Album Review: Dir En Grey – Arche

Since this band is a little different, I’m trying something a little different with this review. This is a sort of stream-of-consciousness review. These blurbs are in order and unedited. I am dividing it up between listens to illustrate how my opinions can evolve.

First listen – Koss noise cancelling headphones, 320kbps mp3

Most consistent sounding album recently with great guitar tone and a clean mix.

Drums sometimes sound like they don’t match up with the song, like they were programmed very stiffly. And make no mistake, their last couple albums have programmed drums.

Sometimes they do cool little flourishes that should be a full song section but aren’t, that kinda bugs me.

They still miss out on vocal hooks, take it or leave it. Almost like spoken word flow as opposed to songs.

I would call this album a “challenging listen” in the same vein as Job For A Cowboy’s recent album Sun Eater. Very obtuse songwriting, both harmonically and structurally.

Kyo still has an amazing voice. He’s all over the place as usual. I like that he never comes off as being a vocal show-off though. Even with all the crazy stuff he does, it fits the songs well.

Great experimentation with guitar textures.

Chain Repulsion is a great straight-up heavy rock song. Kinda comes out of left field, but what about this band doesn’t? I like the way the middle of the album is toning itself down (just a TINY bit) from the flat out insanity of the previous tracks.

I’ve always loved that the bass guitar is very audible on their albums. The bass lines interplay so well with the other instruments and just add a dimension that is lacking in a lot of heavy music.

These middle tracks sound like they were recorded and mixed in at a different time/place then the first part of the album. Flatter sounding drums and oddly thin mix overall. Lacking in depth. I like the songs better though.

Behind A Vacant Image gets pretty epic. Love it.

Yeah, a LOT of these drum parts sound like they were programmed by someone that is NOT a drummer. They lack practicality, flow, and well, taste.

Seriously, what the heck happened to the mix on the second half of this album?   The cymbals sound like crap. Like Boston’s 3rd Stage level of crap.

 

Listen 2 – sound treated studio room, Alesis monitors, CD audio

Very spacious mix. Big ‘ol drum reverbs going on.

Obvious programmed drums are obvious.

Still having a bit of trouble wrapping my head around the arrangements, but some of the repeating sections are clearer. It’s not that the arrangements are difficult so much as they are discombobulated.

Loving some of the more atmospheric stuff like they did on Dum Spiro Spero, which was one of my top albums of 2011.

Uroko – super awkward opening drum part

Man, they are really layering on the giant cathedral reverb on Kyo aren’t they? It sounds really cool though, since most modern metal albums are very dry. I like the different take on vocal mixing here.

Phenomenon – great industrial vibe in the opening.

Ack, all these guitar riffs are just so different. I mean, there really is not another band that comes up with stuff like this, it’s fantastic.

The tasteful keys and ethereal guitar leads that crop up on this album are a really great texture.

Yeah, these guitarists are just so unrestrained. It’s so refreshing to hear. You can tell the don’t sit around saying “I don’t know man, that just not brutal enough” or “Yeah, that’s a great riff, but it doesn’t sound right for the band” I really think they just make MUSIC and whatever they come up with is simply good or bad and not judged based on genre stereotypes.

And here is where the entire sound of the album changes. Seriously, it’s so weird how all of the sudden the mixes just sound totally different from here on out. Way less lush, much more flat. Lacks the depth it was showing off previously.

Holy disco Batman! All of the sudden Rob Zombie (back when he was good) helped them write a song. This is awesome!

Midwife has some great stuff going on. I like the old school Korn mixed with crazy sludge/doom vibe. If there was such a thing as “classic” Dir En Grey, this is the type of track that would come to my mind. And yes, I realize that they didn’t always sound like this, but as I said, this is my own perception.

I do really wish they were better at ending songs though. They often seemingly stop with no discernible reason. Like, eh, that’s enough sections for that song, let’s stop here and pick up with another song.

That’s it, a lot of the songs lack identity.

Sustain the Untruth, another great industrial tinged opening. I am thinking these guys need to do a straight industrial metal album. I bet it would be great.

Random tech riff, cool. There is a lot of stuff verging on tech-death on this album.

Jammed it a bit in my car

Too hard and dangerous to jot down thoughts and drive.  Sounds good, though the EQ curve of my car speakers accentuates the spaciousness of the early mixes making the second half stand out even more.

Final listen for review purposes – Back to the headphones and my mp3 player

Yeah, I really want a full on, electronic heavy, industrial metal album from these guys.  It would be so good.

I do wish they would write some more accessible song bits though.  I don’t want to think of myself as a lazy listener or someone that doesn’t like complexity, but so much of the brilliance can get overlooked in in the weirdness.

Some of the guitar tones they mess with are so cool.

Sometimes it feels like there is an energy disconnect between the instruments.  Like the vocals get hyperactive, while the guitars are sludgy.  Or the bass is laying down a groove and the drums are doing a punk beat.  It’s not like a genre melding thing, but more that the genres AREN’T melding properly.  I think that is really at the heart of the slight oddity the crops up and makes this a tough listen.  If the instruments melded tighter in theme and intensity, so would the songs.

I know the aforementioned instrumental disconnect is a big part of the band, but I really feel like if they just worked a tiny bit more on melding the styles together in a way that flows more naturally rather than juxtaposing them in a slightly odd and haphazard way just to be crazy, it would catapult this band into a whole new realm a greatness.

On the whole, I don’t think this album is their strongest album, but it’s definitely not bad.  Not their best work, but a great outing for fans, though it probably won’t get new ones.  It could have benefited from a bit more coherence and maybe trimming off a couple of the weaker tracks.

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Album Review: Dir En Grey – Arche

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