Dir En Grey’s DUM SPIRO SPERO is a heartfelt and brutal recording that defies genres, borders and, in some cases, reason. The Japanese metallers take to their eighth studio record with a clear mission, tearing into the bones and sinew of musical madness to find the centre.

It was never going to be easy to top the madness that was Uroboros, the band’s previous release, but DUM SPIRO SPERO comes pretty close. It is a more sprawling record, a more intellectually demanding one. It is also a more diverse record, with vocalist Kyo venturing from gruff growls to melodramatic operatics over the course of one line.

DUM SPIRO SPERO, which translates to the Latin phrase “While I breathe, I hope,” is a topical record that speaks to the recent and ongoing turmoil in Japan, but it’s also one of universal thematic value. While Kyo sings in Japanese, there’s little translation required to discover the moments of high drama, passion, distrust, and sinister moods penetrating the soul of Dir En Grey at this time.

The band, featuring Kyo along with guitarists Kaoru and Die, bassist Toshiya, and drummer Shinya, is as tight as ever. The cataclysmic attack found in these songs brilliantly offsets what their vocalist brings to the table, pouring out gallons of heart and soul all over the mix.

DUM SPIRO SPERO opens with clattering piano and a menacing tone. Screams abound and a dark mood takes over as the band heads from the torturing sounds of “Kyoukotsu no Nari” to the seven-and-a-half minute corker “The Blossoming Beelzebub.” The track develops slowly, “blossoming” if you will, like a dark rose. Kyo’s vocals are operatic, venturing into a higher registry of vicious falsettos and down again without effort.

The sonic assault of “Different Sense” is another direction, punishing with insistent bass and guitar over thumping, hammering, hauling-ass drums. Kyo’s guttural vocals are hard to grasp and delivered rabbit-quick, offset by ferocious screams and shocking crushes of sound. It’s a malicious battering of the senses, but my fucking Christ does it rock!

The glory of Dir En Grey has always been how they manage to pull beautiful melodies through the most astonishing and brutal of metal hazes. DUM SPIRO SPERO features no dearth of those enchanted minutes, from the delicate moments of “Lotus” to the punitive crush of “Hageshisa To, Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shakunetsu No Yami.”

Dir En Grey has always been a band of action, whether through their unyielding sonic assault or through what they stand for off-stage. It follows, then, that DUM SPIRO SPERO is an album of action, one that expresses their hopes and fears for their country and for the world at large as our grip on sanity ever loosens.

This review was originally published as Music Review: Dir En Grey – DUM SPIRO SPERO at Blogcritics.org


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