Dir En Grey

(Photo: angst-im-wald)

What’s up, weirdos? Sorry I’ve been letting Andy hog the site lately with his weak-ass indie pop hipster shit. I promise we will tilt the balance back in favor of punk, noise and metal in the weeks ahead. (Organic veggie instruments, dude? Really? But I digress.)

This week’s band was suggested by a reader named Kurtis, who reminded us that there’s more to Japan than Lady Gaga wannabes wearing headdresses made out of popcorn. Japan has also produced its fair share of pretty extreme and seriously awesome metal over the years, and Dir En Grey is about as extreme and awesome as it gets.

Dir En Grey have been around since the late ’90s and changed both their look and their sound several times over the years (Japanese bands seem to get bored with staying in one genre for too long—see also, ironically, Boredoms). They started out as a “visual kei” band, which basically meant hard rock with lots of elaborate costumes, crazy visuals and music videos that were a mix of anime, goth and cyberpunk. They’ve since toned down their image a bit (hence the biker gang look seen above, circa 2007), but their music has, if anything, gotten weirder. Their latest album, Dum Spiro Spero, kind of sounds like Tool meets My Chemical Romance meets Queensryche meets Napalm Death: alt-metal, screamo, grindcore and prog rock all fighting it out like superheroes in a Japanese action comic, with lead singer Kyo’s crazy vocals (dude can death-growl with the best of them, then unleash an operatic falsetto close to Mike Patton’s) leading the way.

But where Dir En Grey’s weirdness really shines is in their videos, some of which are disturbing enough to make Rob Zombie sleep with the light on. You know how the original Ring was 10 times scarier than pretty much any American horror movie ever? Well, your average Dir En Grey clip makes Marilyn Manson look like Mr. Rogers. Warning: You may need to increase your Xanax dosage after viewing this.