Forget 2007's metalcore oddity that was "The Marrow of a Bone", the real majesty of Dir en grey has returned in the form of "Uroboros", one of the finest albums of the year. After doubting the band's continued descent into western screamo mediocrity (that they no doubt picked up from America when they went on tour), Dir en grey have returned to their roots to deliver an album bristling with ideas. Screams and riffage merge with mandolins and acapella singing and the result is one of the most defiantly oriental metal albums I've ever heard.
The disc opens with the moody, "Sa Bir" which is reminiscent of second album Macabre's "Deity" and sets the mood for "Vinushka", a 9 and a half minute tour-de-force that will rock you back in your seat. It contrasts from soft, semi-acoustic passages to all-out metal and some vocal pyrotechnics from Kyo. It is awesome from start to finish.
"Red Soil" is another Macabre-era sounding ditty that rocks hard between detuned jangly verses. "Doukoku to Sarinu" follows and is very heavy, Marrow-style but makes up for where Marrow's songs failed: melody. Its chorus is great.
Possibly my favourite new track is "Toguru". It is a slower, atmospheric groover with alt-rock guitar and smooth crooning vocals. Epic song. "Glass Skin" has been altered from the single version in that it now features English lyrics but I think the bass may also have been mixed louder too which adds to the song's greatness because its one of bassist Toshiya's best moments on the album.
The album lulls a little in the mid-section with "Stuck Man" and "Reiketsu Nariseba" providing decent if forgettable harshness to the albums sound. Although kudos to "Reiketsu Nariseba" for its quiet Oriental pause and Buddhist feel. We then come to the ballad "Ware, Yami Tote..." which isnt one of their best but still provides a needed repreive from the heaviness of the previous two tracks. It is followed by "Bugaboo" which is an ominous, grungey, trudging song that chainsaws riffs, allowing Kyo to growl against backing singing. Very impressive.
"Gaika, Chinmoku Ga Nemuru Koro" starts softly but turns into a quasi-thrash song with a great chorus. It preceeds single "Dozing Green" which is still awesome despite first being released a year ago.
The album closes with "Inconvenient Ideal", a powerful and moving ballad with beautiful vocals and arrangement, a stunning closer for a brilliant album. My faith has been rekindled. Dir en grey are back and better than ever.
For the iPod playlist: "Vinushka", "Toguru", "Glass Skin", "Dozing Green", "Inconvenient Ideal".
Verdict: ***** (5/5)