Dir en grey w/ Dagoba – 11/3/13
Trees – Dallas, TX
Words/Photos by Steven Anthony
It’s been almost two years since the last time Japan’s Dir en grey touched down here in the United States. After vocalist Kyo was sidelined by a throat injury last spring, Dir en grey was forced to scrap an entire U.S. tour while allowing him time to recuperate. Luckily he did so with no real problem, and last night the band finally hit America once more, kicking off their 2013 Ghoul tour at Trees in Dallas, TX.
The band has gone through more than a few stylistic changes over the years, both visually and musically, and last night found them changing yet again. While the instrumentalists of the band remained dressed in fairly typical stage wear, vocalist Kyo had his face hidden by a black shroud for much of the show. When he did pull it back and allow his face to show, he was painted to resemble a… well, a ghoul, I guess, delivering on the tour’s name. Complete with creepy stage contacts, Kyo was in his own little world, seemingly detached from the rest of the band but connected with the audience.
The band isn’t really touring in support of an album, but they did release a new self-covers EP titled The Unraveling earlier this year and several of the tracks made an appearance in the setlist in Dallas. As the band has evolved in both appearance and sound over the years, hearing them redo these older tracks can be quite breathtaking, like Karasu, which has been given a complete makeover in such a way that it completely changes the feel of the song. Kyo’s singing was highlighted during the track, giving him time to vocalize in his normal register before transitioning into his now-trademark growling/screaming in the middle of the song. The amount of control he has over his voice is pretty terrifying, and he’s quite the dynamic frontman because of it.
Rinkaku, the band’s newest single (albeit now nearly a year old), sounded flawless. Dual guitar work by Kaoru and Die provided the background for Kyo’s vocal acrobatics once again, the singer’s voice sounding almost operatic during the song’s chorus. While I respect Kyo’s ability to emote through screaming, I far prefer hearing him sing and Rinkaku was one of his best performances of the evening. When he reaches up into his upper register it becomes quite haunting, particularly when coupled with his ghoul makeup. Rinkaku was definitely one of the strongest points of the set.
dead tree from the band’s 2005/2006 U.S. breakthrough LP Withering to death. got perhaps the loudest crowd reaction of the night, eliciting mass amounts of screaming throughout the packed venue. The cool thing about seeing a band like Dir en grey live is that the crowd is most certainly filled with hardcore fans — this isn’t the type of music to have casual listeners — and as such, the audience is absolutely hysterical for nearly the entire show. When it comes to a boiling point during tracks like dead tree, it’s like a giant cathartic experience shared by the entire audience. The band only seemed to feed off of the energy, pummeling the crowd with intensity during the song’s much more aggressive and “metal” middle section. If you ever doubt the ability of a Japanese metal band to stir up a circle pit — don’t. The floor for this show was brutal, people pinballing off of each other while screaming in Japanese. It’s certainly a unique experience.
The band’s encore opened up with a new version of fan-favorite The Final. Another of the tracks re-recorded for their self-covers EP The Unraveling, The Final remains mostly the same, a bit harder and edgier than the original recording but retaining the overall feel of the track. The most notable difference is a dual guitar solo by guitarists Die and Kaoru, which sounded absolutely brutal live. Like dead tree earlier in the gig, The Final is originally from the band’s breakthrough U.S. album Withering to death. and the reaction for the two tracks was pretty similar: intense screaming and cheering followed by hundreds of people singing along in Japanese.
Other highlights of Dir en grey’s set included a somewhat surprising appearance of Kasumi and a hyper-aggressive performance of Different Sense. Kasumi got an update on The Unraveling but remained mostly unchanged and faithful to the 2003 original, and this is just one of a handful of times the band has played the track in the United States. It’s one of Dir en grey’s most potential sing-along tracks and the crowd did just that as the band played on. Different Sense, on the other hand, is one of the band’s most alienating songs — some love it, some hate it — but all it does in a live setting is showcase the band’s ability to switch between fairly standard alternative rock and hardcore metal at the drop of a hat.
French industrial band Dagoba opened up the gig, delivering a solid opening set at what I believe the vocalist said was their first American show ever. After much goading by vocalist Shawter, the crowd actually split in two for a wall of death, something I’d never seen break out at a show this far into my life. The band sounded brutal while performing, but then they’d almost ruin the vibe by being so grateful and humorous during Shawter’s brief discussions with the audience between songs. Regardless, they did a great job of opening up for Dir en grey.
It’s great to have Dir en grey back in the United States, and if they are this strong out of the gates there’s no telling how good the shows will be after they really get going. A passionate audience and nearly two-hour set spanning the band’s career? It’s a dream come true for fans of the band.
Dir en grey setlist:
GAIKA, CHINMOKU GA NEMURU KORO
Bottom of the Death Valley
THE BLOSSOMING BEELZEBUB
HAGESHISA TO, KONO MUNE NO NAKA DE KARAMITSUITA SHAKUNETSU NO YAMI
Check out a few more selected shots followed by our full gallery: