It’s been a while since DIR EN GREY has taken to a London venue, so when the announcement of an ambitious weekend double bill came along, people took notice, selling out their first performance alongside Paris born RISE OF THE NORTHSTAR. Over the years DIR EN GREY has built a growing impression on Europe’s metal scene, and with the release of their latest album ‘ARCHE’ last year, it was time for Osaka’s avant-garde metallers to make their long-awaited comeback to the UK.

Tonight they were supported by duo Outside the Coma, Sikth frontman Mikee’s latest project, who despite their small following and limited discography got the cogs moving and kicked up the dust with their organized mess of electronic metal.

DIR EN GREY is one of, if not THE most complex band I’ve been following over the years, something that they manage prove at every one of their live shows. With no record comparable, the variation in their sound is astounding, and though each is good in their own right, to make a setlist that flows naturally takes a lot more effort than just picking the ones with the highest view count on YouTube.

Featuring new tracks plucked from their 2014 album ‘ARCHE’, the band delivered a well put together set transitioning between their creepier atmospheric tracks such as ‘Phenomenon’ and ‘Kukoku no kyouon’, to the more progressive songs ‘Chain repulsion’ and ‘Revelation of mankind’, giving frontman Kyo ample chance to brandish his assortment of vocal ranges from razor-sharp howls to the lowest death growls.

As far as classic DIR EN GREY tracks go through the main portion of the set they were few and far between, favoring the gems of the new album over that of ‘VULGAR’ and ‘THE MARROW OF A BONE’. This was made up for during the last leg of the show as they harked back to ‘THE FINAL’ and- here’s my chance to increase the word count- ‘Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami’ for a brutal end to a show that had the crowd thrashing from beginning to end.

The night was everything we’ve come to expect from Japan’s most notorious metal unit; a well-performed faultless show of musical prowess from all members, with Kyo taking the limelight, looming over the crowd as he beats down and contorts his body. If you managed to tear your eyes away from their spectacle for a second, you were met with a selection of disturbing and sometimes moving scenes provided by the projected backdrop that intensified their haunting presence. Tonight we were exposed to another foreboding look into the band’s twisted vision of doom and gloom.

Many bands opt for taking on the English language in their music in hope of capturing the attention of a global audience, but despite rarely straying from their native tongue, DIR EN GREY has been widely accepted by the metal world, and tonight they demonstrated once again why that is. Ruthless, somber, and a triumph of modern metal. This is DIR EN GREY.

Words by Charles Shepherd

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