DIR EN GREY - The Insulated World

review - 10.24.2018 20:01

DIR EN GREY rediscover their appetite for extreme metal in The Insulated World.

Like many veteran bands who haven’t gone through the process of breaking up and making up, DIR EN GREY have grown stingier with age. While this may disappoint fans, acts who embrace this austere approach in their later careers tend to maintain far higher standards compared to, say, ageing European metal bands who churn out albums like they’re going out of fashion.

The Insulated World arrives four years on from 2014’s Arche. Most of the band spent the intervening period pursing side projects, like Kyo’s Sukekiyo and Die’s DECAYS, and these seem to have had a palette-cleansing effect, because DIR EN GREY have rediscovered their taste for extreme metal. The short, sharp bursts of thrash metal that open the album are a stark contrast to the soothing sound-scapes of Arche. Kyo’s first sustained use of ‘clean’ vocals doesn't occur until the chorus of Ningen wo Kaburu.

The textured sound-scapes are still present, particularly in the monolithic penultimate track Zetsunai, but they’re very much in the minority. Between the bare-bones thrash metal and more complex compositions showcasing Kyo’s vocal aerobics, The Insulated World is peppered with a couple of throwbacks that echo the quintet’s early visual rock sound. Elsewhere, the smouldering, eerie ballad Ranunculus marks a break with recent form, closing out the album without a shriek or growl to be heard.

Ever since they broke away from visual kei, DIR EN GREY are one of those rare metal bands that present the music media with an almost unique challenge. Their music falls far enough outside the parameters of any one recognised metal subgenre, it becomes nearly impossible to judge how ‘good’ the music is by any conventional measure. People either like it or they don’t. Of course, one thing we can do is acknowledge the quality of craftsmanship on show. DIR EN GREY’s appeal may be as confounding to outsiders as Kyo’s recent taste in stagewear, but we’re happy to report the boys are back in town, and over two decades later, they've still got plenty more to give.

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