Review by Saxy S for Dir En Grey - Uroboros (2008)
The Uroboros (or as it is typically referred to in the English language as "Ouroboros") is the image of a snake swallowing its own tail as a symbol of the infinite; an object with no discernable start or end point. I think that from a completely compositional standpoint, Dir en Grey's classic 2008 album has a significant problem where it tries to swallow more than it can physically chew. This band who began as an alternative rock/metal band with elements of nu-metal decided to go off the rails with this album and create something that has influences from so many different places: thrash metal, visual kei, death metal, industrial music, and compositions that borrow a lot from progressive and avant-garde music. That alone might make one question whether or not this belongs under the alternative metal tag at all!
While there may be some elements that resemble funk and post-hardcore, this album feels nothing like any of those genre representations. They feel more like temporary passing elements on what I can only assume the band perceives as a conceptual musical journey. And it all felt so jarring to me! What it reminded me of the most was last years album I Let It In And It Took Everything by English based Loathe, even if to a lesser extent. With that album, it tried to split the difference between pummeling metalcore and Deftones-esque shoegaze. And the strangest part of all is that I enjoyed that shoegaze/alternative metal sound more than the hardcore stuff! I think Uroboros falls into a lot of the same jurisdictions for me. Songs like "Toguro" and "Bugaboo" are wonderful displays of how progressive music can be made "accessible". The later of those being quite significant since it has a riff that is almost a blatant flip of Dirt era Alice In Chains!
But the rest of it? I could care less! The album starts off on terrible footing with the extended "Vinushka", an extended wank fest with no direction. That carried into "Red Soil" and "Doukoku To Sarinu" before collecting themselves and actually creating a decent hook/groove for "Toguro". "Gaika, Chinmoku Ga Nemurukoro" is a straight up death metal song before "Dozing Green" and "Inconvenient Ideal" brings back some of that visual kei and gothic trends. If that sounds like a lot to digest...it's because it is. And while most of it is produced well, the significantly heavier stuff does have a big problem of highlighting the percussion bass drum rather than the fundamental bass parts.
I would assume that if you appreciate progressive/avant-garde music as much as I do, this constant genre swapping might not bother you as much as many others. But for those approaching this as another Dir En Grey album are going to be alarmed by the balancing act. But that still isn't going to keep me from pointing out all of the inconsistencies in both the songwriting as well as production throughout. This will certainly serve as a "find the songs you like" album for most, but the good stuff is of such top quality that it still sees Uroboros sinking further between the teeth.