|1997-1999: Early career
Dir en grey was preceded by the independent band La:Sadie's which included four of Dir En Grey's later members before it disbanded. After parting ways with La:Sadie's bassist Kisaki, Kyo, Kaoru, Die and Shinya along with newly recruited bassist Toshiya regrouped as a new band on February 2, 1997 and released a first EP, Missa, a few months later. According to guitarist Kaoru, the name "Dir en grey" was chosen because it "sounded right," and is comprised of words from several languages, so that people would not be able to attach a specific meaning to it other than the band's name itself.
They first attracted mainstream attention in 1998, by entering the top ten on the Oricon music charts with the still independently produced songs "Jealous" and "-I'll-". Five subsequent singles, arranged and produced by X Japan co-founder Yoshiki Hayashi, were published during the first half of 1999, the band's first full-length record, Gauze, followed. One of the shows in support for the album (filmed at the Osaka-jo Hall) would later become the first of several live concerts to be released on VHS and DVD.
2000-2004: From Macabre to Vulgar
In 2000 vocalist Kyo was hospitalized with hearing trouble and several dates of the tour in support of Dir en grey's then upcoming album, Macabre, had to be postponed. "Tour 00 >> 01 Macabre" eventually took off later the same year and was concluded at Nippon Budokan, shortly after the release of the single "Ain't Afraid to Die" in April 2001.
In the following year, along with the release of a third full-length album, Kisou, Dir en grey gave their first performances abroad, touring China, Taiwan, and South Korea. Back in Japan, the last dates of the lengthy "Rettou Gekishin Angya" tour were already in support for the band's second EP, Six Ugly. In summer 2003, Dir en grey performed at the Akasaka Blitz for five evenings in one week. Each show (except the first) was themed after a certain album, the last featuring songs from the then yet to be released Vulgar. A DVD set, titled Blitz 5 Days, was later released exclusively for members of the band's official fan club, A Knot. Vulgar released in September 2003, tours in support for the record would last well into 2004.
2005-2006: Early non-Asian touring
In 2005, Dir en grey performed in Europe for the first time. Their concerts in Berlin and Paris (as part of the "It Withers and Withers" tour) sold out without promotion, save for newsletters by import record stores and internet-based word of mouth. The band also performed at two major festivals, Rock am Ring and Rock im Park. Becoming more involved with the international music scene, they had French band Eths open for them at the Paris concert and invited American musician Wednesday 13 and his band to play at a show in Japan. Dir en grey also appeared at the Japanese leg of the "Taste of Chaos" tour.
2005 saw the first official European releases as well, in the form of that year's album Withering to Death. The band's music had previously been available to fans not living in Asia through means of import and Internet file-sharing only. The album also managed to achieve Dir en grey's first non-Asian chart position, reaching #31 in the Finnish album charts. The subsequent single, "Clever Sleazoid", later climbed to #15 on the singles charts in the same country. Several Dir en grey songs were also featured in the soundtrack of the 2005 film Death Trance.
In early 2006 touring was expanded to the United States. The band performed in Austin, Texas (South by Southwest festival), New York City (Avalon Club) and Los Angeles, California (Wiltern Theatre), followed by the North American release of Withering to Death. Again, all shows sold out within days. and Billboard Magazine commented that Dir en grey "ignited frenzied response with its first three U.S. shows." After more concerts and festival appearances in Germany during the summer, singer Kyo was again hospitalized, due to inflamed vocal cords. While two concert dates in Japan had to be postponed, Dir en grey was still able to join Korn's Family Values Tour. In October, the band was back in Japan to perform at the Loudpark Festival, along with bands such as Megadeth, Slayer and Children Of Bodom. Their 22nd single, "Agitated Screams of Maggots" was released on November 15, during the Japanese leg of the Inward Scream tour. On December 30, the music video for "Saku" was voted the #1 video of the year on the MTV2 show Headbanger's Ball.
2007-present: The Marrow of a Bone
In February, Dir en grey went on its first North American headlining tour, visiting seventeen cities while its sixth full-length album, The Marrow of a Bone, was released on February 7 in Japan, and in the United States and Europe in the following months. From May to July, the group opened during a United States tour of Deftones and afterwards did another European tour, which included their debut shows in Denmark, Finland, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as several festival performances across the continent, including Ankkarock, M'era Luna Festival and Wacken Open Air.
The group went on another international tour in September, titled after its most recent single "Dozing Green", beginning in Japan, and continuing in Europe, including their first performance in The Netherlands and Switzerland. In late November, Dir en grey opened two shows for Linkin Park at Saitama Super Arena and in December performed another Japan tour with 10 Years as support act. Commemorating Dir en grey's tenth anniversary as a band, two greatest hits compilations, titled Decade 1998-2002 and Decade 2003-2007 respectively, were released on December 19.
At the beginning of 2008, Dir en grey is planning to start recording their new studio album, which name and release date have not yet been given. Their first touring of the year, in May, will be another Japan tour with a conclusion of three shows at Shinkiba Studio Coast, entitled "Death Over Blindness".
Style and subject matter:
Dir en grey's format has been subject to change throughout their career, initially being a rather experimental form of hard rock. Some tracks of their debut album Gauze also demonstrated a distinct pop appeal, which was largely dropped in favor of a more progressive sound on the following albums, Macabre and Kisou. While up to that point some songs had already been more fast-paced, raw and aggressive than others, the band's music took a decisive turn with the release of the EP Six Ugly, from then on sporting more metal influences in general. Dir en grey's style has since been gravitating towards riffs and song structures more along the lines of contemporary North American fusion genres, such as nu metal and metalcore.
All lyrics are written by vocalist Kyo and deal with subjects such as society, mass media as well as sexual obsessions and love, usually with negative implications. The vocabulary varies from subtle to explicit and several songs rely heavily on double entendres and other wordplay, often involving the multiple meanings of a kanji character.