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Review: Dir En Grey, Dagoba @ Irving Plaza 11.11.13

Dir En Grey


December 12th, 2011. That was the last time Japanese metal band Dir En Grey performed at Irving Plaza during their last North American tour nearly two years ago. The band were set to tour North America last year as support for The Still Reckless Tour with Asking Alexandria and Trivium but canceled due to vocalist Kyo's throat condition. This marked the first time Dir En Grey haven't done a yearly trek to America since having their debut performances in 2006. Plenty of diehard Dir En Grey fans showed up early to get a closer view of the band's return to NYC.

"I've been waiting for this moment my entire life", said Dagoba vocalist Shawter in the midst of his band's opening set. Even though Dagoba have been around since 2000, they've never touched down on American soil until now. The French metal act had a vigorous response from the NYC crowd which is very scarce for an opening act to obtain, especially when they've never played America before. Along with bassist Werther, drummer Frank Costanza and guitarist Yves "Z" Terzibachian, Shawter had the critics almost thinking they were the ones headlining that night with a sea of people banging their heads furiously to the music. While Shawter's screams were pulverizing that night, his singing felt compressed at times. Overall, the guys in Dagoba walked away with grand memories and a stronger desire to return to the States in the near future.

Music is universal, and it's not concerned about your native tongue or your lack of understanding other languages. Since 1997, Dir En Grey have been able to gain a massive fanbase worldwide without speaking a word of English. Their fans still sing along to their songs, though, and it's that kind of devotion that seems to be missing a lot nowadays.

As the band took their rightful place on stage, including drummer Shinya behind his massive arena-sized drum kit, the anticipation built higher and higher. Out came Kyo dressed in a dark robe with a veil covering his face. Opening with "Reiketsu Nariseba" from their seventh studio album Uroboros, Kyo clawed and moved his body in hypnotic motions while teasing what's underneath the veil. The vocalist eventually removed it and showed off some unearthly skeleton face paint reminiscent of Swedish metal act Ghost B.C.

Kyo is one of the most powerful vocalists in today's seemingly tedious music scene. Watching him on stage was almost like watching a dark Broadway musical; every action that he made carried whatever story he was trying to tell that evening. Often compared to Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton, the frontman delivered every kind of vocal range imaginable: growls, moans, melodic singing and some noises that couldn't possibly be identified as human. Fans of Dir En Grey remember a time when Kyo would literally bleed for his art at every show (check out their DVD "A Knot Of" to visually comprehend his passion). Even though he has shied away from any self-harm, his emotion stayed intact.

For the track "The Blossoming Beelzebub", Kyo turned his back to the crowd and faced the mic next to Shinya's drum kit. This particular mic had a small camera attached to broadcast Kyo's face on the big screen. Seeing his face on the screen almost felt like a supernatural experience as his paranoiac shifty eyes and devious smirks were met with great fanfare. That evening, the NYC crowd were completely on overdrive with high pitched screams at the intro of every song. You honestly couldn't blame them for letting their emotions run wild during the show, especially during the track Kasumi" which found the crowd rocking back and forth like they were on a sinking ship and Dir En Grey were providing the soundtrack to their ultimate demise.

With the stage emptied after "Kasumi", the crowd desperately wanted more. A large section were heard shouting "ankoru" which means "encore" in Japanese. After a near 10 minute wait, Dir En Grey came back on stage to perform "Obscure", a track featuring colorful stage lights which were very antithetic to the set's dark ambience. Dir En Grey ended their NYC show with "Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami" which translates to "The violence and the darkness of the burning heat entwines in my heart". Perhaps that's who Kyo portrayed that evening, a man suffering from the forces of evil surrounding him. If this were a musical, the crowd would have plastered the stage with roses after a thrilling performance. A monstrous applause from the crowd probably suited Dir En Grey just fine.