Last Night: Dir En Grey at House of Blues

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Photos by Marc Brubaker
One could be forgiven for not immediately recognizing that a dark, avant-guard metal band from Japan would hold tremendous appeal for the fairer sex. After all, Dir En Grey's precise, downtuned riffage sounds more ideally suited for misfit burnouts unaccustomed to a woman's touch. When the quintet took the stage last night at House of Blues, however, the screams of anticipation from the black-clad crowd were pitched only a mite lower than one might expect to hear at a Katy Perry concert.

Much like their Japanese lyrics, Dir En Grey's sex appeal may not fully translate on record. In a live setting, though, these slim and well-coifed rockers offer up a confident, nonthreatening version of metal masculinity evidently irresistible to that cute chick from art class. As the band tore into the operatic thumper "Hageshisa To, Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shakunetsu No Yami," the floor was crowded with clusters of headbanging girlfriends who definitely did not buy tickets to tag along with the guys.

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After a bouncy synth-and-sequencers set from openers the Birthday Massacre, Dir En Grey ripped open a pummeling collection heavy on cuts from its new album, Dum Spiro Spero. Kyo, the 5'3" frontman with the 7'6" voice, literally wore the group's nu-metal influences on his sleeve, sporting a nylon tracksuit that he presumably swiped from a late-90s Korn video.

Indeed, Dir En Grey's bottom-heavy crunch often recalls that band's Life is Peachy-era best, sending the teenaged crowd into frenzied pogoing of a like not seen by Rocks Off since the last installment of the Family Values Tour. Unlike Korn, however, Dir En Grey is hardly content to keep it simple, mixing in progressive tempo changes and Maiden-esque vocal wailing to arrive at a sound all its own.

Kyo may be metal's best-kept secret. Showing off the incredible range that has him fairly compared to avant-metal god Mike Patton, Kyo eschewed stage banter between songs in favor of broodingly atmospheric vocal passages so drenched in reverb that at times they approached whale song. He effortlessly shifted vocal styles from gutturals reminiscent of George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher to soaring histrionics eerily indistinguishable from Queensryche's Geoff Tate.

Location Info

House of Blues

1204 Caroline, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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60 comments
ThatOneGirl
ThatOneGirl

The fangirls are annoying and their behavior is what makes attending a Diru concert unappealing. Can you really blame the guy for writing the review the way he did. Even so, he could not deny their talent. So get a life, move on, it's not the end of the world.

Joshua Meyers
Joshua Meyers

I was told about this band ten years ago, along with Luna Sea, Plastic Tree, Buck Tick, and others. I would never have guessed they'd get this far into the US market. Kaoru is right, its all a bullshit fad unfortunately - they get lumped into the J-Rock phenomenon that has exploded since then. I love Japan and Japanese culture, history, architecture, etc., but this country is drowning in anime/manga/pop culture Japanophiliacs that is ruining its appeal. The end result is that fantastic bands like Dir En Grey aren't allowed to stand on their own. The reason why DEG is a great band is because they are talented and original, not because "OMG they're Japanese with teased hair they're so KAWAII I wanna be like them omg!" I'd imagine morons like that are laughed at by native Japanese for being fucking domestic tourists.

Kyo's girl
Kyo's girl

Even more highlarious is you deleted my post because i was telling the truth ? Wth is this shit. i repeat my self when i say this is why other j-rock bands won't tour to houston!!!!

Kyo's girl
Kyo's girl

This is a horrible review and full of lies. These people or person who wrote this obviously know nothing about dir en grey, their back ground, how much they have grown, or anything of that nature. On top of that what is this stupidity " not a single word of Japanese" ? Excuse me!!!! I am pretty sure you heard me when i said "Kyo Aishiteru!!!" I was the one who said it at the very start when everyone went quiet for Lotus after that everyone did If u don't know "Aishiteru" means "i love you" in Japanese. Since you have these close up pictures. i bet u didn't see the mosh pit right behind you!!! Also many of us knew the words and sang japanese along with kyo. i have it on tape for goth sakes. This review is total bull!!! Birthday massacre doing better than Dir en grey? I don't think so. Everyone there wanted to see Dir en grey everyone was trying to peak around to see if shin-ya was on his way to the drums. Did u not see the fight over shin-ya's drum head?!!! or the crowd reaching out to kyo just to get splashed a simple water bottle?. who ever wrote this review is out to get kyo by bringing up has height and has no idea what his fans are like. They must feel lucky as hell they are hiding behind another computer screen, because not only did they insult dir en grey but they insulted his fans. Hey Houston!!! This review right here is why we can't get j-rock bands like alicenine,the gazzette, UnsraW,  Nightmare, Screw, Versailles, ayabie, Dolly, and sadie to tour to houston!! I swear i am so mad i could sue!!   Please people who are true fans of j-rock or people who are interested in j-rock. Please ignore the hating reviewers who don't know their j-rock history at all!!! Support dir en grey they have worked very hard to tour all over the world.

