Dir en grey (DIR EN GREY/Dir en grey) is a Japanese five-piece experimental metal band. They formed around 1996 as a Visual Kei band, but have gone in a more contemporary, post-Visual Kei direction as far as appearance. Musically, Dir en grey encompasses Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Nu Metal, Gothic Metal, etc. They first gained attention in 1998 with two independently produced singles. Subsequently, they caught the eye of Yoshiki from X Japan, who helped arrange and produce the singles of Dir en grey's first studio album, and subsequently signed them to Extasy Records. Later on, they would switch labels to Dynamite Tommy's Free Will Records, and then sign to both Gan-Shin for their European releases and The End Records for their American releases. Their material is released by Firewall Div, a sub-division of Free-Will Records, Since their inception, the quintet has released eight full-length studio albums, three EPs, and loads of other material, including singles, live videos and music video compilations.Considered by some metal fans as the Spiritual Successor to the legendary bands Faith No More and (arguably) X Japan, the band has gained international acclaim for their uniquesound, precise, dynamic musicianship, dark, explicitlyricalthemes, near-incomprehensible songwiting and convention-challenging image, and enjoys continuous success as one of Japan's biggest Visual Kei groups. They were part of the Second wave of Visual Kei bands and were one of the bands responsible for re-establishing Visual Kei as a musical movement among Heavy Metal artists.
The Wacken 2011 performance was perhaps one of Kyo's biggest and most well-known misfortunes. Not only was the entire concert cursed with a static crowd. The equipment also had problems and, unusually, Kyo was completely unable to hit his high cleans. The concert end up being so bad that they had to publicly apologize.
Butt Monkey: All five of them, apparently, thanks to Memetic Mutation, with Kyo, Die and Shinya being the targets of most of the jokes. If there's one band that would make a good subject for a Visual Kei Docu Soap, it's them.
Toshiya often plays the bass vertically between his thighs, with his body contorted in a slightly awkward, serpentine fashion. Also, on the song "Obscure", he has a habit of swinging his bass while spinning.
Cluster F-Bomb: Some of the songs with English lyrics from The Marrow of a Bone have this.
Also, prevalent in "The Domestic Fucker Family" from Kisou.
Costume Porn: During their early days as a VK band. Downplayed to the point of aversion in recent years, though Toshiya and Shinya look noticeably more visual than the rest of the band in most photoshoots. The band brought back visuals since the UROBOROS era, however, they've put more emphasis on Badass clothing and darker, more stripped-down styles than full-on Visual Kei.
Don't Try This at Home: For career singers, Kyo's vocal style - unless you want a short career with repeated injuries to your vocal cords and eardrums. It's far better you find an actual vocal coach or teacher, and if you can't or don't want to go that route, to at least practice with singers that have done so and that know proper technique to not injure themselves repeatedly. Also, trying to sing through pain like Kyo does is a very bad idea that can leave your voice permanently and irreparably damaged. It's much the singing equivalent of trying to teach oneself drums from pre-1995 Yoshiki.
Dude Looks Like a Lady: Played straight in their Visual kei era, by every single member of the band, including Kyo (who eventually went into Ambiguous Gender territory before the band toned down their visuals). Special mention goes to Toshiya and Shinya.
Even in recent years, Shinya looks noticeably more feminine than the rest of the band, as seen in some of their group photos.
The Big Guy: Die. Easily the most manly member. At 5'10", he towers over everyone except Toshiya.
The Smart Guy: Toshiya. Arguably the most talented musician in the band. Also gets the Big Guy label, being as tall as Die, and the Lancer role, being not only the most blatantly VK member, but also the Chick Magnet
The Chick: Shinya. Easily mistaken for a girl by unsuspecting fans, due to his skinny physique, delicate features and full lips. Also the most quiet member of the band.
Follow the Leader: Many other J-rock bands who were part of the second wave of VK have tried copying their formula, including those who worked under former bassist and leader Kisaki's UNDER CODE PRODUCTION label, but none have achieved the same level of success. In fact, many of the bands who worked under Kisaki's wing have broken up or changed styles. Those that did achieve success (The Gazette, Exist Trace and Girugamesh, and a few others) have also established their own image and sound.
Apparently, this trope was the reason why the band opted for a post-Visual kei image, as Toshiya said in a 2010 interview:
"To be honest, when we first started and we were wearing a lot of makeup on stage and stuff, there were a lot of bands doing that at the time in Japan, and people thought it was cool. But not anymore...The music was so unique, too — bands like X Japan. At that time, there weren’t any two bands that sounded alike; these days everyone sounds exactly the same."
Early in the band's career, the members themselves were clones of other artists: Kyo was considered an expy of Kuroyume vocalist Kiyoharu. and Toshiya's Gothic Lolita image was considered by some fans to be inspired by ex-bassist Kisaki.
