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 direction as far as appearance. Musically, Dir en grey encompasses Hard Rock
, Heavy Metal
, Nu Metal
, Gothic Metal
. 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 switch labels again from there to The End Records.
- Kyo: Vocals
- Kaoru: Guitar
- Die (pronounced "Dye" as opposed to "dee-eh"): Guitar
- Toshiya: Bass Guitar
- Shinya: Drums
- Gauze (1999)
- Macabre (2000)
- Kisou (2002)
- VULGAR (2003)
- Withering to death. (2005)
- THE MARROW OF A BONE (2007)
- UROBOROS (2008)
- DUM SPIRO SPERO (2011)
- Missa (1997)
- Six Ugly (2002)
- The Unraveling (2013, classified as a mini-album but released as an EP)
Dir en grey Provides Examples of:
- Altum Videtur: DUM SPIRO SPERO. Also, "VANITAS", a song from the album.
- Ambiguous Gender: More in the early days when they were in the Visual Kei movement. This video is one of the best examples.
- Anime Hair: Ever since the Visual kei days. Downplayed in recent years, though.
- Kyo seems to have an affinity for rather eccentric hairstyles. He has grown his hair long, cut it short, straightened it, wore it in waves, dyed it in different colors, etc.
- Animated Music Video: "Agitated Screams of Maggots" and "Different Sense".
- Ax Crazy: Kyo's stage persona.
- Bishōnen: Every single member of the band. Special mention goes to Die (being the biggest and manliest member) and Toshiya (being the tall, black haired pretty boy. Kyo sometimes gets the "cute guy" label due to his comparatively puny frame. He dislikes being called "cute" however.
- Berserk Button: Again, Kyo dislikes being called "cute" due to his short size. Among many other things, he is also known for telling the audience to shut up while he does vocal solos.
- Born Unlucky: Kyo. He had a fire extinguisher swung into his head, almost got alcohol poisoning the first time he drank, got into a motorcycle accident, got involved in a car accident (this time, it was because of Die sleeping on the wheel), had ear problems, contracted infections from having his eyebrows pierced, got hit by a girl, got hit by a guy in the rugby team, tripped over one of the crewmen who were cleaning up his vomit, is vertically challenged compared to the rest of his bandmates, and seems to be getting sick often. He also broke his throat many times in his musical career.
- 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.
- There is also a recorded video of him collapsing on stage; the band initially thinking it was part of the show. Also, he had plans of getting married, only for his bride-to-be to walk out on him the day of the planned wedding. She ended up marrying one of Kyo's now ex-friends who was also a musician. Kyo candidly explained this incident as the inspiration for the song "Taiyou no Ao".
- Butt Monkey: Especially in the older days, if footage was taken of the band messing around, it was almost always at Shinya's expense.
- Kyo gets this treatment as well. Kaoru once made fun of his voice, and the other band members tend to make weird nicknames for him.
- Captain Obvious: They have a song called "I Will Die in Loneliness, Because I'm Lonely".
- Careful With That Axe: Kyo has a very strong tendency to play this trope COMPLETELY STRAIGHT, with his trademark screeching death voice suddenly popping up on seemingly light and clean songs.
- Character Tics:
- Kyo has his spastic twitching, zombie walk, fish-hooking and vomiting. Also, his trademark screeching.
- 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.
- Costume Porn: During their early days as a VK band. Downplayed to the point of aversion in recent years, though Toshiya looks 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.
- 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.
- Elegant Gothic Lolita: Toshiya and Shinya pulled off the look really well during the band's early years. Shinya, in particular, perfected it.
- Five-Man Band:
- The Leader: Kaoru. Composes much of the band's material, and spearheaded their split with Kisaki during their early years. Also, he is the spokesperson of the band.
- The Lancer: Kyo. Gets most of the attention even though Kaoru does most of the work. Has some Shrinking Violet traits, since he doesn't prefer to be interviewed.
- 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.
- Some critics have criticized Kyo for ripping off Mike Patton's style, but, considering that they're worlds apart, it is better to think that their Vocal Evolution occurred independently, with his dynamic singing voice possibly influenced by Ume from Tokyo Yankees.
- The Gazette, one of the most popular and influential bands in the second wave of Visual kei, has often been the subject of comparison by fans, with a few purists even calling them a rip-off of Dir En Grey, mainly because of musical and visual similarities.
- Nagoya kei bands often adopt a formula similar to Dir En Grey's Nu Metal releases. The band, however, is not part of the Nagoya scene.
- Exist Trace's melodeath/metalcore releases tend to sound similar to songs off the pre-Withering To Death releases.
- Early in the band's career, Kyo was considered an expy of Kuroyume vocalist Kiyoharu. Also, Toshiya's Gothic Lolita image was considered by some fans to be inspired by ex-bassist Kisaki.
