Dir en Grey appears to be filling the Rammstein slot on this year's Family Values tour as the super-visual, non-English-singing band that wins the crowd over through sheer live intensity. Although its new disc, Withering to Death, marks its American debut, the Japanese group has actually been around for a decade, pulling stunts like playing shows for female (or male) fans only. On early releases such as Missa and Gauze, the members sported a gaudy look akin to a New Romantic version of Poison, but albums like Macabre and Vulgar traced their gradual transformation into a darker, punkier act. The music's a cacophonous, spazzy blend of rock styles (similar to the genre-blending of anime soundtracks) topped by ultra-theatrical vocals that switch from cackles to girlish gasps to almost Corey Taylor-like howls of rage. As with Rammstein, the band's refusal to perform in English will limit its Stateside commercial appeal. Still, as Japanese rock exports go, while Dir en Grey may not have the awe-inspiring, amp-frying power of High Rise or Mainliner, it's better than Loudness or EZO ever were.
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