Trees (Dallas, TX)
– Words and Photos by James Villa –
If there is one thing I’ve learned about metal bands from overseas attempting to break into the American market, it’s this. The U.S. is a tough nut to crack.
Not only are the fans of the music sophisticated in the bombastic ways the game is performed, they’ve heard every sub-genre of the category you can think of, and seen practically every type of gimmick you can throw their way. That’s why it was quite interesting, to watch the Japanese metal giants, Dir En Grey, bring their hard rock vision to Trees in Dallas, Texas.
When the Teutonic purveyors of metal, Rammstein, literally exploded on stages around this country with their incendiary metal performances ten years ago, you knew they were destined for greatness. You didn’t understand a single German word vocalist Till Lindeman was singing, but you damn sure felt the music his band mates were performing on stage. This was also the case this evening. If tonight’s performance was any indicator, Dir En Grey will soon exceed the status of their country’s only other rock export, Loudness, which wowed rock fans in the U.S throughout the ‘80s.
The twin guitar attack of Kaoru and Die was exceptional. And bassist Toshiya and drummer Shinya did a superb job of anchoring the music. But everything stops and starts with the vocal theatrics of Kyo. And they were spot-on this night.
This band has been together for 15 years, and this is the group’s fourth abbreviated tour of the fruited plains the past six years. This current month long expedition, which incidentally kicked off in Dallas, will see Dir En Grey performing a proven set list of hits in their own country culled from a seven album catalog. For that reason alone, it was understandable why this dominant Japanese crowd was well-versed in this group’s past accomplishments. Several times throughout the night, the audience roared with approval when the opening strains of songs like “Rinkaku”, “Karasu”, “Dead Tree” and “The Final” flowed from the fingertips of Kaoru and Die.
To begin the set, Kyo appeared on stage to start the show in a dark hooded robe. He sang in that garb for a while before he finally shed his outer garment to reveal the ghoulish makeup that adorned his face. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Kyo was one of the Nameless Ghouls from Ghost B.C. But Kyo made it his own, and the visual dramatics played well against his animated aural screams.
Music is one of those rare exports that crosses cultural borders regardless of the tongue it’s spoken in. You didn’t have to comprehend a single word Kyo was singing to appreciate the passion of the performer himself. He may have adorned himself with an unusual game face, but it never took away from the intensity of the music he sang. And as far as his cohorts were concerned, they were just as happy to distort, reverberate and bash this audience over the head with a wall of sound that sent them all into aural ecstasy. That’s something we can all understand – I don’t care what language you hear it in.
Gaika shinmoku ga nemuru koro
Bottom of the death valley
The blossoming beelzebub
Hageshisa to, kono mune no naka de karamitsuita shakunetsu no yami