Leave it to the Japanese to improve upon an American creation. While Dir En Grey isn't truly innovative, the group's brand of extreme metal is a model of musicianship. The production is as crisp as new currency, and the thrash power-riffing throbs like a carotid artery awaiting puncture. Singer Kyo delivers largely unintelligible lyrics that effectively split the difference between hardcore yelp and death metal growl, counterbalancing the occasional melodic, "clean vocal" parts, and while the Japanese quintet's tone is often predictable, the arrangements aren't. Indeed, one of the greatest joys of Marrow, aside from the tight playing, are the songs' winding structures, which, while not approaching Mastodon's level of sophistication, prevent the album from descending into a commonplace malevolent roar. Marrow opens unusually with the atmospheric ballad "Conceived Sorrow," which has a prog grandeur and delicate beauty suggestive of St. Etienne crossed with Bauhaus utterly absent the feral aggression that characterizes most of the album. But aside from this track and the tender "Namamekashiki ansoku, tamerai ni hohoemi," Dir En Grey largely milks the extreme.
Monday, Feb. 12, at St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit; 313-9618137. With Fair to Midland.
Chris Parker writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.