Have you seen of the music video “Ain’t Afraid to Die” by Dir en Grey? If you haven’t, I sincerely hope you would watch it on YouTube in the future, for it is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. I came across it a couple of weeks earlier when I was randomly listening to songs from Dir en Grey, and now the song is set on repeat on my computer from time to time.
For those who don’t know Dir en Grey, they are a Japanese “experimental band.” The reason I put this in quotation is because they actually don’t fit into any certain category. I’ve heard songs from them ranging from pop (such as Yokan), rock (such as Glass Skin and Kudou) and heavy metal (such as Obscure). Their music tends to be focusing on the darker side of the matter. In a lot of music videos, they tend to use shocking scenes to stimulate the audiences, and, more often than not, the word “grotesque” is an understatement. However, I have never been so deeply impressed by artists as much as this band. So to no further ado I’ll now focus on the video of topic.
“Ain’t Afraid to Die” is actually a relatively tranquil ballad mixed with moments of raw emotions portrayed by the guitar, the lead vocalist and a choir. The theme of the song focus on the protagonist dealing with the loss of a loved one. More specifically, the death of the loved one is not immediate, but more so dying of a terminal illness, as the verse mentioned making promises between the couple. The song features tranquil piano sounds to portray snow gently falling onto the streets symbolizing the purity, yet fragility, of their love, while music from the band portray mixed emotions of the protagonist, who can bring himself to come to terms with the truth that his loved one is slowly slipping away from him.
The song is further accentuated by the music video. I’ll describe the music video in sequence. The video first showed the band members carrying torches and eventually a personification of death as well as a hand reaching for the sky. The scene then moved on to a girl playing piano. A closer look showed that one of her hand was deformed. A third scene showed the band as a group of scientist creating an angel-like character in a pod. Each member had markings on his head and a faded scar around their necks. Furthermore the lead vocalist had no mouth. Eventually the angel-like figure leaves the pod and walked towards two girls and seemed to comfort them, one of the girl has no eyes and the other girl is the one with the deformed hand. The scene then shifts to rapid scenes that showed a generally depressed ambience with what seemed to be the band members repenting. The scene then went to the two girls reaching out to comfort the lead vocalist and a drop of tear trickled down the cheek of the girl with no eyes. Then a blinding light illuminate the whole room. The girl with no eyes regain her sight, but shortly both girls begins to melt from the light. It was then the angel-like figure appears in the other room stoking the other band members’ scars that are around their necks and placed her hand against the left side of their chest. This is mixed with scenes of band members carrying torches to burn a house as well as the two girls burning a cross that was holding photos and music sheets. The lead vocalist kissed the angel-like figure, who eventually brought the two girls out of the rooms. Leaving vocalist to mourn on his own, along with a piano in an empty room.
The music video has a lot of symbolism and this is how I interpret it. The two girls are probably already ghosts. The fact that one had no eyes and the other had a deformed hand means that the ghosts did not realize that they are dead and could not do anything either. The band members clearly carried the burden of guilt towards the two girls, hence having many Catholic figurines like the Virgin Mary, rosaries, crosses and even a memorial for the girls. Even though the girls are ghosts, the band members can sense their presence, therefore they build the angel figure to comfort them. The scars on the necks probably portray the burden in their minds that they have to carry day after day. The fact that the lead vocalist has no mouth means that he did not have the courage to tell the girls himself that they are dead. Trying to ease their suffering the girl reaches out to comfort the lead vocalist. The blinding light symbolizes the truth, and once the girls realized they were in fact already dead, begins to melt away. The fact that the girls later burned down the memorial cross means that they did not want the band members to grief anymore. Furthermore the angel came back to release the band members of their pain by stroking their scars, for which the members appreciated. However, despite comforting, the lead vocalist still mourn for the loss after the departure. As for the final component, I personally think that the angel-figure is a priest, who worked between the current world and the world after death.
Even to this day, I am still shocked by how moving this video is. Even more shocking is that this is the same band who made “Obscure,” which is hands down one of the creepiest videos I’ve seen and it’s not for the faint of heart. No matter how many times I’ve watched this video, I keep getting the feeling of isolation and loss. This is, to my opinion, the best video I’ve seen so far. In a music industry where most songs talks about random partying, random break ups and wooing boyfriends/girlfriends, this brings me a small glimmer of hope and a breath of fresh air about this industry.