Green Dragon, Green Dragon: Strange Tales

Posted in Reviews on November 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

green dragon green dragon

You enter a fog-covered forest in Maplewood, New Jersey. You see something at your feet. Do you pick it up? You found a broadsword. Do you continue forward? You come to a clearing. An object is in the trees ahead. Do you cast a spell of seeing? Your spell reveals stairs to a basement. You walk down the stairs and hear scuzzball riffing and righteous grooves from a four-piece making their self-titled debut. You’ve encountered a Green Dragon. They’re selling cassette tapes. What do you do?

Released in an edition of 50 — five-zero — copies, the first long-player from Green Dragon arrives after six years of the band exploring their sound. Led by guitarist/vocalist Zack Kurland (Sweet Diesel) and featuring fellow founders Jennifer Klein on bass and Nathan Wilson on drums, the band started out in ultra-rough fashion culling together one-off tracks before putting out a split with Purple Knights (review here) and a proper demo (review here) in 2013. That demo, also self-titled, was followed by another self-titled 7″ (discussed here) in 2016, and each intermittent short release seemed to bring their approach to a new level of cohesion. Much the same applies to the self-titled full-length, which runs a quick 27 minutes through six songs, and finds the trio expanded to a four-piece with the addition of guitarist Ryan Lipynsky, known for his work in Unearthly Trance, The Howling Wind, Serpentine Path, among a host of others.

Notable as well when it comes to the band’s sound is the apparent inclusion of organ alongside the fuzzy blowout of Kurland and Lipynsky‘s guitars, which makes an impression particularly on the last two tracks, “Dark Rider” and “Dead Space,” both of which find room in their sub-five-minute runtimes to affect a jammy feel coinciding with strong hooks and an atmosphere of garage — or basement — doom and psych. That vibe starts early though, as opener “Eternal Pyre” unfurls an early Electric Wizard grit and raw plod, Kurland‘s vocals distorted in kind with the guitars and Klein‘s bass. But there again, the flourish of organ helps add a sense of melody to the proceedings, unless that’s a guitar effect; I’ve been fooled a couple times lately. It’s not as prevalent as it will be later, but during the bridges between verses, it punctuates the nod while lending all the more of a classically doomed sentiment and acting as a tie to the psychedelia that pervades to a greater degree elsewhere on the album.

The tape — presented in a well-earned green plastic — breaks down evenly with three songs per side, and as “Eternal Pyre” gives way to “Full Moon” and “Poison Finger” on side one, the pretense-free spirit of the songs finds Green Dragon hitting into an atmosphere that’s grim but still ultimately uptempo. A Sabbathian shuffle in the midsection of “Full Moon” leads to a Paranoid-esque slowdown as the drums thud out transitions between riff cycles and the keys seem to float overtop in the process of doing so. A suitably mournful lead sears for just a moment before the last lines come and go quickly and the semi-psych churn finishes out to let Klein‘s bass introduce “Poison Finger” as feedback swells behind. They roll their way into the first verse with a swing that calls to mind Uncle Acid‘s Mind Control as the vocals bury themselves (alive) in the mix to put the riff forward along with the bass, drums and keys.

green dragon

Again, a well-placed guitar solo arrives in the second half of the song, but the feel is jammier and the sense of balance Green Dragon strike between instrumental stretch and the fact that only one of the five songs on Green Dragon tops five minutes in length — fair enough that it would be side-two opener “IV,” at 5:25 — and that those stretches still reside within mostly straightforward structures isn’t to be understated. That is, they’re able to flesh out an idea or follow a sonic path in a way that satisfies the tenets of doomly repetition and psych jamming without sounding overly self-indulgent. That can be a difficult line to walk, and even for a debut that’s been a while in the making, is no small accomplishment. Call it hard psych, psych doom, garage doom, whatever. Any name you want to give it, Green Dragon‘s Green Dragon sees the band find their niche between styles and distinguish themselves through songwriting and the execution of a nuanced overarching aesthetic.

