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For their second visit to the Koko in Camden in just 2 years, Dir En Grey make a bold move in the timing of this tour to support their latest release, making it perhaps too soon. 'Dum Spiro Spero', the new album, is not exactly easy listening. In fact, it was a personal shame that I hadn’t fully digested the complexity of the new material by the time of the show. With no support acts and a 7:15pm start, the venue fills rapidly before the band confidently take their positions on stage to the haunting piano and subsequent dirge of 'Kyoukotsu No Nari'. The fans are noticeably more hyped than your average crowd; unsurprising when you consider how devoted a fanbase the Japanese rockers have in the UK. The earlier half of the set is a diverse mix of new and old, fresh tracks such as ‘Different Sense’ and (I promise I’m not trying to increase my word count here) ‘Hageshisa To, Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shakenetsu No Yami’ sitting alongside older favourites such as 'Obscure' and the rather odd choice of 'Stuck Man'. On a couple of occasions we're treated to the unusual 'Inward Scream', a creepy segue between songs where vocalist Kyo shrieks whilst inhaling against an atmospheric, chilling background track. In fact, this is only one facet of Kyo's varied vocal repertoire and throughout the performance we’re given everything from soothing melodies to sharp shrieks or gristly Death Metal style growls. Whilst the rest of the band perform completely without fault the concert often feels like the Kyo Show as your eyes are drawn more towards usual composure while he regularly contorts his limbs. For a band as experimental as Dir En Grey you'd be surprised at how conventional the setlist turns out to be, especially in the latter half which becomes a solid barrage of consistently heavy classics such as ‘Decayed Crow’ and ‘-ZAN-’. A brief gap before the obligatory encore (feeling very unusual at only 8:20pm) and the momentum of the evening is lost on their 2001 single 'Ain't Afraid To Die'. This slow burner brings some much needed variety to the proceedings and its delicate atmosphere is highlighted perfectly as one fan starts talking loud and numerous others shush him in an almost comedic unison. It’s not until ‘Reiketsu Nariseba’ that the pace really picks up again, finishing with such ferocity I can only really compare it to unrelenting sound of Grindcore. Ending with ‘Rasetsukoku’ is clearly a decision well-made; the crowd clearly love it and manage to maintain a moshpit throughout. It’s been an odd gig, ranging from creepy to brutal and everything in between but the band remained entertaining throughout.
Friday 12th August 2011
Koko in London, UK
Review & Photography by Nicholas Dishington
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