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DIR EN GREY’s 11th studio album PHALARIS bares the richest culmination of metal from the Osaka quintet’s quarter-century career. Contrasting the battering ram blitzing throughout its predecessor The Insulated World, the latest release takes on a melodic dynamism akin to the earlier albums ARCHE from 2014 and VULGAR, released nearly two decades prior.

Cover art for “PHALARIS” regular version

With every song drawing from the most impassioned elements of the band’s musical annals, the omnibus arrangement should unlock a welcoming gateway for newcomers into its sinister soundscapes. Yet, fans will immediately appreciate their encapsulation by a unifying essence as mystical and merciless as the Brazen Bull, leaving little doubt that the ensemble remains unabashedly DIR EN GREY: brutal, avant-garde, and deeply imaginative.

At the core of the record’s hardened exterior lies a sorrowful theme of loss—of virtue, of kin, and of self. The lead track Schadenfreude captures this dichotomy in a 10-minute firebreather, with vocalist Kyo embodying the Sicilian tyrant who recalls earthly serenades of creeks and rainbows stretched across the open veldt all the while the stench of roasting comrades wafts from his furnace. Alongside Kyo’s bellows, the harmonized flutter from guitarists Kaoru and Die and the thunder from bassist Toshiya and drummer Shinya crescendo toward an indelible, skyward chorus.

Loss reappears in Oboro—a tormented waltz and successor to the 2003 single Kasumi—taking the form of a mother’s despair, her ideals of parenthood lingering at odds with the child she is forced to birth.

And it appears yet again in the blast beats of The Perfume of Sins, which stoke vengeance with maniacal impunity.

Inside the depths of PHALARIS’s flames roil Kyo’s throaty soliloquy on relinquishing remorse in the radio-friendly 13 and the ghoulish guitar shuffle of Utsutsu, Bouga wo Kurau. The track list also includes the 2021 thrash single Ochita Koto no Aru Sora at its midpoint, refreshed with a doomy trance breakdown suggestive of humanity’s impending folly.

The singe continues with the punky cynicism of Mouai ni Shosu, lamentations of a hollowed heart in the synth-ballad Hibiki, and a power metal gallop in the breakneck Eddie.

Collectively, the work speaks to the diversity of lead songwriter Kaoru’s creative arsenal, magnifying the band’s expressionism with each meticulous composition.

The boldest display of this emotive expansion is the capping of the album not with a signature headbanger but rather with a pair of spiritual hymns. Mid-tempo Otogi beckons for Buddha’s enlightenment within the abyss of a fairy tale valley. Its pentatonic chants hearken to Japanese lore like a divine reimagining of the folk song Sakura Sakura. Kamuy, a brooding acoustic epic dotted with the syncopation of filtered guitar effects and chamber strings, calls on Ainu deities to reconcile the separation of the soul from the body. This marks the ultimate form of loss—of existence.

And with these psalms, the program just ends, a zephyr rippling across the air as fleeting as our time in this world, sprinkling behind only the unsettling premonition that the scourge shall return in another age.

Despite the unexpected conclusion, PHALARIS manages to weave a singular tale of life and morality, through desperation, sin, and even absolution. Such introspective authenticity feels objectively rare, a testament to DIR EN GREY’s ever-evolving approach to masterful artistry.

Those who held their breath for a second coming of the instant gratifications or the djent body slams of the albums Withering to death or DUM SPIRO SPERO may need to take more time with this one. These sonic architects demand that we sit with every nuance of the slow burn as if absorbing the agony and screams of the broiling captives that once spilled from the bull horn.

PHALARIS is available now. Physical copies ship in three versions: Regular, First Press Limited, and Limited Deluxe. The latter two include a second disc with remakes of previously released songs mazohyst of decadence and ain’t afraid to die. The Limited Deluxe Version also includes a DVD or Blu-ray recording of the June 5, 2021 performance at Tokyo Garden Theater in its entirety plus an exclusive 52-page photo and interview booklet, all encased in an elegant paper sleeve.

DIR EN GREY is currently touring in Japan. Volume 1 of the PHALARIS tour begins in Yokohama on June 2 and concludes in hometown Osaka on July 16.


What did you think? See what another writer had to say here.

