As if by some eternal sorcery, we are marching into October quicker than I can demolish a Wagyu Beef Burger at the local Beefeater restaurant. The final quarter of the year where all musicians and artists are throwing out albums before the inevitable Christmas market gropes our genitals and folks buy whatever fresh hell Simon Cowell wants us to download from the X-Factor for that coveted Christmas number one spot. A title once held with the prestigious honour of who could write about the worst holiday imaginable!
About reindeer, elves and a stranger in red and white who should by rights be on some sort of register by now (Nick, there is nothing dodgy about an old man coming into your house and emptying his sack into your stockings… Ok… When you put it like that it sounds a bit dodgy… F**K YOU NICK, I LIKE CHRISTMAS AND YOU WILL NOT RUIN IT FOR ME! – Massively Christmas Loving Editor) and is an anagram for Satan. It’s now a consumerist joke, about… Well… A f***ing Kylie Minogue cover presumably battling it out against… F**k it lets just say Coldplay so I can move on from this horrible thought that makes me want to down a litre of Jack.
The first of the Autumn/Winter batch comes from the land of the rising sun, Dir En Grey. A band that can still hold the title of most charismatic and enigmatic bands, a title that only Faith No More or Rammstein could also really hold. Just when you accept that Dir En Grey are going to settle on one musical direction, they’re the first to laugh at you, bitch slap you in the chops and drag you through hot coals only for them to say “here’s our new album, we’re now going in this direction”.
It’s nice to see that bands can still push their boundaries, it means I can take this album to Matt Tuck from Bullet For My Valentine and hot-glue it to those smug duck-bill looking lips of his every time he bemoans that “metal has been watered down”. Pardon me for the mini-rant here, but Mr. Tuck, you are the epitome of your own quote! Especially when your career has been coasting on the safe side – you’ve written the same album for the past ten f***ing years!
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, let’s actually talk about ‘The Insulated World‘, Dir En Grey’s tenth studio effort and how it packs one hell of a punch. Their 2014 release ‘Arche‘ was an OK album, but one of the main criticisms of the albums was that it took way too long to get going. It’s clear that the band have reached a more progressive zenith in their line of work, looking at more of their prog metal contemporaries such as Mastodon or Gorija for inspiration, yet leaving those bands in the dust to go back to the drawing board.
This can leave a bit of a jarring taste to outsiders of the prog-metal realm such as yours truly. The albums openers ‘Keibetsu To Hajimari’ and ‘Devote My Life’ go in harder than Theresa May’s erection during NHS cuts (All political opinions/statements are those of the given writer and not representative of In Key Magazine – Very Official Sounding Editor), however, the overall experience has the longing impression that you don’t need a doctorate in the Japanese language to understand that ‘The Insulated World’ Dir En Grey has created, is unforgiving and in a very dark place.
lead Vocalist Kyo’s singing style goes all over the place, such as the norm for anyone who has listened to a Dir En Grey album in the past. His tools of low growls to high shrieks and soulful clean vocals are ever present as Karou’s and Die’s guitars combined with Toshiya’s rumbling bass makes for high strung and schizophrenic work to say the least. There is no point in this album where you can catch your breath, all you can do is hold your breath and pray for a swift and merciless end.
‘Values of Madness’ is really where the album has you reaching for the oxygen, it’s a perfect storm of what makes Dir En Grey such a compelling band to listen to, a show off of their older hyperactive work, but a flamboyant masterstroke of their newer material it makes this album anthems for your next anxiety attack, something I know too much about. The only time you are allowed to finally catch your breath is with the album closer ‘Ranunculus’ which leaves a bittersweet yet optimistic outlook on this albums macabre world.
Dir En Grey addressed the critics of ‘Arche’ and did so with a mighty sucker punch of a tenth album if you thought that this band had nothing left in the tank, you are gravely mistaken, this album is uneasy listening, but that’s really the whole point. Fans of their more Pop sounding or calmer work may be put off this album, but older and more patient fans will find something to hold onto with this body of work. A further look into the crimes of why this band is not hailed as current champions of metal, in some respects you’ll be happier knowing that Dir En Grey are indeed metal music’s current best-kept secrets.