Babydinosaurawr
Babydinosaurawr

Drop D you say?

Some of the setlist was in Drop C# and the majority in drop A.

Just being picky.

Guitar Chic92
Guitar Chic92

The one thing that's REALLY bothering me is the author's description of the female fans.All this "fairer sex" and "sex appeal" talk is basically saying that women are weak and shallow, because, apparently, we need "nonthreatening" versions of the "manly" music being pumped out by attractive figures.Women CAN appreciate this kind of music, you know.

Exephorous
Exephorous

It's amazing how some act as though Dir En Grey is some new metal. I have listened to their music for 8 years! You think this is new? Then you haven't known the Dir En Grey I and other Jrock fans know and love. Although it is nice to see a loved visual kei band be discribed I such a godly fashion ^_^

Cracked Iron Bell
Cracked Iron Bell

This is the same, ridiculous troll-tastic, "subtle" sarcasm-filled review Kieth Bergman of BLABBERMOUTH gave them in 2005, lol. - http://www.roadrunnerrecords.c... - Just replace Marilyn with KoRn and there's your review. Though I'm surprised you didn't work in any of the typical "hurr, hurr! sounds like annie-may mewsick" crap or calling their fanbase "weeaboos." And there have been westerners following this band since the early 2000's via the internet. Where the fuck are you getting the Nu-Metal thing, I don't hear any Disturbed, Mudvayne, Fear Factory etc etc when I listen to Dir en grey... they haven't done the electronica noises since like, Kisou and Vulgar. And I still wouldn't consider any of the songs off those albums as "Nu-Metal."

bibulb
bibulb

This is the most upset I've seen fans get at an unswervingly positive concert review.

Huey
Huey

Holy shit, and I thought the usual Houston Press comments were annoying.

Bruno Martins
Bruno Martins

Overall interesting review. Nice to see the point of view of someone not familiar with them or japanese metal. And comparing them to "nu metal" is totally acceptable. They have tourd with bands such as Korn, Deftones, Stone Sour and they DO have some nu-metal characteristics in their songs (try the intro of DIFFERENT SENSE) so the reviewer was not far off.

DefinitelyOver21
DefinitelyOver21

Half the reason the bar tenders had a rough time was actually because virtually none of us were even carded enough to know we were over 21. All of us in our group were over the legal age and not one of us got a green wristband. (Strike out on 5 grown adults in the 29+ range due to lack of wrist-banding, whoops.) Just sayin'.

However, the concert was amazing and Kyo was in fine form last night.

Kristin Oldfather
Kristin Oldfather

Why is everyone so butthurt? Do you NOT want him to actually review something that he was interested in? So what if he didn't get a few things right, he learned what he did from being at one concert. Not spending years fangirling over the band so he wouldn't know everything perfectly. And of course its going to be surprising to see so many young girls at a concert with this type of music. But this is a learning experience for him, that a big part of the jrock fanbase is not full of men, and more of a mixture with more girls than guys. 

Daniel Fox
Daniel Fox

Dir En Grey is J-ROCK, and not Metal. Stop putting and reducing them to uninteresting western metal. "Metal" is not worth to be called in one breath with the name "Dir En Grey".

Arturo Torres
Arturo Torres

I enjoyed the article very much, and I'm not bitching about the genre labeling because I'm a fan of Korn and saw them last month, and yes they were awesome too...So to be reference to Korn, should be taken as a compliment of Dir En Grey's withstanding even though they have progressed so much in their sound since their origins just as many Japanese bands do, always changing.Support J-Rock and one day I hope to see other Japanese rock bands tour the U.S. more often !!!!