- Funny Aneurysm: Happened to one of their fans who sent a message to Kyo on how to end his life, which he didn't take too seriously. Kyo later found out that the fan was dead serious about suicide, and succeeded in an attempt to take his own life. The incident scarred Kyo for life, and since then, he has been mostly silent to fans who would like to send him messages.
- Fun Size: Kyo. He's only around 5'2"/5'3"
- Genre Busting: The band challenges all the conventions of Japanese rock/metal by being a cut above the established tropes.
- In a Kerrang! interview, Kaoru once stated that, while they were still La:Sadie's, they were more of an unlistenable noise band than anything else, justifying the aforementioned statement.
- Genre Popularizer: Eroguro kei, from the very start. Also one of the first bands to display elements of what is to become Deathcore with their album Withering to Death. Progressive death metal in recent years.
- Genre Roulette: Overlaps with Genre Busting, and creates even more of a Mind Screw for critics.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Egnirys Cimredopyh" from Macabre Read it backwards.
- Also, "Mitsu to Tsuba" from Gauze The title means "Honey and Saliva" but the kanji are actually printed in reverse Read it normally, and you get "Tsumi to Batsu" which means "Crime and Punishment''
- "Mazohyst of Decadence'. There's a reason for the intentional misspelling.
- Gratuitous English: Being a J-rock/J-metal band, some of their lyrics make use of this.
- However, this often results in moments of Narm when coupled with Kyo's vocal acrobatics.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: Seriously, just try to figure out what Kyo is singing in some songs. Not even the Japanese understand him sometimes.
- 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◊.
- Last Note Nightmare: The band has an affinity for this trope, as many of their songs tend to have this and Scare Chords.
- "Dozing Green" is probably the worst offender; what sounds like a song fading out is suddenly interrupted by Kyo screaming like a horrified girl.
- 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, 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.
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Everyone except for Kyo. Shinya plays this straight all throughout the band's history.
- Toshiya keeps his hair at a medium length in recent years. But that doesn't stop the fangirls from liking it. He has been growing it out in recent years.
- 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 in a Kilt: Toshiya. He seems to have a strange affinity for skirts; he even wore a full Gothic Lolita dress back when they were VK◊. And while he downplayed, and eventually eschewed, that look as the band matured, he has gone back◊ to wearing his signature bell-shaped skirt◊ in recent years.
- 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.
- The Mentor: Not only Yoshiki, mentioned above, but Kyo was also a roadie for Kuroyume, whose influence is very obvious on Dir en Grey's first few releases.
- Metal Scream: Kyo does these very often, and takes his vocal work to inhuman levels. The results tend to be highly disturbing for many.
- Mind Screw: The band's concept.
- 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 to a very hard 9, 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.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Aside form just "metal", it is very hard to classify them.
- In fact, the band chooses not to be categorized at all.
- Also, arguing about what genre they belong to would generate a lot of controversy.
- New Sound Album: Macabre, Six Ugly, Vulgar, and every album after Withering to Death
- Nice Hat: The band loves hats. Every member has worn at least one awesome hat at some point. Kyo is particularly notable for having lots of these.
- Nobody Loves the Bassist: Averted due to Toshiya's Bishōnen status.
- 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.
- Ominous Music Box Tune: The intro to "Cage."
- One Woman Song: Jessica, Audrey, possibly Amber though this may refer to the jewel, and even a one woman album in Missa.
- One of Us: Kyo likes Doraemon, collects Star Wars merchandise, plays video games, and has a an odd liking for ice cream.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Their band slogan appears to be "Japanese Zombie Heroez", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, as shown in this video. It also appears on some of Kaoru's guitars, picks, and straps, as well as some of the band's official merch.
- 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: Completely played with by the band. No surprise since their visual style is just as varied as their music.
- 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.
- Serial Escalation: They started out as an experimental/alternative pop-rock band with slight metal and noise influences. Since then, they've added considerably more metal sounds into their songs, with each release being progressively heavier that the last one.
- Soprano and Gravel: Kyo. Nuff said.
- Textless Album Cover: The Marrow of a Bone was this by a printing accident in its initial U.S release. The cover was completely black with nothing on it. It has since been fixed but you can occasionally find it with the solid black cover.
- 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.
- 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, where it was downplayed so much that they almost ended up averting the entire trope. Doubly subverted in recent years; as they have re-incorporated visuals, but in a less dramatic form, and still, they manage to pull off the J-metal sound and image better than more established VK acts.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Shinya in the band's Visual kei era.
- Widget Series: Arguably the weirdest band in the J-metal/Visual Kei scene, because anything they do usually involves a Mind Screw of some sort.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Kyo's English.
- The translated lyrics to some songs end up as sounding awkward and incoherent at times.