Dir en grey Diru An Gurei) is a Japanese band formed in 1997 and currently signed to Firewall Div., a sub-division of Free-Will. As of 2008, they have recorded seven full-length records and while the group's lineup has remained consistent since its inception, numerous stylistic changes have made its music's genre difficult to determine (though it is generally considered to be a form of rock music). Originally associated with Japan's visual kei movement, the band has opted for less flamboyant attire in recent years.
Dir en grey has toured through Asia, Europe and North America; Billboard commenting on the group's international fanbase, that the band "has transcended the language barrier in the United States through its music" and "gained its audience without singing in English".
1997?1999: Early career
Dir en grey was preceded by the independent band La:Sadie's which included four of Dir en grey's later members before it disbanded. After parting ways with La:Sadie's bassist Kisaki, Kyo, Kaoru, Die and Shinya along with newly recruited bassist Toshiya regrouped as a new band on , 1997 and released a first EP, Missa, a few months later. According to guitarist Kaoru, the name "Dir en grey" was chosen because it "sounded right," and is composed of words from several languages, so that people would not be able to attach a specific meaning to it other than the band's name itself.
They first attracted mainstream attention in 1998, by entering the top ten on the Oricon music charts with the still independently produced songs "Jealous" and "-I'll-". Five subsequent singles, arranged and produced by X Japan co-founder Yoshiki Hayashi, were published during the first half of 1999, the band's first full-length record, Gauze, followed. One of the shows in support for the album (filmed at the Osaka-jo Hall) would later become the first of several live concerts to be released on VHS and DVD.
2000?2004: From Macabre to Vulgar
In 2000 vocalist Kyo was hospitalized with hearing trouble and several dates of the tour in support of Dir en grey's then upcoming album, Macabre, had to be postponed. "Tour 00 >> 01 Macabre" eventually took off later the same year and was concluded at Nippon Budokan, shortly after the release of the single "Ain't Afraid to Die" in April 2001.
In the following year, along with the release of a third full-length album, Kisou, Dir en grey gave their first performances abroad, touring China, Taiwan, and South Korea. Back in Japan, the last dates of the lengthy "Rettou Gekishin Angya" tour were already in support for the band's second EP, Six Ugly. In summer 2003, Dir en grey performed at the Akasaka Blitz for five evenings in one week. Each show (except the first) was themed after a certain album, the last featuring songs from the then yet to be released Vulgar. A DVD set, titled Blitz 5 Days, was later released exclusively for members of the band's official fan club, A Knot. Vulgar released in September 2003, tours in support for the record would last well into 2004.
2005?2006: Early non-Asian touring
Kyo, Performing live at Rock im Park in 2006
In 2005, Dir en grey performed in Europe for the first time. Their concerts in Berlin and Paris (as part of the "It Withers and Withers" tour) sold out without promotion, save for newsletters by import record stores and internet-based word of mouth. The band also performed at two major festivals, Rock am Ring and Rock im Park. Becoming more involved with the international music scene, they had French band Eths open for them at the Paris concert and invited American musician Wednesday 13 and his band to play at a show in Japan. Dir en grey also appeared at the Japanese leg of the "Taste of Chaos" tour.
2005 saw the first official European releases as well, in the form of that year's album Withering to Death. The band's music had previously been available to fans not living in Asia through means of import and Internet file-sharing only. The album also managed to achieve Dir en grey's first non-Asian chart position, reaching #31 in the Finnish album charts. The subsequent single, "Clever Sleazoid", later climbed to #15 on the singles charts in the same country. Several Dir en grey songs were also featured in the soundtrack of the 2005 film Death Trance.
In early 2006 touring was expanded to the United States. The band performed in Austin, Texas (South by Southwest festival), New York City (Avalon Club) and Los Angeles, California (Wiltern Theatre), followed by the North American release of Withering to Death. Again, all shows sold out within days. and Billboard Magazine commented that Dir en grey "ignited frenzied response with its first three U.S. shows". After more concerts and festival appearances in Germany during the summer, singer Kyo was again hospitalized, due to inflamed vocal cords. While two concert dates in Japan had to be postponed, Dir en grey was still able to join Korn's Family Values Tour. In October, the band was back in Japan to perform at the Loudpark Festival, along with bands such as Megadeth, Slayer and Children of Bodom. Their 22nd single, "Agitated Screams of Maggots" was released on , during the Japanese leg of the Inward Scream tour. On , the music video for "Saku" was voted the #1 video of the year on the MTV2 show Headbanger's Ball.
2007-present: The Marrow of a Bone and Uroboros
In February, Dir en grey went on its first North American headlining tour, visiting seventeen cities while its sixth full-length album, The Marrow of a Bone, was released on February 7 in Japan, and in the United States and Europe in the following months. From May to July, the group opened during a United States tour of Deftones and afterwards did another European tour, which included their debut shows in Denmark, Finland, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as several festival performances across the continent, including Ankkarock, M'era Luna Festival and Wacken Open Air.