Jen Kyo Suchil
Jen Kyo Suchil

This is a wonderful article. Sorry you guys felt so old at the show. Diru tends to have a lot of young people following them. I loved your description of Kyo's vocals. It's rare when people can put his talent into words. 

Ashgray_kitsune
Ashgray_kitsune

Please don't call them nu-metal. They are metal, they are rock, they are skilled beyond any other band I've ever met in my life. And they are utterly beautiful on stage and off. I've loved them for years, and would have loved to have been at this concert. But...I think I got one of the best shows in our little venue up in Wichita. Couldn't have asked for a better experience.

Aika
Aika

I wouldn't call Diru nu-metal, I've been a fan since 2003 and its hard to place them in a category like you can do with American bands since Japanese bands are experimental and progressive. Also don't know why some people are surprised to see pretty looking girls at rock shows. I personally like my long blond curls and looking like a doll and just because I like metal doesn't mean I'm going to wear black all the time, have shit load of piercings, and tats and I didn't have some guy drag me along, I actually bought a vip ticket myself. Trust me when I say most of us are there for the music, the cute rocker are just an added bonus. Nobody in their right mind pays $130+ to stare at pretty boys especially when half the crowd is underage or poor college students. And although most of the crowd doesn't speak Japanese at least fluently anyway, several of us do, and we even had a Japanese girl who flew in from Japan to come to the show but we don't shout out stuff in Japanese because we don't need to, we prefer to scream, plus shouting random shit in Japanese makes you look like a jackass.

Cristina Shillingford
Cristina Shillingford

First of "old and ugly"? Really no one cares how you felt. Like all other fans they always amaze me in any of their concerts. Dir en grey has always been big no has noticed it because they never came to the US until the family values tour. Their fans were here waiting for them. I want to thank morn for that. They have moved up so much in the music industry and I'm proud to say that they are getting better and better. I personally like metal and when they starting playing heavier music it made me even more interested in them. I love how they make me feel music wise because I love music. If I didn't dir en grey wouldnt be something I would listen to. Sunday night will be something I will remember like any other time before. As far as how the venue was I didn't care because I was only interested in them. Like I said Sunday will be forever in my memory

Redriverhautbois
Redriverhautbois

Dir en grey = awesome

their fans = most annoying people on the planet

this review = didn't really know what he was talking about.

Kaoru
Kaoru

Everyone needs to stop the bitching about the genre thing, it's human nature to try and classify stuff and if they feel it is something then they are going to say what they think it sounds like. Also, don't start into the bullshit of "real fans" because there is no such thing as real fans. A fan is a fan if they like the music and aren't just in it for looks, which is something a lot of females actually do do but so do males too. I've been many things from guys saying how they'd like to bend the lead vocalist of Anarchist over, ect. so yeah.

Cracked Iron Bell
Cracked Iron Bell

Metal is apparently like new Dr. Pepper Ten, in that it is "Not for women."

Cracked Iron Bell
Cracked Iron Bell

You're kidding yourself if you think this "review" is describing them as "Godly."

Also...

Taken from a French interview here:unlimitymusic.wordpress.c0m/2011/08/12/interview-avec-die-et-shinya-de-dir-en-grey/Translation via Google Translate.

UM: Since the pass of time, what do you think of your first [shows]?

Die: When we were teen agers, we watched the groups of the time, who had long hair and colorful makeup, much like X-Japan. We were therefore influenced by this style of music when we were young. We wanted to be like them. We wanted to shock the audience with our outfits and our performance. In the early group, we were happy with this situation, since it was what we wanted. But gradually, we began to change our minds, because when we were together, people looked at us, but they seemed less focused on our music. We wanted to show them who we really were, but they looked at the costumes. That's why we decided not to wear them.

UM: Some fans are talking about a Westernization of your music. Are you proud to be Japanese?

Die: It's funny, because as we said, we are not trying to be like anyone else, but lately, the music becomes heavier and more "metal", so I guess it's normal if we are compared to other metal bands. But we do not see ourselves as a metal band. It's strange, but maybe this album sounds very metal, whereas for us it is just the Japanese style of the moment.