Friendly Rivalry: The reunited X Japan and Dir en grey have one. It's a lot less friendly on the fandom side, however.
Gratuitous Rape: The lyrics and video of "Obscure", "Agitated Screams of Maggots", and "Different Sense", the latter two of which featured tentacle rape. The lyrics of "Tsumi to Batsu", which is an entire song about rape. "Different Sense" could be argued to be symbolism (the TEPCO nuclear disaster being equated to a rape of the world) and Rape as Drama, but it still is a very close call as to whether the rape imagery from tentacle hentai was necessary for the symbolism.
Iconic Logo: The name of the band, stylized in all caps and in big, bold letters. As of 2013, they have adopted a sleeker, more modern typeface similar to The Gazette and (coincidentially) to Khanate's respective logos, as seen in The Unraveling.
Impossible Hair Color: Every single member of the band, at one point or another. Kyo had gone through more hair color changes than anyone else in the band, ranging from black, brown, blonde, orange, red and even bright pink◊.
The title track from The Unraveling ends with the final measures of the song throwing the instrumentations into utter chaos.
Long Runner Line Up: The last major change happened around 1997, after the La:Sadie's era, when Toshiya took Kisaki's place as bass guitarist after parting ways with the latter.
Justified by the fact that every single member considers the band as highly important.
Long Title: Loads of examples when translated to English, including (but not limited to) "Room 304, Cherry Blossoms of White Death" from Gauze and "Tragedy is the Sweet Melancholy That Lowers Your Eyelids" from Withering to Death.. But the worst, oh god, is the third-to-last track on their latest album Dum Spiro Spero, which, when translated, reads this: "The Violence and the Darkness of the Burning Heat Entwines in My Heart". The Japanese title? "Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka De, Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami".
What's odd about it is that it is one of their most notable songs. Some fans would refer to it as "that song from Saw 3D" because of the title's length.
Loudness War: Pretty much all their discography has songs that are brickwalled to an extent, but the original version of UROBOROS and the 2013 EP The Unraveling fell prey to atrocious mixing, especially the latter, where the drums sound egregiously clipped and the bass drowning out the guitars. It isn't helped by the fact that Tue Madsen produces all their recent releases.
Even their more recent lives are brickwalled with the guitars extremely clipped (to a degree that even an amateur guitarist should be capable of preventing) and everything blending together into a droning wall of nigh-unlistenable noise. The 2013 Hollywood live was so atrociously mixed (especially in comparison to the equally heavy opening band that had very clear sound) to be a Face Palm moment if not outright painful for anyone with any production or sound-mixing knowledge at all, with the only song that wasn't brickwalled being The Final in the encore. Others have reported similar issues with their Irving Plaza 2013 live.
Lyrical Dissonance: Kyo makes a point never to write happy lyrics. This has done nothing to prevent Kaoru and Die from giving him some pretty bouncy material to sing over. "Jessica," "Audrey," "Youkan," and Shinya's "Umbrella" are particularly notable examples.
Man of a Thousand Voices: Kyo. Fans draw comparisons to the legendary Mike Patton, due to their eerily similar vocal range, despite the two being on opposite sides of the world.
Mean Character, Nice Actor: Though Kyo is known for being a mean, evil and Ax-Crazy guy during concerts, he is a completely different person offstage, being nice, very polite and respectful during interviews. He also likes having fun and had his fair share of comedic moments as well.
Some fans lucky enough to meet him have reported him being very shy and reserved off-stage.
Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: They've covered everything from a 1 to an 11. However, most of their songs range from a soft 6 ("Dozing Green") to a very hard 9 ("Different Sense"), with their lighter songs typically in the 4-5 range.
Mood Whiplash: The Marrow of a Bone starts off with a soft power ballad, is followed by several ultra-aggressive metal songs, and while the album does soften from there, it never has another ballad again. The transition can be very unsettling and startling to the unsuspecting listener.
Kyo would suddenly throw screaming fits on seemingly "normal" songs. Take for example, "Obscure", which starts off with a fairly soothing ambient section but shifts rapidly into Deathcore once the screams kick in.
Old Shame: The La:Sadie's era and Kisaki. Usually ignored by the fans and even the band members themselves.
Older Than They Look: Everyone in the band is in their mid to late-thirties, but appear to be in their late teens or early twenties. Check out pictures of them. Even the more recent ones would show a band whose members have aged very little physically.
Rearrange the Song: Plenty, especially in recent years. Special mention goes to The Unravelling which is an entire EP of rearranged songs, save for the title track.
Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Zigzagged. No surprise since their visual style is just as varied as their music. Currently inverted, in regard to their public image of being "cute, handsome, wealthy metal rockstars" anyway.
