Between intense sessions of BanG Dream! and blasting Ningen wo Kaburu through my car’s sound system I had lost track of how soon The Insulated World had arrived. After all, Ningen wo Kaburu still feels new to me.
Going into a new DIR EN GREY album I get intense anxiety. It’s because they are easily my favorite band and I am waiting for the day that they release another album like Kai. What I mean to say is something that I absolutely do not like, because a band can’t be this perfect? So, I got everything queued up and ready to go. I got the best headphones I own, lights are out, just me and the sweet sounds. Blow me away, Diru.
Keibetsu to Hajimari, what a way to start an album! There isn’t much to say other than the fact that this song gets it right. The boys’ instrumentation is on point. These damn vocals haven’t wavered at all. I get a lot of the same vibes I did from Uroboros. Its reminiscent of something like Red Soil. Of course, this is a completely new track though. Nonetheless, I have to reiterate, a killer way to open.
From here we go into what can only be described as too short. With a title like Devote My Life, I was expecting something a little different. A life is long, isn’t it? But, that’s really my only complaint. It’s too short. I want more, thankfully there is a whole album left to go.
Ningen wo Kaburu makes a glorious return in The Insulated World. I’m not usually a fan of the change of pace singles tend to bring in. Even with the amazing flow of albums like Uroboros and Dum Spiro Spero, the singles felt moderately out of place. They would change the whole flow to the album. They were mainly acceptable due to their familiarity. Ningen wo Kaburu is different here. It fits, it fits so well, and it was a perfect setup for the next track, Celebrate Empty Howls.
The vocal work in Celebrate Empty Howls was phenomenal. The melodic bit towards the middle complements the title of the track almost perfectly. The experimentation in the track is a warm welcome and it stays true to the sound of the album.
Unfortunately, I feel I can’t say the same about Utafumi as I did with Celebrate Empty Howls. Utafumi, like Ningen wo Kaburu are past singles throw into the album. The changes made to the track makes it an interesting listen. However, unlike Ningen wo Kaburu, it feels too different from the rest of the album. The changes to the vocals feel like they took a bit of the punch out of the song from back in the single.
Going into Rubbish Heap, there is a completely synthesized intro. Maybe it was some type of distortion on a guitar, maybe it was just a synth. I was a little worried that it would be just what the title described. Lucky us, it’s not. It’s like they knew some loser was actually going to be worried about this actually being bad. There are some interesting highs in the vocals with consistent harsh vocals by our front-man. I found this song to be one of the easier ones to get lost in. The melody transitions between beautiful and harsh in only ways DIR EN GREY can provide. The strain on Kyo’s vocals is unlike anything else. It’ll put you in a trance.
Aka has one of the more bass forward intros of the album. It also has some of the clearest vocals. It is reminiscent of something like Lotus, their single from 2011, specifically, the slower parts. Right when you think it will pick up, it lulls you back into a gentle rhythm. Situated in the middle of the tracklist, Aka is a safe haven. Beautifully aggressive guitar work with melodiously peaceful vocals. This stark contrast is what makes this band so versatile and easy to listen to.
Values of Madness is a really interesting track. When the promotional version was released, all I could feel was vibes of early 2000’s rock. One of our writers, Zephyr, said the same exact thing. I can’t explain it better than he did citing an early nu-metal vibe like that of the American band, Korn. I couldn’t agree more with Zephyr. It’s distinctly DIR EN GREY but it does bring back those feelings. The best parts of this song come in the form of hard slapping basslines and syncopated vocals.
Downfall almost felt like the band’s previously released song, Karma, right at the start. This band doesn’t make the same song twice though. Not unless they totally change it the second time around. Downfall has a fast non-stop feel to it. A great vocal range and some interesting pauses thrown in. The range of Kyo’s highs probably shines brightest in this one.
I have to admit, the 80’s like synth at the start of Followers probably had me more hyped than anything else in the album. However, this is another classic melody by DIR EN GREY. It definitely does some interesting things with the instrumentation. The work by bassist Toshiya here is oddly prominent and it’s really just a beautiful song. What really sets this song apart is the almost 40 seconds of space at the end that set a mood unlike any other in a DIR EN GREY album. It’s eerie and made me feel a bit uneasy going into the hard-hitting Keigaku no Yoku.
This is not what I was expecting, Keigaku no Yoku just felt so right. It’s slow, it’s fast, it had the perfect setup. Calm, angry, deep, and bellowing. I want more of this! Just before the end, this album really picked up in a way I could not foresee.
Staring at the cover of this album and listening to the next to last song, Zetsuentai, I feel like I really understand this album. As always, this is a step forward for DIR EN GREY. Each time we get a new release, there is always a change. Some welcome them more than others, I feel like I am always open to them. The gaze from the album art and the piercing guitar work go right through you. It’s not a high pitched sting, it’s a sustained twang and the two meld so well together. The action of this song takes place towards the middle and really feels like a journey into yourself through the hypnotizing gaze before you. All this before a beautiful end to a new chapter in DIR EN GREY history.
Ah, the final track, Rananuculus, the track that I really wasn’t satisfied with. At the time it got a promotional video I was a little curious as to how The Insulated World was going to come together. By all means, Ranunculus is not a bad song, it’s a beautiful track. It has beauty unmatched by any other track on the album. But, it wasn’t the frustrated screaming out that I was looking for. I think this song really encapsulates this album. It’s not what we had in the past. It’s something beautiful, it’s something deep. It evokes a desire to hear more.
Did The Insulated World blow me away? No, it really moved me. I didn’t get the intense feelings I got from the last few albums, but I got something new. It’s definitely an album worth checking out and experiencing for yourself. There is so much I can’t cement into place with this album, it almost feels like two stories sewn together. I’m unsure of it’s staying power, it could really go either way. It’s not perfect and I feel that the mixing wasn’t as good as it has been in the past. But with all the things that I feel I dislike, I can’t help but love it more. This one will likely grow on you.