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This is so familiar. But why?

The second the intro to DIR EN GREY’s latest album PHALARIS kicks in, I feel like I am being ripped back into a better time. For the first time in a while, I can honestly say that I can hear a few of their previous releases in this album. The question remains, is this a positive or a negative?

From the top

PHALARIS kicks off with the punchy and delicious track Schadenfreude. This song is really a beautiful opening. You’ve got kicking drums, a growling bass, and twin wailing guitars working like serpents in your ears at the command of a voice possessing the duality of divinity and absolute blasphemy. Vocalist Kyo hits the highs and lows in this song like it’s nobody’s business. The track is capped off with a tribal-sounding call signaling the arrival of the next track, a familiar voice Oboro.

Admittedly, I wasn’t really the biggest fan of the Oboro single. The track wasn’t anything to scoff at, however, it just didn’t hit the way I was wanting at the time. The world was in a pretty grim place, and let’s face it, it still is. I probably expected too much of the song to be honest.

However, just as before, it hits like a beacon of light and hope amidst the dense fog and chaos we have been facing as a global community. It’s hard to say if that was really the goal of this song, but it definitely felt that way. String melodies, absolutely harmonic guitar work, and truly beautiful use of backing electronic elements to give sinking and uplifting feelings throughout. Of course, bassist Toshiya and drummer Shinya continue to tie together every aspect of the album with solid basslines and masterful drumming. Let’s get to something new though.

Freshening up

The Perfume of Sins. Right from the 15-second preview, I was really hyped for this song, and really this album. The distortion in the opening feels like being lost in confusion before you are met with the harsh vocals that stare you in the face like a raging bull.

The overall groove to the song is just that, groovy—from body-swaying basslines to heart-pounding speed drumming. There is an occasional slowdown before the inevitable attack. It’s like you’re a snake under a charmer’s spell. Then you realize again, that you are just stuck in this Brazen Bull.

As soon as things pick up, DIR EN GREY drags us back in with some fantastically clean vocals. 13 opens with an interesting piano arrangement before taking its place as another one of DIR EN GREY’s easy-listening tracks. It won’t really blow your mind but hell yeah, it’s pretty. Between the screams and the perfect singing the piano comes back now and again to remind you, yeah, it’s a pretty song. Who else puts out something this heavy with something so nice at the same time without making it a straight-up ballad? Seriously, I’d love to know.

Blending new and old

And just like that, we hit the experimental block. The favorite for me. The stranger their sound the better, I feel. Utsutsu, Bouga wo Kurau has some of that old funk to it but it comes in out of nowhere. One of the more interesting intros of the album, it makes use of distorted bass before hitting you with stop-and-go rhythms and vocals modulated with the utmost finesse. As the song dies down, from the ashes rises a tried and true champion.

Next is Ochita Koto no Aru Sora. I have always been of the opinion that DIR EN GREY’s singles feel out of place on their albums. There really isn’t much of a difference for me here. Ochita Koto no Aru Sora hits as perfectly as it did when it was the new kid on the block. Absolutely slamming sound. But it really feels like a stepping stone for what the rest of the album is composed of.

Well now, Mouai ni Shosu is certainly cut from the same cloth as Utsutsu, Bouga wo Kurau. Kyo is really doing some interesting with his vocal chants here. He has some great screams and some almost middle eastern-inspired vocal acrobatics. All that was accented by masterful instrumentation from his fellow bandmates. This is definitely a song worth a few listens.

Enter aggression

Hibiki hits us again with more of that soft work before slamming you into the wall with some deep, deep guitar work. The song feels a bit like a cool down at this point. The energy may not be there but the composition definitely is. There are some familiar sounds and themes from some of their more recent singles, and they even harken back to The Insulated World in some ways.

Aggression. That’s Eddie. Kick in the door and spit those lyrics out like you’re gripping the mic for dear life. The song really doesn’t slow down either. There is definitely some pent-up rage in here. Screams throughout, a relentless onslaught of guitar strumming, the cleanest drum work this side of the solar system, and bass that rattles you to your core.

Winding down and fading out

Otogi brings that to a grinding halt, in a good way. Back to some real groove. The guitars here take a real prominent lead as the vocals join in. This is one of those tracks that really lulls you into another state of being. Cashmere-soft vocals meet a medley of master class instrumentation leading to a religiously invigorative trance.

Kamui starts in an almost menacing manner with some deep cello-like draws of a bow before hitting the electronic path, accompanied by smooth bass and drum work that ties it all together underneath the master’s vocal prowess. A surprisingly soft close to an otherwise aggressive album. We get some acoustic guitar in here too. The beat to this song is consistent throughout and really keeps pace. The menacing cello makes a reappearance before the song fades again into more beautiful harmonics. This loop leaves you hanging on every last note, waiting and wanting for more as the distortion keeps crawling back in before the acoustic guitars pull you back out.

Judgment

The question remains, is this a positive, or a negative?

The strangely titled PHALARIS is definitely not an instant hit for me. I can gush over every piece of it but inside it still feels like there is something missing. Unfortunately, that’s just about how every album is for me on release, when it comes to DIR EN GREY that is.

The interesting thing though, is how much they grow on you. I really feel that the last few major releases from the band strongly reflect life. This is in the sense that when you are living in your best times you don’t really realize it until it’s passed you by. When you look back at it you realize that you were too caught up to appreciate it at the time.

If nothing else, pick it up for that new Mazohyst of Decadence (included on disc 2 on the limited editions of PHALARIS). It’s like chocolate for your heart and soul, except you melt instead of the song.

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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