We probably don’t need to tell you about the beginnings of DIR EN GREY, easily one of the world’s most successful and internationally-known rock bands from Japan. If you’ve been following visual kei for more than a year or two you’ve probably been regaled with tales of their humble beginnings as La;Sadie’s in Osaka, before bassist Kisaki split and the groundbreaking 1999 album Gauze hurled DIR EN GREY into the forefront of the early 2000s visual movement.
They may not have pioneered the dark, sadistic, and even demented themes in visual kei that they became synonymous with, but it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they set a standard that would take years to surpass, if ever possible. Kyo‘s lyrics, wrought with wordplay, paint images of the bleakest areas of human society, while the compositions largely created by Kaoru consistently project the raw human emotion behind the words.
The 2006 invitation from Chino Moreno of the Deftones to join the Family Values Tour in the U.S. that year made DIR EN GREY the only Japanese band to date to play the tour, and still one of the only non-English language bands to appear. Band merchandise began to show up in local malls. Dozing Green‘s music video debuted on MTV in the #1 spot on fan-nominated late-night program Headbanger’s Ball. This was just the beginning: before long, CDs were readily available in international markets and the following years gave way to several more U.S. and European tours.
DIR EN GREY continues to enjoy huge international success and maintains a steady following back on their home turf in Japan, where members Kyo and Die have recently begun their own solo projects. And despite being more notorious than any other visual-kei-turned-rock band for sweeping their visual roots under the rug, they accepted a place among the historic greats at LUNATIC FEST. to assure us that great music need not be bound by stage appearance.
DIR EN GREY’s entrance was prefaced with video images appearing on the curtain that hung over the front of the stage, blocking any other scenery from sight. We watched paul bearers carrying a casket for the opening track and Zero, before the band began to play SUSTAIN THE UNTRUTH as silhouettes masked at will by the images appearing before them.
The familiar heavy guitar and shrill vocals of the second track sparked enthusiasm in the crowd: Hageshisa to Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami. The front curtain fell early into the song. The DIR EN GREY song of 2010, it was one of the heaviest points of the set. But crowd was even more stunned by the following song, Saku, and perhaps even more by the fact that the music video played freely on the stage screen, with the members 11 years younger and in full makeup.
The Final further knocked fans off their feet with a new, shredded solo tossed into the mix by Kaoru. Fans didn’t even need urging to sing “So I can’t live” for Kyo on cue, but otherwise stood still for the song, transfixed on the breathtaking performance.
From there, the set took a more mellow turn. Without introduction — in true MC-less DIR EN GREY style — Sugizo took to the stage and joined in Kuukoku no Kyouon on violin. The newer, eerie sound that has pulled DIR EN GREY back into the international limelight made for a set full of variety spanning over a decade of their music.
Well over a decade, actually: Rasetsukoku cued as the final song of the set, and what sent the crowd into a fury was that this was not the 2011 remake. The song was easily recognizable with its distinct drum and warlike guitar as the original version from 2001’s MACABRE album. Of course, the band did an excellent job of embellishing with new riffs here and swapped vocals there, but all in all it was the same Rasetsukoku fans have known and loved for the better part of DIR EN GREY’s career. Kaoru sported a bright purple guitar reminiscent of his old Ganesha models from the era in which this song was made, and Kyo flung himself about stage with fervor until the very end.
Tags: Dir en grey