The group went on another international tour in September, titled after its most recent single "Dozing Green", beginning in Japan, and continuing in Europe, including their first performance in The Netherlands and Switzerland. In late November, Dir en grey opened two shows for Linkin Park at Saitama Super Arena and in December performed another Japan tour with 10 Years as support act. Commemorating Dir en grey's tenth anniversary as a band, two greatest hits compilations, titled Decade 1998-2002 and Decade 2003-2007 respectively, were released on .
At the beginning of 2008, Dir en grey announced plans to begin recording a new studio album... Their first touring of the year, in May, was another Japan tour with a conclusion of three shows at Shinkiba Studio Coast, titled Death over Blindness. Between touring, Dir en grey performed on one night of the two-night Hide Memorial Summit on , alongside X Japan, Luna Sea, and others. A second Japanese tour, titled Tour 08 The Rose Trims Again began the same day as the release of their recent single "Glass Skin".
On , Dir en grey announced the release of their seventh studio album, Uroboros, which was released on November 11, 2008 in the United States. The band also toured the United States and Canada in support of the album with dates scheduled for November and December (overlapping the release of Uroboros), with opening act The Human Abstract. More touring that fall included a series of four shows titled "Bajra", two being fan-club exclusive, and a single show on , under the moniker "Uroboros -Breathing-", at the famous Osaka-jo Hall where Dir en grey had not performed since , 1999 (as seen on 1999.12.18 Osakajo Hall).
Beginning in 2009, Dir en grey made their first thorough tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland with Kerrang!'s "Relentless Tour '09" alongside Mindless Self Indulgence, Bring Me The Horizon, Black Tide and In Case Of Fire. In February, the band announced the public release of a new live DVD, Tour 08 The Rose Trims Again, as well as switching European record labels to the newly founded Okami Records, a sister label of their former European representation, Gan-Shin.
During spring of 2009, the band began to fully promote Uroboros with a series of nationwide tours, under the title "Tour 09 Feast of V Senses." The tour was interrupted briefly while in Sapporo and Sendai, with an announcement on the band's official website, explaining that Kyo had been diagnosed with edema of the larynx, and would require the postponement of three shows, which were rescheduled for early May.
Currently, Dir en grey is on tour in Europe, with a mixture of festival performances, headlining shows, and one co-headlining show with Killswitch Engage. The festival performances include their third appearances at Rock am Ring and Rock im Park, as well as their initial concerts at Download Festival, Nova Rock and Metaltown. Among the headlining shows, Dir en grey are also making debut concerts in Italy and the Czech Republic.
After several shows of their late-summer tour, "All Visible Things," Dir en grey announced their next single for December, "Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami", as well as a North American and South American tour also under the title "All Visible Things."
Style and subject matter
from the album Gauze
"Bottom of the Death Valley"
from the album Kisou
from the album Vulgar
from the album The Marrow of a Bone
Dir en grey's format has been subject to change throughout their career, initially being a rather experimental form of alternative rock. Some tracks of their debut album Gauze also demonstrated a distinct pop appeal, which was largely dropped in favor of a more progressive sound on the following albums, Macabre and Kisou. While up to that point some songs had already been more fast-paced, raw and aggressive than others, the band's music took a decisive turn with the release of the EP Six Ugly, from then on sporting more metal influences in general. Dir en grey's style has since gravitated towards riffs and song structures more along the lines of contemporary North American fusion genres, such as nu metal and metalcore, though their latest album, Uroboros, sees them return to the more experimental and oriental sound of their earlier albums. Since its release many sources have begun classifying Dir en grey as progressive metal. In a review of their sixth full length album, The Marrow of a Bone, allmusic comments on their evolution and diversity, saying:
The band's sound has embraced tendencies of American metal and nu metal (they participated in Korn's Family Values tour in America), and Dir en Grey bring so many other sonic and musical elements into the mix that they extend not only the reach of their own music, but the boundaries of any music they happen to incorporate into their sound.
? Thom Jurek, Allmusic
Kyo's singing is considered a pivotal aspect of the band, and he has gained recognition for his distinctive vocal work and for his large range and versatility, being able to "howl, croon, emote cleanly, scream, shriek, growl, bellow, and make nearly inhuman sounds", and he has been compared favorably to singer and avant garde musician Mike Patton. In their review of Uroboros, Sputnik Music says only of Kyo's singing, "I challenge you to find one singer in any genre with more range than this guy." All lyrics are written by Kyo and deal with subjects such as society, mass media as well as sexual obsessions and love, usually with negative implications. The vocabulary varies from subtle to explicit and several songs rely heavily on double entendres and other wordplay, often involving the multiple meanings of a kanji character.
As with numerous other Japanese bands, the members of Dir en grey are credited with their given or stage name, the names of Kyo ) and Kaoru (?) usually being written in kanji.
Kyo ? vocals
Kaoru ? guitar, backing vocals
Die ? guitar, backing vocals
Toshiya ? bass guitar, backing vocals
Shinya ? drums