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Music / Dir en grey

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The band's PHALARIS era. Left to right: Kaoru, Toshiya, Kyo, Shinya, Die.

"Japanese Zombie Heroez"
—The band's slogan

Dir en grey (DIR EN GREY/Dir en grey) is a Japanese five-piece Avant-Garde Metal band. They formed in 1997 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 1997 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 eleven 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, Mr. Bungle, and X Japan, and even dubbed as "the Japanese Marilyn Manson", the band has gained international acclaim for their unique sound, precise, dynamic musicianship, dark, explicit lyrical themes, near-incomprehensible songwriting 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.



Studio Albums:

  • GAUZE (1999)
  • MACABRE (2000)
  • Kisō/鬼葬 (2002)
  • VULGAR (2003)
  • Withering to death. (2005)
  • UROBOROS (2008)
  • DUM SPIRO SPERO (2011)
  • ARCHE (2014)
  • The Insulated World (2018)
  • PHALARIS (2022)


  • MISSA (1997)
  • six Ugly (2002)
  • THE UNRAVELING (2013, classified as a mini-album but released as an EP)

Wikipedia has a complete and comprehensive list of all their material.

Dir en grey Provides Examples of:

  • Ambiguous Gender: More in the early days when they were more blatant with their Visual Kei stylings. This video is one of the best examples.
  • all lowercase letters: "raison detre", "mazohyst of decadence", "egnirys cimredopyh +) an injection", "ain't afraid to die", "embryo", "undecided", "audrey", "umbrella", "children", and "dead tree".
  • Animated Music Video: The PVs for "AGITATED SCREAMS OF MAGGOTS" and "DIFFERENT SENSE" note .
  • Ate His Gun: Implied to be how the protagonist of "THE FINAL" committed suicide.
  • Avant-Garde Metal: The genre's current vanguards.
  • Ax-Crazy: Kyo's stage persona.
  • Badass Longcoat: Kyo in "Yurameki", complete with a fur collar.
  • Caps Lock: Many of their albums and song titles (the ones in English, at least) are stylised with upper case letters:
    • All of their albums, apart from Withering to death. and The Insulated World, and the EPs MISSA and THE UNRAVELLING.
    • "GARDEN" from MISSA.
    • The songs "MASK" and the title tracks from GAUZE.
    • The title track from MACABRE.
    • "HADES" from six Ugly.
    • "ZOMBOID", "FILTH", and "JESSICA" from Kisō.
    • Every song with an English title on VULGAR is fully upper case, except for "audience KILLER LOOP" and "RED...[em]".
    • "GARBAGE" and "THE FINAL" from Withering to death.
    • From THE MARROW OF A BONE to DUM SPIRO SPERO, all of their songs with English titles were upper case.
    • The single "JEALOUS", and the best of compilation VESTIGE OF SCRATCHES.
    • After THE MARROW OF A BONE, the official spelling of their name was changed to "DIR EN GREY".
  • Captain Obvious: They have a song with a title that translates to "I Will Die in Loneliness, Because I'm Lonely".
    • They also have one named "No Happiness Coming Tomorrow; Tomorrow the Dead Call Laughing". The second half pretty much implies the first.
  • Careful with That Axe: Kyo, 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, during 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 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 contemporary styles and darker colors/elements.
  • Darker and Angrier: In comparison to their contemporaries, and pretty much every other Visual band.
    • This also sums up the band's career trajectory. Their first album, while still having some roaring metal tunes, was mostly standard J-Rock. Every subsequent album would add more aggression and angst.
  • Deathcore: One of the few respected examples of the genre, though they only fall into being a straight-up example on DUM SPIRO SPERO.
  • 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 note . 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 or learning guitar by copying Dragonforce.
  • Either/Or Title: One of their longer song titles translates as "'Nesting Within the Dreambox', or Cold Rain and the Philosophy of the Mature".
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: The band, especially Toshiya and Shinya pulled off the look really well during the band's early years. Shinya arguably did a better job at it than Trope Maker Mana ever did.
  • Epic Rocking: Many songs. Stand-out examples include "mazohyst of decadence" (9:22), "Akuro no Oka" (9:42; note, however, that this includes the hidden track "GAUZE -mode of eve-" and the song itself is actually 8:34, which still definitely qualifies), "MACABRE -Sanagi no Yume wa Ageha no Hane-" (10:50, and its remake simply titled "MACABRE" featured on THE UNRAVELING EP which is even longer at 16:18), "Zakuro" (8:37), "G.D.S." (7:47), "VINUSHKA" (9:37) and "DIABOLOS" (9:52; symphonic version is even longer at 10:10). Some of their remixes also climb into this; the Narasaki remix of "DECAYED CROW" is a particularly noteworthy example at 9:15.
  • Face on the Cover: The Insulated World is graced by what looks like a computerized, psychedelic version of this.
  • 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:Sadies, they were more of an unlistenable noise band than anything else, justifying the aforementioned statement. Indeed, as La:Sadies they had such a weird sound that they can only be vaguely described as "experimental/alternative melodic noise rock".
