have passed, you will be sufficiently absorbed to be taken away on the gloomy atmosphere of the record. Because no matter how impressive the individual performances of the musicians are, albums of these are defined by their atmosphere. And what is all the more impressive: no matter how abrupt shifts like the one from the maniacal aggression of ‘Reiketsu Nariseba’ to the absolutely stunning ballad ‘Ware, Yami Tote…’ are, they make sense and never disrupt the flow of the record.

Being a fan first and foremost of the more melodic side of the band, my personal highlights of ‘Uroboros’ are the beautifully arranged (semi-)ballads on the record: the subtle ‘Toguro’, the almost Linkin Park like (sans rap, of course) ‘Glass Skin’, the semi-psychedelic ‘Dozing Green’, closing statement ‘Inconvenient Ideal’ and most of all the aforementioned ‘Ware, Yami Tote…’. However, fans of the band’s heavy side will also be treated with tracks like ‘Bugaboo’, ‘Gaika, Chinmoku Ga Nemuru Koro’ and ‘Stuck Man’, the latter of which is carried by Toshiya’s most funky bass line to date. Tracks like ‘Red Soil’ and ‘Doukoku To Sarinu’ find the ideal middle ground.

Of course, ‘Uroboros’ isn’t for everyone. It’s inaccessible, it’s highly unpredictable and it could be a tad disturbing at times, but let’s be honest: nobody ever really loves a totally inoffensive records. For me, this album is truly a work of art that should be heard at least once by anyone who likes Rock or Metal. Though it lacks the distinct J-Rock leanings of their earliest works, I think it is the most complete representation of Dir En Grey’s versatile, nearly indescribable sound. It is a record that has to be heard in order to be understood. Don’t let me keep you from doing so!

Recommended tracks: ‘Vinushka’, ‘Ware, Yami Tote…’, ‘Toguro’

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