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.