Artist: Dir en grey
Album: Withering to death
Musicians: Kyo (vocals), Kaoru (guitar), Die (guitar), Toshiya (bass), Shinya (drums)
Release Date: 9 Mar 2005
|Withering to death – Dir en grey
01. Merciless Cult
*Bold titles – recommended listening.
Dir en grey‘s fifth full-length album, Withering to death is the culmination of their musical search for the perfect balance between their hard rock style and their older visual kei style. While their third and fourth albums (Kisou and Vulgar respectively) were the experimental push into a harder sound, both of those albums featured some weak songs and some stylistic misdirection. With Withering to death, however, they have mastered the new sound and execute it superbly. Every song on this album, with one exception, is a classic and definitely not to be missed. Something that Vulgar was accused of when it was released was that it lacked the musical complexity that made their earlier albums so unique and entertaining. The songs on Withering to death, however, have incorporated that musical complexity into the harder sound, so that we get some truly amazing pieces of Japanese rock.
“The Final” is the climactic song of the album, although saying that implies that the songs that come after it are of worse quality, which is definitely not true. A slow build-up of instruments and beats in the beginning coalesces into a strong instrumental. Temporarily, it becomes softer again as Kyo comes in with the almost gentle first verse. The chorus thunders into play then, and you can feel the passion of each word. Kyo‘s voice is at his best in this song, going from growling to low, soft vocals effortlessly. My favorite part of “The Final” is near the end, with the most powerful lyrics of the entire song: “Sou nakushita mono wa mou umarenai / Ikiteru akashi sae motomerarenai uta.” (“What is lost can’t be found again. / A song that can’t even seek the proof of life.”) This is arguably the most powerful song lyrically on an album that is full of moving lyrics, and the excellent performances by all members of Dir en grey only enhance the effect.
Higeki wa mabuta o oroshita yasashiki utsu
“Higeki” is one of the songs that I passed over many, many times the first week I had this album. Even though it is a pretty song, on first listen it seemed to go nowhere and with a style that was completely at odds with Dir en grey‘s normal style. But somewhere along the way, I found myself listening to it more and more for its calm sound, which is a definite rarity in the Dir en grey discography. The repetitive guitar line somehow feels like the steady influx and departure of a wave on the shore. Gradually, so gradually that it’s barely noticeable, the song builds up, with Kyo‘s vocals becoming more intense without dissolving into the growls and screams he normally employs. The effect is very understated, but increasingly touching and mournful the more you hear it. Knowing the backstory to this song gives even more poignancy to both the style and the lyrics, as this song was written for a fan who committed suicide. While it is not the most complex or technically astounding Dir en grey song I’ve heard, over time I’ve come to regard this as one of the most beautiful and underrated songs Dir en grey has ever created.
Jesus Christ R’n R
This is just a very, very catchy song, the most catchy one I’ve heard from Dir en grey since “Yokan.” “Jesus Christ R’n R” features an addicting bass line and an energetic guitar, and even beatboxing. Oddly enough, that section is my favorite part of the song; the rhythm of the beatboxing combines perfectly with the bass and guitar lines, until you just want to jam to it. This song shows off the vocalist’s versatility: from beatboxing to falsetto to screams, it seems that Kyo can do them all. The only downer to “Jesus Christ R’n R” is that the chorus is a bit repetitive. However, you can’t really fault it, because the song speeds through so quickly and vibrantly that you can’t help but sing along even with the repetition.
“Saku” is very reminiscent of Vulgar-era Dir en grey, with lots of growling and heavy rock, complete with screams and borderline chaos during the verses. The chorus is very, very strong, though, with an awesome melody line that resolves the chaos into focused beauty. “Saku” is clearly tells us that Dir en grey took the lessons learned from Vulgar and adapted them for Withering to death, maturing their sound and giving it a strong direction.
Unlike “Saku,” there is no catchy chorus to redeem this song. Despite that, there are still hooks there that made me waver a bit before sticking this song down in the “Bad” section, but overall, I can’t place it anywhere else. It isn’t a terrible song, but it does break up some of the momentum following the outstanding “The Final.” It is a weak song compared to others Dir en grey have done, and it is the only song I’d consider as unnecessary to this album.
The Rating: 10