Dragon Ash


Dragon Ash releases new album in September


Dragon Ash releases its sixth album on Sept. 7. The still-untitled album is expected to contain 14 tracks, including the pre-release singles “crush the window” and “Yuunagi Nation”. The new album is anticipated to continue the band’s trademark combination of hip-hop, rock, drum ‘n’ bass and electronica. First edition pressings will include a secret password for Mobnet members. Dragon Ash performs at the Rock in Japan festival on Aug. 5 and at Rushball on Aug. 28.

Dragon Ash releases new single in July


Dragon Ash releases a new single on July 13. The yet-to-be titled single quickly follows the June release of “crush the window”, which is being offerend in trial listening on the band’s website. Dragon Ash is scheduled to appearing in a number of festivals this summer, including Set Stock ’05 on July 24 and the Rock in Japan Festival ’05 on Aug. 5.

Dragon Ash releases new single in June


Dragon Ash releases its newest single in nearly a year, titled “Crush the Window”, on June 1. The title track of the single has been described as a having a floating mood with a drum ‘n’ bass beat. The band’s previous single was “Shade”, released in July 2004. Dt., the solo project of Dragon Ash member Hiroki, recently released Old no Rookie.

Dragon Ash reveals remix album details


Dragon Ash announced the participants of its remix album to be released on March 24. Titled Harvest Remixes, the album is based on tracks from the band’s 2003 release, Harvest.

In addition to remixes by such Japanese artists as Dry & Heavy and Riow Arai, the album includes contributions from drum ‘n’ bass group Ganja Crew and electronica artist Hood.

Some of the band’s members, billed as different side projects, will also contribute remixes. Guitarist Hiroki joins his old band Strobo on one track, while he pairs up with Sakurai Makoto as Techno-X on another. Furuya Kenji and DJ Bots call themselves as Fellows, Inc. on yet another remix.

Good rap-rock?

It’s easy to recognize the commercial intent of Mob Squad, the triple-billed album starring Japanese hip-hop groups Dragon Ash, Source and Mach25.

Named after the label to which all three artists are signed, the album is teaser, a showcase of what to expect from releases to come.

It’s a hard sell, plain and simple. And a pretty good one, too.

In fact, Dragon Ash delayed work on an album that would have been released in 2002 to contribute to Mob Squad. Those sessions changed the direction of the band’s own album and resulted into Harvest.

Oddly enough, Mob Squad is the stronger of the two works. Although Dragon Ash is the marquee name on Mob Squad, Source and Mach25 make a convincing argument that Japan’s rap-rock future is in pretty competent hands.

The opening title track harkens back to the insanely catchy hooks and chants of Dragon Ash’s 2001 album Lily of da Valley, and it sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Source’s “Potential” alternates between metal muscle and punk brattiness. “Turn Up” calls to mind Missile Girl Scoot at its party-hardiest.

For the most part, Mach25 relies on the usual sampling and keyboards. “Get Your Tomorrow” and “Beats of Clapping” don’t indulge in Source’s rock grandeur or Dragon Ash’s eclecticism, but they fit in nicely with the rest of the album’s modus operandi.

Since Mob Squad pre-dated the release of Harvest by five months, it was easy to get excited by the creative turn in Dragon Ash’s style. The tracks the band contributed to Mob Squad (“Massy Evolution”, “Revive”) cast its electronica-meets-metal sound in a favorable light. It’s too bad the band couldn’t sustain that excitement for its own album.

All these bands share an affinity for cobbling together disparate genres into the span of three to four minutes. It may be simple to call Mob Squad “rap-metal”, but that would ignore the influence of reggae, punk, electronica, whatever.

(On a less charitable note, Source and Mach25 could be accused of trying to ride on Dragon Ash’s coattails.)

Still, Mob Squad does its job in selling listeners on the label’s core aesthetic. These bands are empirical proof that what passes as “rap-rock” on our side of the Pacific Ocean is far less than what the genre can really accomodate.

Low-yield Harvest

Damn it’s tough keeping up with fickle tastes of kids nowadays. It wasn’t too long ago rap-rock and its nü metal ilk were the whipping boys of disgruntled record store employees nationwide.

Papa Roach, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park? So 2001.

Not that any such matters affect Dragon Ash. By the time Fred Durst rode the coattails of Rage Against the Machine into the ground, Dragon Ash had already married hip-hop beats and metal guitars in a union of musical co-dependency. Take one away from the other, and the whole thing would unravel.

(It’s probably just me, but it seems the whole rap-rock thing treats hip-hop beats as an afterthought anyway. The DJs are just window-dressing.)

At the same time, Dragon Ash are savvy enough to know beats change as often as most people’s underwear. The big beats of 2001’s Lily of da Valley would have as much relevance today as, say, Fatboy Slim.

So on Harvest, Dragon Ash have found a new driving force in beats even more dated than Norman Cook — drum ‘n’ bass.

On a certain level, it’s actually pretty imaginitive. Drum ‘n’ bass usually marries quick, double-time rhythms with slow, minimalist textures. Dragon Ash don’t bother with the slow, minimalist textures and go for the fast, minimalist riffage instead.