Interview with Kaoru taken from:blistering.c0m/fastpage/fpengine.php/link/1/templateid/12842/tempidx/5/menuid/3

Blistering: Originally you guys were part of the visual kei movement in Japan. Would that be comparable to U.S. glam rock? What did the movement bring to the music scene?

Kaoru: When we were growing up around the late '80s and early '90s, Visual Kei was influenced by Glam music. When Visual Kei became a huge hit, people started seeing it as a form of entertainment and not as being Rock. The darker, more extreme image from before is lost, and now people see it as being a genre that appeals to teenage girls.

David Yang
David Yang

Who would want to get drunk @ a Dir concert anyways? I'm there for the music, I'll stop by the bar if I wanted to get wasted. ;)

Marc Brubaker
Marc Brubaker

Well, you could always show the person at the door with the wristbands your ID. House Of Blues staff usually asks "will you be drinking?" Then they request your ID. If they didn't, you can request a wristband. It's a voluntary process.

Cenk
Cenk

Well there is a reason the most liked comment on this page is the one degrading the acrid elitist fans...

Gelpgelptexxus
Gelpgelptexxus

I've always wondered, in Japan, do they call American rock "A-Rock?"

Julie
Julie

-Comment Removed-

Cenk
Cenk

Members of Diru have stated on record that they aren't a metal band thus requesting to be disassociated with the ever growing commonplace label, but I speculate without clear citation that they wouldn't want to be classified with the J-Rock label as well... Seems like a sub fragmentation of the idol band/vk label, but that is just my opinion I'm not telling you to perceive the band one way or the other...

Cracked Iron Bell
Cracked Iron Bell

You do realize that most of this review is cleverly and subtly crafted to -make fun of you- and Dir en grey, right? The only thing they didn't do was come out and say "DeG sounds like the soundtrack to an anime, and everyone who likes them is a weeaboo f4gg0t." They just disguised it better... and the reason they felt "old and ugly" is because they're still listening to Queensryche and Iron Maiden. These "newbies" are movin' in on their turf.

Babydinosaurawr
Babydinosaurawr

"since Japanese bands are experimental and progressive".

Japanese music is boring and repetitive, every band sound the same, except Dir en grey of course.

The majority of metal fans are guys, why should it be different with Dir en grey? because they're Japanese and they have the curse of being associated with "J-rock", and that crap has mainly a girl following.

Kyo's girl
Kyo's girl

people who say the ans are annoying usually don't know any japanese

Daniel James Heath
Daniel James Heath

Yeah, my exact opinion. I thought, "OoooOOooo, he compared Kyo to Mike Patton. That hasn't been done since Wikipedia.com's entry for Dir En Grey and an All Music album review. Where does this writer come up with this great material?" /sarcasm

Cracked Iron Bell
Cracked Iron Bell

Okay, you just won me right furking thurr... " Also, don't start into the bullshit of "real fans" because there is no such thing as real fans. A fan is a fan if they like the music." That's what we need to hear more of in this fanbase, and less of the "my collection of Imported $40 frisbees is better than yours is, and I've been to see the band IN THEIR HOME COUNTRY over 9000 times!" hierarchy competition bullshit. Maybe then folks like the guy who wrote this review would rip on our fandom less, or not... but either way.

Cracked Iron Bell
Cracked Iron Bell

Taken frrom SFWeekly:

blogs.sfweekly.c0m/shookdown/2010/09/we_sat_down_backstage_at.php

SF: How do you feel about the explosion of Japanese bands suddenly touring the U.S.? Does it make you feel proud that to a large extent it was your band that opened the door for that?

Kaoru: I don't feel that there's an explosion of Japanese bands in U.S. yet. When a new Japanese band plays here for the first time, they might have a large audience for their first or second tours, because fans are curious to see them. There are not many Japanese bands achieving at the same level as American bands, touring the same way as American bands do. I feel Japanese bands are popular because J-Rock is booming right now and it's a fashion. Many Japanese bands just play in the U.S. once or twice, and they can't sustaintheir popularity for a long time.

Also, I wonder how many Japanese bands are seriously thinking aboutstaying in the U.S. market after the J-Rock boom ends. It true that at the beginning, we broke into the U.S. market with J-Rock boom, but now we don't want to rely on the fashion aspect of it. We are touring just as American bands do.