Screams Like a Little Girl: Kyo. He is particularly infamous among cover vocalists because of how perfect his screeching-high screams are, as well as how often he uses the technique.
Signature Style: Most of their songs, especially their newer material, are in Uncommon Time and written in unusual key signatures. The band members themselves add their own elements that make their sound even more unique: the contrast between Kaoru's twangy melodies and Die's chromatic, palm-muted riffing, Toshiya's heavily downtuned basslines, Shinya's bizarre drum patterns and Kyo's extreme vocal ability have become staple traits of their overall sound.
The Pete Best: Kisaki, who didn't do too badly on his own (even being mildly successful as executive of UNDER CODE PRODUCTION) but nowhere near the level of success the rest of the band had.
The Unintelligible: Some of Kyo's more inhuman sounds and his English tend to be this. Honestly, listen to "Dozing Green" from UROBOROS. Would you believe every word of that song is in English? There is also a Japanese version of "Dozing Green", but it's hard to tell the difference. Even worse than "Dozing Green" is "Glass Skin" from the same album. It's sung in completely unintelligible English.
This overlaps with Loudness War when badly mixed live - good luck trying to even tell what song the band is playing without a setlist or where one ends and another begins at some points. Or to hear individual instruments or Kyo's vocals.
Troll: The fandom is infested with them, in a cycle of trolling the band, who trolls them back, and they troll more, becoming trolls trolling trolls trolling trolls. This poses somewhat of a problem when some of these enter other fandoms that have far less tolerance of trolling and hating as a means of interaction with the band and with other fans, as most people in those fandoms take the trolling or hating at face value and get into Flame War or issue bans/blocks/reports. It gets even stickier when some of the people doing it do actually mean the venomous hatred, think it's cool to be a troll, and aren't just joking or being Vitriolic Best Buds.
Trolling Creator: The band can qualify as this - in that their entire aesthetic (they purposefully went Eroguro/Post-Visual to piss off image-savvy Japanese VK fans), sound (theirforays into Nu Metal and Deathcore don't sell well with Western metal fans) and ideal of performance (their shocking PVs and nightmarish live shows can be seen as a middle finger to the Moral Guardians} is trolling society in general, and after a certain point, arguably trolling their own fans and the Visual/Metal fandom in general via Mind Screw and the like.
Pretty much the only argument for the live brickwalling is trolling fans and pissing off people with any degree of production knowledge, unless they just don't care, which in the general Japanese music scene and the metal scene, itself trolling by mocking the idea of treating live performances as Serious Business.
Unlimited Wardrobe: The band completely changes their appearance with every new release. Let's see... Shinya cycling between a masculine and feminine look, Toshiya wearing skirts, then jeans, then wearing skirts again, Kaoru cycling between wearing denim and leather, Kyo's crazy hairstyle and clothing choices, the list goes on.
Visual Kei: Played straight up until the mid-2000s, inverted at one point, and heavily zigzagged since then; though they might not look too Visual in recent years, they still have strong ties to the scene, still appeal to the same subculture (and at the same time reaching out to non-VK fans) and, more importantly, still put effort into achieving an awesome image and sound.
They went for full Eroguro kei during the Tabula Rasa and Ghoul tours, especially during the latter, with Kyo's new zombified image (complete with corpse paint and fangs), Die's return to a Visual Shock-inspired mullet and heavy makeup, Shinya going for a full Bifauxnen look and all of them (especially Toshiya, Kyo and Kaoru) wearing ominous robes during some songs.
Why Fandom Can't Have Nice Things: In the days of the LiveJournal "hate memes," a very large portion of the participants (in fact, pretty much everyone who wasn't claiming to have left jrock entirely for Korean pop) were Dir en grey fans (and their sockpuppets) who, among other things, posted the personal information of an alleged rape victim, while questioning whether she was telling the truth, doxed and posted personal info of other people, tried to recruit others to attack or shun people at shows, and generally acted worse than most of their targets (who at worst were usually groupies or Yaoi Fangirls that had upset them online somehow, or people just judged as weird or unattractive). The rape victim incident led to the meme it was on being shut down by LiveJournal, future anon memes futilely demanding no one dox or post personal information for any reason, eventually getting shut down or banned by LJ Abuse when it happened despite the rules, and making the anon memes harder to create and participate in was probably one reason for the LiveJournal commenting system change - which also made roleplaying and the like far more difficult. While Dir en grey fans and Kpop fans weren't the sole cause of the comment system change, they likely did hold some responsibility for the sheer number of complaints the memes brought to Abuse and sometimes the legal department.
Widget Series: Arguably the weirdest band in the J-metal/Visual Kei scene (which is a Widget Series on its own), because anything they do usually involves a Mind Screw of some sort.