    • Some songs from ARCHE even throw in short segments of Power Metal and Noise Rock.
  • Genre Roulette: Overlaps with Genre-Busting, and creates even more of a Mind Screw for critics.
  • Gorn: A fairly common lyrical theme in their works.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: The band name itself, Dir en grey, and a Word Salad Title at that: it is a combination of German "dir", French "en" and English "grey", and is supposed to mean "Grey Silver Coin" according to one interview[1]. In reality it's closer to something like "to you in grey".
    • Gratuitous Greek: The title of their ninth album, ARCHE, translates to "the origin". PHALARIS counts, too.
    • Gratuitous Latin: DUM SPIRO SPERO, which translates to "While I Breathe, I Hope" in Latin. Also, "VANITAS", note  a song from the album.
  • 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 parabolic (the TEPCO nuclear disaster being equated to a rape of the world) and Rape as Drama, but it's still a very close call as to whether the footage from Mahou Shoujo Ai was necessary for the symbolism.
  • Hate Sink: The narrator of "Tsumi to Batsu" is a heinous child molester and kidnapper who gleefully describes raping a 14-year old girl.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Kyo does this often, with one of the crowning examples being the Last Note Nightmare of "THE FINAL" at Tabula Rasa 12-13.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Early attempts at English lyrics came out completely garbled by Kyo's accent. Kyo also has a habit of belting out even his Japanese lyrics while under emotional duress, so any blubbering or raucous behaviour is gonna make him slur his words.
  • Kayfabe Music: Par for the course in Visual Kei, but zigzagged as the band members do have a more authentic, personal, and socially conscious side that would sometimes crop up in their music, live performances, and public appearances.
  • Last Note Nightmare: Plenty of songs.
    • "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.
    • "Pinku Kirā" from Kisō ends with what sounds like Kyo being brutally tortured.
  • Lead Bassist: Toshiya is a Type C, Type D, and Type A.
  • 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-Haired Pretty Boy: Everyone in the band has sported this look at one point. Shinya plays this straight all throughout the band's history.
  • 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 excessively clipped and the bass drowned out the guitars.
    • Their more recent live shows are brickwalled as well. It was reported that their 2013 show in Hollywood was a droning wall of noise, with instruments rendered indistinguishable from another. However, the opening band, while retaining the volume, was crystal clear in quality. Others have reported similar issues with their Irving Plaza 2013 live show.
    • Standing at a DR of 5, there's also the band's tenth full-length The Insulated World, which suffers from very wafer-thin mixing done to the instruments, copious amounts of brickwalling and being heavily clipped.
  • 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", "Yokan", and Shinya's "umbrella" are particularly notable examples.
    • Lyrical Shoehorn: "AGITATED SCREAMS OF MAGGOTS". The first line in the track mentions something about a fly, but that's all there is to it. note 
  • Man in a Kilt: Toshiya and his affinity with skirts; he even wore a full Gothic Lolita dress back when they were overtly Visual. 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.
  • 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.
  • Mind Screw: From their overall concept, material, sound, and lyrical themes, the group is this trope incarnate. Even their name as a band is a Mind Screw in itself — it means absolutely nothing and was apparently chosen for no reason aside from sounding "cool".
  • Minimalistic Cover Art:
  • 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 slightly from "GRIEF" onward, 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 as an ambient tune but shifts rapidly into Deathcore once the screams kick in. Also, the Last Note Nightmare in "DOZING GREEN".
    • A very unsettling example is the 4th disc of the DVD box set "Blitz 5Days". The VERY depressing, mostly acoustic ballad "Mushi" (which ends with Kyo performing self-harm acts) is followed by the uncharacteristically upbeat (by Dir standards) "umbrella".
  • New Sound Album: They make it a point to become increasingly heavier and abstract with each album, though not at the cost of their experimental roots.
    • MACABRE saw their transition from seemingly random Alternative Rock to full-on Alternative Metal, a trend they continued up until Kisō.
    • six Ugly has the band ditching their Kuroyume influences in favor of a harsh, noisy, Americanized Nu Metal sound.
    • VULGAR continues with the Nu Metal sound, featuring some very dark and heavy tracks in addition to their more traditional rock songs.
    • Withering to death. plays up the heaviness further, with more screaming and beefier riffs than ever before. Remnants of their past style are still audible though.
    • THE MARROW OF A BONE takes heavy influence from Metalcore, featuring some of the band's most ferocious tracks up to that point. There is still plenty of variety, such as an acoustic flamenco ballad and a few hard-edged rock numbers.
