It’s the first night of Dir en Grey’s latest North American tour. Get an in-depth look at their ground-breaking career as this legendary band takes the U.S. and Canada by storm yet again.
A piercing wail cuts through the darkness. The spotlight flickers on showing a dejected figure in the middle of the stage. He raises his head, another howl splitting the silence. His face is a mask of a monster, hands clawing the air. A moment passes, maybe two, and his voice spirals- at times screams, before descending into whispers. The haunting display ends, the final note hanging in the air, frozen. Then behind him- movement. Shadows emerge- two guitars on either side, and a bass. Another wraith is above, hands raised. The drums crash, the guitars growl, and the bass thrums between them all as the lights blaze and the stage explodes into sound.
That was one of the most unforgettable scenes from Dir en Grey’s last major tour in the U.S. with Deftones. The initial reaction to this band is typically shock. Their art is visceral-lyrics evoking at times violent imagery with themes ranging from sorrow, regret, rage, anger, and pain. The music enhances the message, all but forcing the listener to feel the emotion behind the lyrics, regardless of whether the actual words are understood. Their commitment to their vision; their belief, determination, and perseverance in the face of adversity is what makes them one of the most compelling and unique artists to come out of the land of the rising sun.
Now veterans of worldwide touring, Kansai-based band members Kaoru (guitar), Die (guitar), Kyo (vocal), and Shinya (drums) picked up Toshiya (bass) from Nagano and formed Dir en Grey in February of 1997. Their first two independent singles made it into the top 10 of the Oricon charts, (unheard of for an indies band at the time) catching the attention of an executive member of East West Japan. With his support, Dir en Grey released their first major album, Gauze in 1999. When the three singles from that album released on the same day also charted on the top of the charts, it was clear that Dir en Grey was on the major road to success.
Their next album, Macabre, continued the band’s journey as they solidified their sound and started to produce themselves. They toured Japan extensively until their 3rd album, kisou. Word had begun to spread outside Japan, culminating in the band’s first overseas tour spanning 7 shows in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea.
Dir en Grey continued to evolve and sharpen their music with the release of VULGAR. More and more fans started catching on. With VULGAR, they launched a special limited time fan site for those who bought a certain version of the album. Fans on the site met and gathered from around the world, interacting in message boards and chats, some even featuring the band members who dropped in to try to talk to their fans. On the last day of the site, the chat crashed as band leader Kaoru and drummer Shinya logged on for one last session.
By the time they released their 5th full length album, Withering to Death in 2005, the demand had risen enough to enable them to perform their first European headlining show in Berlin, Germany. Tickets were sold out, as they were for the 2nd European show in Paris. In between, they were invited to play at one of Europe’s largest rock festivals, "Rock-am-Ring."
2006 saw Withering to Death released in the United States. Three "showcase" lives were scheduled to test the American market. The shows in New York and Los Angeles sold out. The Los Angeles performance impressed management and the lead singer for Korn and they invited the band to be part of their "Family Values Tour" with Deftones, a 2 month stint that same summer. Before that tour started, Dir en Grey made their 2nd consecutive appearance at "Rock-am-Ring," their only European performance that year. Following the success of the "Family Values Tour," Dir en Grey’s video for "Saku" was voted Best Music Video at MTV’s Headbangers Ball 2006.
It was almost inevitable that the start of 2007 would see Dir en Grey back on American soil in their first major overseas headlining tour. The band had not been idle in the interim, releasing yet another album, Marrow of a Bone during the beginning of that tour. They played 18 shows in 17 cities, most selling out despite the lack of radio airplay and mainstream promotion. Newspapers, magazines, and critics nationwide were surprised at the emerging phenomenon. Some were shocked at the band’s stage show which, aside from the driving music, also featured disturbing videos and vocalist Kyo striping cuts across his chest and mouth as the music demanded. One thing they all agreed on though, was that the fans’ fervor could not be denied.
Perhaps another fallout of the "Family Values Tour," Deftones invited Dir en Grey to perform as one of the opening bands in their 28-stop nationwide tour so after completing their own major nationwide tour in Japan, Dir en Grey headed back to the US for the summer. Meanwhile, Marrow of a Bone had been released in 11 countries including America, Germany, and France. Europe had not gotten their fill of Dir en Grey so following the Deftones tour, the band scheduled 6 stops in Europe, headlining shows in England, Sweden, and Germany before taking in 4 festival performances in Germany, Finland, and Poland.
But the year was not yet over for the band that seemed to refuse to stop touring. After the summer festivals, Dir en Grey released another single and of course, supported it with another Japan tour. They then turned around and did an 8 stint tour back in Europe to appease fans in London, Helsinki, Amsterdam, Switzerland, and France before returning home for their final Japan tour, taking with them a band they had met at "Family Values," 10 Years. 2007 ended with the release of DECADE, a 2 album compilation celebrating their 10th year as a band.
Most of 2008 has been quiet for Dir en Grey so far as they worked to complete their next album. They performed at a 2 day memorial summit to honor one of Japan’s legendary guitarists, hide, along with 18 other artists. They toured Japan in May and again in September.
This November, Dir en Grey returns to North America for their second major headlining tour in support of their newest album, UROBOROS, which is scheduled for worldwide release that same month (Nov. 11 – North America, Nov. 12 – Japan, Nov. 14 – Europe).
There will be 22 shows in 22 cities over the course of 30 days:
11/5(wed) Ft. Lauderdale, FL / US Revolution
11/7(fri) Orlando, FL / US Firestone
11/8(sat) Atlanta, GA / US Center Stage
11/10(mon) Baltimore, MD / US Rams Head Live
11/11(tue) Philadelphia, PA / US The Theatre of Living Arts
11/12(wed) Boston, MA / US Wilbur Theatre
11/14(fri) New York, NY / US Terminal 5
11/15(sat) Montreal, QU / CANADA Le Medley
11/16(sun) Toronto, ON / CANADA Kool Haus
11/18(tue) Pontiac, MI / US Clutch Cargo
11/19(wed) Chicago, IL / US House of Blues
11/20(thu) Minneapolis, MN /US First Avenue
11/22(sat) Milwaukee, WI / US The Eagles Club
11/23(sun) Sauget, IL / US Pop’s
11/25(tue) Houston, TX / US House of Blues
11/26(wed) Dallas, TX / US Palladium Ballroom
11/28(fri) Tempe, AZ / US Marquee Theatre
11/29(sat) Los Angeles, CA / US The Wiltern LG
11/30(sun) San Francisco, CA / US Warfield Theatre
12/2(tue) Portland, OR / US Hawthorne Theatre
12/3(wed) Seattle, WA / US The Showbox
12/5(fri) Englewood, CO / US Gothic Theatre
Four songs from UROBOROS have premiered recently on Los Angeles radio station Indie 103.1 in preparation of the album and the tour.
Dir en Grey has come a long way since they first hinted at their plans for "world domination" in 2004. With the purchase of VULGAR, special t-shirts could be ordered, featuring the band members in LEGO form on the front. On the back of the shirts was a world map with vector arrows shown launching from Japan. Fans speculated but most doubted anything would come of it. Apparently the band had other ideas. The years since have brought the band and the fans together on levels no one back then could have imagined. They may never be mainstream but Dir en Grey has a stranglehold on the place they’ve fought and forged for themselves, not only in the music industry but perhaps more importantly, in the hearts and minds of those who listen to their message. And it doesn’t look like they’ll be letting go anytime soon.
Written by Joy
Edited by Maria