My feeling is that there aren't many Japanese bands [that] are doing what we aredoing. When you see a lot of Japanese bands who are comparable to us doing whatwe do in U.S., then, you can finally say that J-Rock is fully embedded in the U.S. market.

I don't really think that our bands opened the door to the U.S. market, and we don'tparticularly wish for all the Japanese bands to make it in the U.S. either. We're here as our band and we just play our music.

SF: Do you resent the fact that you end up being associated with some rather silly bands? Like bands that are more idol, and don't really have any chance of being taken seriously in theU.S.?

Kaoru: I don't care about that. I don't know how the musicians who dress up as idols reallyfeel and I don't have the right to offer an opinion about what they do.

Cracked Iron Bell
Cracked Iron Bell

"Who would want to get drunk @ a Dir concert anyways? I'm there for the music, I'll stop by the bar if I wanted to get wasted. ;)"

Iknorite? I mean, that's more par for the course at a Cunt-ree Music Show, innit? If I want to get drunk or high, I'll do it at home. Not in a place where I'm surrounded by people pushing me every direction and sweating like John Goodman in a sauna. I kinda want all my energy and awareness for that situation. Booze dehydrates, dehydration leads to passing out and having to be carried out of the crowd by the frigging security guards hopefully before you get trampled to death.

Morgan Smith
Morgan Smith

Well whatever way you want to put it, Dir en Grey certainly is moving in on their turf. They're getting a wonderful welcome and great reviews all across the world. By normal level headed adults at that.

Cracked Iron Bell
Cracked Iron Bell

No, but I do get a bit tipsy off 3 or 4 Mike's Hard Lemonades.

Huey
Huey

Everyone here understands that having a drink (or, gasp, multiple drinks) at a show 

=/=

getting trashed and blacking out for half the set, right?

What are you guys, 18?

Aika
Aika

hahaha ahh finally someone gets it

Cracked Iron Bell
Cracked Iron Bell

"Sounds more ideally suited for misfit burnouts unaccustomed to a woman's touch."

Translation: Dir en grey's fans are all either virgins or homosexuals.

"Screams of anticipation from the black-clad crowd were pitched only a mite lower than one might expect to hear at a Katy Perry concert."

Translation: Everyone there dressed like a goth or atleast the japanese interpretation of such, as re-interpreted by westerners. The screams, being mostly from females, sounded like the audience for a Tween Pop act. Next up, Debbie Gibson with "Shake Your Love."

"These slim and well-coifed rockers offer up a confident, nonthreatening version of metal masculinity evidently irresistible to that cute chick from art class."

Translation: They have Hasselhoff hair, they play weak watered down metal that is weak enough to be enjoyed by women, because women are weak.

"...Broodingly atmospheric vocal passages so drenched in reverb that at times they approached whale song."

Translation: The "Inward Scream" portions of the show sounded like samples from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

"...but to the young crowd in attendance at the House of Blues, Kyo and the boys could have been singing, crooning and howling about any number of triumphs, perils and injustices experienced in the course of growing up."

Translation: The lyrics could be about anything, but you wouldn't know since they're all in Japanese (Not like there haven't been hundreds of fan-sites with the translations of the lyrics, or sites like Songmeanings, or translations in the booklet that came with the CD.)

"Personal Bias: Rarely have we felt this old and ugly at a heavy metal concert."

We're in our 40's and we look like Hell's Angels who escaped from a nursing home. What's with these kids and their multi-colored hair and striped stockings? You whipper snappers call this crap music? Why can't you be listening to Black Sabbath, King Diamond and Dio (not Dio, Distraught overloard, the defunct Visual Kei band, but the guys who sang "Holy Diver")?

"...the floor was crowded with clusters of headbanging girlfriends who definitely did not buy tickets to tag along with the guys."

Translation: We're trying to be ironic here, because this statement is the reverse of the truth.

"Overheard In the Crowd: Not a single word of Japanese."

Translation: Unless you count those "band / audience chorus" interaction, and the random girl shouting "aishteru Kyo-sama!"

"The Crowd: We believe Dir En Grey's audience is the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way."

Translation: I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows. If I fail, if I succeed, at least I live as I believe. No matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity! Because the greatest love of all, is happening to me.I found the greatest love of all... inside of me The greatest love of all, is easy to achieve. Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.

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