Duuude, Tapes! Green Dragon, Demo

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on February 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Technically speaking, the limited-to-50-tapes Demo isn’t Green Dragon‘s first outing, though it is the North Jersey trio’s first on their own, their debut having been on a 2013 split tape with Purple Knights (review here). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Zack Kurland, bassist Jennifer Klein and drummer Nathan Wilson released a video for an earlier recording of “Downflame,” which opens this cassette, late in 2012, but in the time since, they seem to have dropped the “The” from the front of their name and come further into their sound. Demo is exactly that: a rudimentary showing of what Green Dragon have to offer sonically, and its four songs — the aforementioned “Downflame,” as well as “Psychonaut,” “Earth Children” and “Book of Shadows” — strike with the urgency and exploratory feel of a band’s earliest going. So if it isn’t precisely their first release, it’s not far off.

Kurland, who was also in Purple Knights and Sweet Diesel , leads the trio’s charge in gritty riffs and blown out vocals. The tape repeats all four tracks on both sides, and altogether each side is just over 14 minutes long, so any way you go, it’s a quick look at Green Dragon‘s approach, which nestles itself somewhere between garage shuffle and doomly grooving. Klein and Wilson add a fervent swing to “Psychonaut,” pushing the song’s Motörhead-style riff into more swaggering territory as Kurland drawls out intonations that would be nearly indecipherable were it not for the included lyric sheets in both the cassette and CD versions of the release. They never get into the same kind of malevolent psycho-delic melodicism as Uncle Acid, but some of the sway in “Earth Children” and the guitar in “Book of Shadows” hint in that direction if presenting a ’90s alt-rock crunch, while “Downflame” shows more of a classic metal root, hitting its stride in Iron Maiden-style hits and gallop in its second half.

A steady underpinning of Sabbath influence serves as a uniting factor and whole the key is remembering that it’s a demo release, Green Dragon show off some sonic fluidity between the tracks as the feedback that ends “Psychonaut” fades out an into that which starts the rolling bass groove of “Earth Children.” It might be me reading into it, but the second two cuts feel more complex than “Downflame” and “Psychonaut,” with “Earth Children” pushing more into psych ground and hitting a fuller stride in the bridge after its second chorus, leading to Kurland ‘s repeating the line, “Earth children are free,” and “Book of Shadows” sounding altogether more patient and assured in its pacing. If those are earlier or later in terms of the songwriting, I don’t know, but listening to the demo front to back — and then flipping over to side two and doing so again — it’s easy to read a narrative of progression into the material. At that point, whether or not it’s there is a secondary consideration (though still relevant of course). You can hear it.

What that might mean for Green Dragon‘s progression remains to be seen, but the balance of elements they devise on Demo intrigues as a solid demo should, and the gnarl in Kurland‘s guitar and Klein ‘s bass feels particularly suited to the compression of a tape, though I’ll say as well that both the CD and digital versions work with a little more frequency room to space out. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure release. “You’ve just encountered a Green Dragon…”

Green Dragon, Demo (2014)

Green Dragon on Bandcamp

Green Dragon’s website

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Duuude, Tapes! Purple Knights & The Green Dragon, Purple Knights and the Green Dragon

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on May 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

To be honest, I don’t know how limited the new tape from NY/NJ-based basement psych duo Purple Knights and NJ trio The Green Dragon is. I know my copy is marked “Batch 1 — 5/5,” so I’m guessing that when all is said and done, there won’t be a lot of them floating around, but I’d think that if you were up for getting in touch with the bands and acquiring one for yourself, they wouldn’t tell you no.

I’ve posted a couple videos from Purple Knights before. The twosome is comprised of Ben Smith and Zack Kurland, both of Sweet Diesel, the former also of The Brought Low, the latter pulling double-duty in The Green Dragon, and to the best of my knowledge, the tape Purple Knights and the Green Dragon is their first physical output behind a self-titled Purple Knights digital-only EP. I won’t take any credit, but the first time I heard the band’s gritty, underproduced but still warm approach, I immediately thought they should get on putting out a series of super-limited tapes, and I told Kurland as much. No doubt in my mind he’d already had the thought, but it’s nice to be proven right by the sound of Purple Knights and the Green Dragon, which even though it takes a few surprisingly rocking turns throughout the 27-minute duration, is remarkably suited to the inherent compression of the format.

As to those surprising turns: The tape is split (obviously) into two sides, the first dubbed “Purple Knights” and the second “The Green Dragon” with an emblem sticker on each side to indicate which is which. Not to read too much into the atmospheres, but Purple Knights find room for a surprising breadth in a short span of time, also keeping a considerable flow between the four songs on each side, proffering blown-out buzzsaw riffs — seriously, put some screams on it and you’ve got black metal — that nonetheless hearken directly to Judas Priest traditionalism on the first half of the release while The Green Dragon — comprised of Kurland on guitar, Jennifer Klein on bass and Nathan Wilson on drums — kicking into a bassy classic rock groove on the latter, finding a niche in a space somewhere between crusty classic psychedelic rock and more driving demo-type energies on “Johnnie’s Spider” before offering final shelter on the Lamp of the Universe-esque “Acadia” to close out.

But what’s really most shocking about Purple Knights and the Green Dragon are its straightforward aspects, whether it’s Green Dragon‘s “Johnnie’s Spider” or the classic metal of Purple Knights‘ “Heathen Realms” opening side one with some showoff guitar soloing and garage-metal chugging set to drawling, echoing vocals for a malevolent feel. Played directly off the spacey explorations of “Whiteout,” it’s a side of Purple Knights that Kurland and Smith haven’t really shown yet, and while the production on the tape is rough to the point of harshness as the minimalism of “Whiteout” gives way to the ultra-aggressive “Touching Stone,” the duo find a way to work that to their sonic advantage, masking the full expanse of their reach in the overarching rudimentary feel.

I have to wonder at this point how Purple Knights or Green Dragon might sound in a real, out-of-the-basement studio, but if either outfit were to put out a couple more of these kinds of releases before getting there, I don’t think they’d be doing themselves a disservice in allowing some of the ideas presented on Purple Knights and the Green Dragon to further solidify across a series of recording sessions. Whatever their intent, they complement each other well on this split but are still working in different enough realms to be distinct. Particularly for a first pressing from either band, I wouldn’t ask anything more than that and I’m looking forward to what the next batch holds.

Purple Knights, “Pray for Protection”

Purple Knights on Thee Facebooks

The Green Dragon on Thee Facebooks

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The Green Dragon Go Lo-Fi Psych with New Video for “Downflame”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 10th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It must be tough to be garage rocker in the Northeast. Our winters ain’t what they used to be thanks to climate change, but we still get our fill of through-the-pants cold, and if you’re in a band like NJ’s own The Green Dragon, what are you supposed to do? Apparently you’re supposed to go to the basement.

That’s just what The Green Dragon did, and when they resurfaced and spliced the footage they filmed of themselves riffing and psyching out, they spliced in some old cartoons and had a video for their track “Downflame.” Not bad for trying to keep warm. The Green Dragon guitarist Zack Kurland (also of Purple KnightsSweet Diesel, etc.) assures me that limited edition possibly handmade tapes are coming soon, and I think once you listen you’ll agree the song is worthy of presentation on such a medium.

Kurland is joined in The Green Dragon by bassist Jennifer Klein and drummer Nathan Wilson. Enjoy:

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