CD
  1. Schadenfreude
    Schadenfreude
  2. Oboro
  3. The Perfume of Sins
    The Perfume of Sins
  4. 13
    13
  5. Utsutsu, Bouga wo Kurau
    現、忘我を喰らう
  6. Ochita Koto no Aru Sora
    落ちた事のある空
  7. Mouai ni Shosu
    盲愛に処す
  8. Hibiki
  9. Eddie
    Eddie
  10. Otogi
    御伽
  11. Kamui
    カムイ
CD
  1. Schadenfreude
    Schadenfreude
  2. Oboro
  3. The Perfume of Sins
    The Perfume of Sins
  4. 13
    13
  5. Utsutsu, Bouga wo Kurau
    現、忘我を喰らう
  6. Ochita Koto no Aru Sora
    落ちた事のある空
  7. Mouai ni Shosu
    盲愛に処す
  8. Hibiki
  9. Eddie
    Eddie
  10. Otogi
    御伽
  11. Kamui
    カムイ
CD
  1. mazohyst of decadence
  2. ain't afraid to die
CD
  1. Schadenfreude
    Schadenfreude
  2. Oboro
  3. The Perfume of Sins
    The Perfume of Sins
  4. 13
    13
  5. Utsutsu, Bouga wo Kurau
    現、忘我を喰らう
  6. Ochita Koto no Aru Sora
    落ちた事のある空
  7. Mouai ni Shosu
    盲愛に処す
  8. Hibiki
  9. Eddie
    Eddie
  10. Otogi
    御伽
  11. Kamui
    カムイ
CD
  1. mazohyst of decadence
  2. ain't afraid to die
DVD
  1. DOZING GREEN (Acoustic Ver.)
    DOZING GREEN (Acoustic Ver.)
  2. Zetsuentai
    絶縁体
  3. Kukoku no kyouon
    空谷の跫音
  4. Ningen wo kaburu
    人間を被る
  5. Devote My Life
    Devote My Life
  6. CLEVER SLEAZOID
    CLEVER SLEAZOID
  7. DIFFERENT SENSE
    DIFFERENT SENSE
  8. Aka
  9. Ranunculus
    Ranunculus
  10. Keigaku no Yoku
    谿壑の欲
  11. The World of Mercy
    The World of Mercy
  12. Oboro
  13. Kasumi
    かすみ
  14. Followers
    Followers
  15. OBSCURE
    OBSCURE
  16. Ochita Koto no Aru Sora
    落ちた事のある空
  17. Sustain the untruth
    Sustain the untruth
  18. Hageshisa To, Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shakunetsu No Yami
    激しさと、この胸の中で絡み付いた灼熱の闇
CD
  1. Schadenfreude
    Schadenfreude
  2. Oboro
  3. The Perfume of Sins
    The Perfume of Sins
  4. 13
    13
  5. Utsutsu, Bouga wo Kurau
    現、忘我を喰らう
  6. Ochita Koto no Aru Sora
    落ちた事のある空
  7. Mouai ni Shosu
    盲愛に処す
  8. Hibiki
  9. Eddie
    Eddie
  10. Otogi
    御伽
  11. Kamui
    カムイ
CD
  1. mazohyst of decadence
  2. ain't afraid to die
Blu-ray
  1. DOZING GREEN (Acoustic Ver.)
    DOZING GREEN (Acoustic Ver.)
  2. Zetsuentai
    絶縁体
  3. Kukoku no kyouon
    空谷の跫音
  4. Ningen wo kaburu
    人間を被る
  5. Devote My Life
    Devote My Life
  6. CLEVER SLEAZOID
    CLEVER SLEAZOID
  7. DIFFERENT SENSE
    DIFFERENT SENSE
  8. Aka
  9. Ranunculus
    Ranunculus
  10. Keigaku no Yoku
    谿壑の欲
  11. The World of Mercy
    The World of Mercy
  12. Oboro
  13. Kasumi
    かすみ
  14. Followers
    Followers
  15. OBSCURE
    OBSCURE
  16. Ochita Koto no Aru Sora
    落ちた事のある空
  17. Sustain the untruth
    Sustain the untruth
  18. Hageshisa To, Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shakunetsu No Yami
    激しさと、この胸の中で絡み付いた灼熱の闇
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