Rumbling synth launches side two, with a stark riff beginning “IV” with a bit more patience than the band has heretofore shown (or necessarily needed to show), and a mid-tempo roller groove emerges as they press forward into the instrumental cut, tapping Hendrix-via-AliceCooper swagger in a progression that picks up shortly before three minutes in and riding that central rhythm to the song’s finish, that line of synth drone present all the while as guitars, bass and keys intertwine over the steady foundation of the drums. Of course that same drone is the last piece to go, and “Dark Rider” starts at a creep with its first verse en route to the chorus with the song’s title-line, a standout for the record as a whole that seems to be the basis of the song and emphasizes the subtle shifts in approach Green Dragon have been making all the while.

Bass announces the run that caps “Dark Rider” and “Dead Space” finishes by essentially reversing the modus, with a speedier movement up front and a roll-credits slower tempo in the back half. One more opportunity for Green Dragon to make the point they’ve been making all along, which is in how formidable the depth of their approach has come to be over the course of the last six years. At 27 minutes, Green Dragon might just as well be considered an EP in some contexts, but in light of what they play, the seeming sans-frills nature of their craft — in fact, frills abound, they’re just not overblown — it only speaks further to the garage elements of their style that they’d keep it brief. It’s been more than half a decade in the making, but it’s hard to listen to the tape and say Green Dragon have in any way wasted their time. The material they present is tight and memorable while capturing a space in which they can continue to grow.

So what do you do in that basement? You get a tape. Obviously. Then when you go back outside a space-wizard turns you into a platypus. So it goes.

Green Dragon on Thee Facebooks

Green Dragon on Instagram

Green Dragon on Bandcamp

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Green Dragon Posts Artwork Video for “Time for Now”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 23rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

green dragon time for now

Northern New Jersey-based trio Green Dragon released their latest single, Time for Now, on Record Store Day 2016 via Gloom Records/Gern Blandsten Records. It’s their first offering since their initial demo, titled Demo (review here), was issued in the waning hours of 2013. Not an impossibly long time, but still, it’s been a minute. Pressed to white or green vinyl , the Time for Now 7″ brings two new tracks, “Time for Now” and “Mercury is Heavy,” with the returning lineup of guitarist/vocalist Zack Kurland (Sweet Diesel), bassist Jennifer Klein (The Plungers) and drummer Nate Wilson (Devoid of Faith) proffering low-frills fuzz and pretense-free heavy grooves.

The recording, unsurprisingly, is an upgrade in professionalism from the demo, with Kurland following upbeat but still thick riffs that maybe betray some of the band’s roots in hardcore and punk, but still have those rounded Sabbathian edges tonally and in their execution. One of the things I’ve dug most about Green Dragon (formerly The Green Dragon) in the nearly four years since I first posted their video for “Downflame” is that they’re completely what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It’s friends getting together every now and again and rocking out. No agenda, no “we’re gonna take over the world” BS. Just a group of players writing songs for their own enjoyment and that of whoever else happens to encounter them. When you get that, and it’s genuine, there are few things as appealing.

I’ve called them a garage band in the past. I guess “Time for Now,” the lyrics to which bring a kind of carpe diem message, holds up on that to a certain extent, but the relative smoothing out of the sound on the 7″ gives it a different feel. You can make your own assessment, I know, but the vibe I got was slowdown Black Flag filtered through pre-grunge-era alt-rock. You can check out the artwork for the 7″ in the video below and order it at the link that follows that.

Hope you enjoy:

Green Dragon, “Time for Now” artwork video

Time for Now – A Side of Green Dragon s/t 7″ limited green vinyl Record Store Day edition and White vinyl on Gern Blandsten/Gloom Records. Featuring ex-members of Devoid Of Faith, Sweet Diesel, The Plungers, Monster X, Das Oath, Your Adversary.

Green Dragon on Bandcamp

Green Dragon website

Gern Blandsten Records

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Duuude, Tapes! Green Dragon, Demo

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on February 7th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

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 JJ Koczan

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 JJ Koczan

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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