    • UROBOROS proves to be the band's most experimental album and is a good example of Avant-Garde Metal and Progressive Metal. The album features several tracks that exceed seven minutes with a variety of instrumentation and many changes in mood.
    • DUM SPIRO SPERO sees the band yet again become ever heavier, combining their prog and avant-garde elements with Technical Death Metal.
    • ARCHE is an eclectic encapsulation of the band's older sounds while maintaining the heavier stylings of their more recent works. The album features reverb-heavy production that gives the album a very dreamy, post-metal vibe during the softer moments.
    • The Insulated World is a modernized take on the sounds Dir explored during the likes of THE MARROW OF A BONE and Withering to death. Par for the course, they manage to cover unfamiliar territory, namely when it comes to the Black Metal-influenced tremolo picking heard on "Downfall". On top of that, the whole album boasts an organic air.
  • Older Than They Look: Everyone in the band is in their forties, but appear to be in their late teens or early twenties.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: The intro to "Cage".
  • One-Letter Title: "C", from Withering to death.
  • One-Woman Song: "JESSICA", "audrey", possibly "AMBER" though this may refer to the jewel, and even a one woman EP in MISSA.
  • Otaku: Everyone in the band, with all of them sharing a common love for anime, video games, and other Japanese rock bands. Two of the band's members are also illustrators and fashion designers.
  • 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.
  • Protest Song: Several examples, although the lyrics to these are rarely any more comprehensible than their apolitical tracks.
    • GAUZE has "MASK", about general authoritarianism, and "mazohyst of decadence", which is about Japan's frequent use of abortion over comprehensive sex education and contraceptive.
    • six Ugly has "Mr.Newsman", about Moral Guardian press coverage of the band for their explicit lyrics and stage image.
    • VULGAR has "OBSCURE", frequently interpreted to be about abortion in a similar vein to "mazohyst of decadence".
    • UROBOROS has "VINUSHKA", which is about Japan's imperialistic past, the bombing of the country, and the general denial of wartime atrocities in the nation.
  • Rearrange the Song: While the band has been adept at remixing their own songs and re-arranging them for live performances, the single for "Hageshisa to..." was the moment they began releasing re-recordings of their older songs. THE UNRAVELING is almost entirely re-recorded songs.
  • Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Zigzagged. They change their musical style and visual image with each new release, and while they generally invert the trope with regards to their public image as good-looking Japanese rockstars playing objectively brutalizing metal, they have so far consistently trended towards scarier and more dramatic visuals while varying their musical intensity across different songs.
  • 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.
  • Sensory Abuse/Postmodernism: In any form possible, and the one band concept that underpins all of their work, if it can be considered one.
  • Serial Escalation: They started out as an experimental/alternative pop-rock band with slight metal and noise influences akin to early Nu Metal bands. Since then, they've added considerably more metal sounds into their songs, with each release being progressively heavier that the last one.
    • They've done so much to their sound that comparing GAUZE to UROBOROS or DUM SPIRO SPERO would be like comparing two or more entirely different bands.
    • Kyo's singing has gotten increasingly more extreme after each throat surgery he undergoes.
  • Signature Style: Most of their songs, especially their newer material, are 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.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Kyo is a one-man example, able to go from melodic singing to banshee-like wails to earth-shattering growls in the space of a single song.
  • Start My Own: Kyo recently formed a side project called Sukekiyo. It's apparently a Retraux of MACABRE-era Diru.
  • Textless Album Cover: THE MARROW OF A BONE was this by a misprint 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.
    • Both The Insulated World and PHALARIS provide straighter examples.
  • 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. They troll the band, who trolls them back, which prompts more trolling, ad nauseum. This poses a problem when outsiders from other fandoms (who possess less tolerance of trolling) jump onto the band's forums, leading to all-out Flame Wars due to taking trolling at face value. It gets stickier when some of the trolls actually mean their venomous hatred.
  • Trope Codifier: for Avant-Garde Metal, Technical Deathcore, modern J-metal and post-Visual kei.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: The band completely changes their appearance with every new release. That includes their singles.
  • 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.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: The band sported this look prior to Kisō.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Kyo's English.
    • The translated lyrics to some songs end up as sounding awkward and incoherent at times.