Sure, “Posse in Noise” offers breaks from the frantic guitars here and there, but “Revive” gives off a claustophobic vibe with its busy rhythm and Furuya Kenji’s reggae chanting.

For the first few times, the combination of rap, reggae, electronica and metal creates a sensory overload that makes it difficult to digest what’s going on with Harvest. Eventually, it all becomes a blur.

“Canvas” vs. “Massy Evolution” — is it really that easy to tell the two tracks apart?

Dragon Ash doesn’t let you forget just how damn clever Harvest is. Over the course of 17 tracks — a few of which are short interludes — the band doesn’t let up with its über-raprockreggaemetal montage. And it gets tiring.

Unlike Lily of da Valley, there are barely hooks. “Morrow” comes pretty close with its alt-rock ballad conclusion, but there isn’t anything as immediately catchy as “Amploud” or “Shizuka na Hibi no Kaidan wo”.

Harvest once again shows Dragon Ash can barely be contained by the limited scope of rap-rock, but for an album with so much going on, it’s not one that captures nor holds on to attention.

New Dragon Ash guitarist works with old band


Dragon Ash’s newest member, Hiroki, is releasing an album with his old band.

Hiroki leads the acid rock band Strobo, who will release a new album titled Zero on Sept. 19. The 14-minute, five-track album reportedly runs the gamut from death rock to acid techno.

The album will also include a DVD with bonus tracks and live performances with well-known VJ Overheads.

Neither rap nor rock

It used to be that Dragon Ash was two different bands.

At the start of its career, Dragon Ash was a straight-ahead rock band, but by its third album, Viva La Revolution, the band mastered hip-hop.

But even after flexing considerable rap muscle, Dragon Ash just couldn’t leave its rock past behind, interrupting the flow of the chart-topping Viva La Revolution with a set of incongruous punk numbers.

On the band’s fourth album, Lily of da Valley, Dragon Ash has finally reconciled the two halves of its distinct sound. In doing so, the Japanese quartet has created music that can’t easily be considered rap nor rock.

Rap-rock nowadays of course means Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach and a slew of Latin alternative bands. Ever since Rage Against the Machine pioneered the idea of floating a rough-hewned freestyler over heavy, metallic riffs, rap-rock has pretty much locked into a live rhythm section playing hip-hop beats with buzzing guitars.

On Lily of da Valley, the guitars and the hip-hop simples are integrated. Removing one from the other would make the songs on the album unravel.

“Glory,” for instance, sports Furuya Kenji dub-chanting over some buzzsaw guitars during the track’s chorus. On “21st Century Riot,” the guitars provide as much rhythmic backbone as the tub-thumping beats. Although the guitars are sampled on “Deep Impact,” their huge presence isn’t mere window dressing — they clearly characterize the song.

Perhaps the integration of both rock and rap is most obvious on “Yuri no Saku Basho De.” Furuya whisper-raps over a quiet beat, until the chorus bursts through with a head-banging, double-time punk chorus.

Because of this tightly-woven texture, assessing whether this combination works is difficult — Dragon Ash has clearly created something entirely new from very familiar sources.

The rap delivery on this album often borders on punk screaming, while all the screaming sometimes transform into discernable hooks. Furuya keeps up with the ever-changing shifts in the band’s sound, switching between freestyler to screamer to crooner at the drop of a proverbial hat.

Lily of da Valley requires more than a few spins to channel the lines Dragon Ash actively blur, if not downright assault. This album could very well be the future of both hip-hop and rock.


Before Dragon Ash turned into phat beat quartet somewhere between the Beastie Boys and Beck, it was a rock band.

A very straight-forward, Seattle-by-means-of-Tokyo post-grunge band that fortunately doesn’t have an Eddie Vedder clone fronting it.

Mustang!, Dragon Ash’s 1997 debut album, only slightly hints at the hip-hop direction the group would eventually undertake.

Until then, Furuya Kenji was channelling Stone Gossard and Dave Grohl on such tracks as “One Way”, “Monkey Punch Monkey Kick” and “Rainy Day and Day.” Given his propensity to steal some song titles from Smashing Pumpkins — “Siva” on this album; “Cherub Rock” on Buzz Songs — he may have been channeling some Billy Corgan and James Iha as well.

The results are a collection of some extremely likeable hooks when the group decides to rock out — which is unfortunately scattershot between some just-as-likeable introspective moments.

Mustang!, it seems, is a textbook example of what lousy sequencing can do to an album. The songs on the album are terrific individually, but there’s just this sense that when Dragon Ash was ready to rock, the next song brought the mood way down.

Hmmm. Didn’t it seem that Dragon Ash had the same problem two years later with Viva La Revolution?

However diverse the group’s origins and subsequent output may be, they still haven’t mastered the art of honing track sequence. Ah well — a minor transgression.

Mustang! is still a good rock album.

P.S. I didn’t realize the hook on “Grateful Days” is the same on “Cowboy Fuck!” Clever.