Dir En Grey In-depth Biography
Dir en Grey have risen to become the top band of the post-visual kei era, especially for the Western audience -- in the 2000s they were arguably the most successful metal act without English lyrics since Rammstein (though not rivaling the popularity of the Germans). The band began as a visual kei collective, too, but gradually moved to more reserved and darker attires and a separate sound that leaned on gothic rock, death metal, and the likes of Korn and Slipknot.
Dir en Grey was formed in early 1997, essentially being the indie collective La:Sadies with a new bassist -- Toshiya -- and a new name that was supposed to carry no other meaning than to designate the band. They started off with the EP Missa (1997) that failed to stir things up a lot, but soon made themselves the talk of the country's music scene by becoming the first indie band to break into the Oricon singles Top Ten -- and doing it twice, with Jealous and I'll in 1998. That brought them into the right hands: they attracted Yoshiki Hayashi, the drummer of the nation's prime metal act X-Japan and the foster-father of many a J-rock band, thanks to his label Extasy Records. Yoshiki produced all five singles that Dir en Grey released in 1999, and that propelled the band into the big leagues: after these singles were released as their debut album Gauze, Dir en Grey got signed by a major label.
The second album, Macabre (2000), first signaled a drift from the visual kei roots, living up to its name in mood and featuring an industrialized sound with screaming vocals. Following their first foreign tour in China, Taiwan, and South Korea, and another LP Kisou, in 2002 (number three on Japanese charts), Dir en Grey opted for more change: their EP Six Ugly (2002) drew heavily on Western metal influences, which upset part of their older fanbase. Still, the band persisted, exploring the metalcore sound and the darker side of life on their albums Vulgar (2003, number six on the Oricon charts) and Withering to Death (2005, number eight on the Oricon charts). Those releases proved that the stylistic change had some merit, as Dir en Grey began to gain recognition in the Western hemisphere. In 2005 they charted in Europe for the first time, Withering to Death reaching number 31 in Finland (their single "Clever Sleazoid" would later rise to number 15 there). The band's popularity was initially founded on imports, web rumors, and illegal downloads, but that proved to be enough: in 2005 they debuted in Berlin and Paris and later played the German festivals Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park. Withering to Death was released in Europe in November 2005, and in America in March 2006, preceding Dir en Grey's live U.S. debut in 2006. Soon after that, Kyo's vocal chords gave in to strain, leaving the man hospitalized, but he recovered in time for the Korn's Family Values Tour, in which Dir en Grey participated.
The band's sixth full album The Marrow of a Bone was out in 2007, released in both Japan and America (it reached number seven on the Oricon charts), and Dir en Grey promoted it by touring the U.S., opening for Deftones on some of their shows. They also infiltrated Europe further, debuting in Denmark, Finland, Poland, Sweden, U.K., Holland, and Switzerland. Not forgetting their core audience, Dir en Grey toured Japan as well, delivering a two-night show with Linkin Park, and doing a stint at the Hide memorial concert that also saw the appearance of X-Japan and Luna Sea, among others. The fall of 2008 saw the release of the seventh album, Uroboros, in Japan and America, followed by a U.S./Canada tour in November and December. ~ Alexey Eremenko, Rovi