If there’s one act out there that must have had some huge expectations to make a follow-up album today, it must be Greta Van Fleet. Their successful debut album Anthem Of The Peaceful Army showed up six years ago and in its backwater came the accusations of being Led Zeppelin clones, something bands like Kingdom Come got thrown at them back in the late 80’s. But the fact is, Greta Van Fleet had a sound very similar to the British icons in question. Still, that was something that hardly did the band much harm as they toured for full houses and sold out venues pretty much everywhere for years after the release of the album. Fact is, they were pretty much the talk of the town way before that album was released.
Greta Van Fleet had released two E.P’s back in 2017 and their live show was something that was being mentioned a lot – high octane and energetic Classic Rock from four very young guys, the brothers Josh (vocals), Jake (guitars and Sam (bass) Kiszka and drummer Danny Wagener. The guys spend a lot of time writing and recording the follow-up and right in the middle of a pandemic, where no tours could take place it was released. According to the guys, the album would prove that they had left most of the obvious Led Zep influences behind them and that they now sported a style that was much more their own. Hopefully, they have managed to write some great songs too because my expectations are high as I really dug the debut.
The album opens with the latest single ”Heat Above”, a slow to mid-paced Classic Rock groover with a big organ sound and a bit of a late 60’s twist where Josh Kiszka lets his inner Geddy Lee out in complement to the Robert Plant influences. Still Led Zeppelin influenced, by the sound of this it sounds like the guys has been listening to Rush as well, especially in the proggier parts of the tune. The tune holds a big soundscape, some smoother melody lines and a stunning refrain. Great. More straight-forward and edgy, ”My Way Soon” preserves the fragrance of the Zep-esque 70’s style from the debut and sports a fine mix of clean and distorted guitars carried by a solid and distinct beat. Not only does the album’s leading hold an uplifting, cruising-in-the-summer vibe of Southern Rock, it’s also a catchy piece with a big live-feel. Very Good.
”Broken Bells” is a slower, sombre number with some nice orchestration sounding as if the 60’s and 70’s was put in a blender together. The main melody is quite smooth albeit not slick and the acoustic guitar passages brings on some fine contrasts which goes even further with Jake’s cool wah-wah guitars. It’s melancholic yet uplifting, positive yet dark and every melody etches themselves to brain – great stuff. ”Built By Nations” takes on a way heavier vibe and is rougher around the edges with some crunchy, gritty guitars and a powerful rhythm-section. It’s hard to not think of Zep here but it’s not a clone at all – fact is, it’s more Rival Sons than Zep. It’s a meaty and ballsy rocker that will go down like a storm live. I dig.
Also a single, the slow-paced, heavy and bombastic ”Age Of Machine” is darker and raunchier but the rhythmic grooves are surrounded by the song’s large soundscape. Here GFV strikes hard with some gritty guitars which brings on a 70’s Metal vibe that blends splendidly with the song’s Classic Rock bottom. It’s almost sludgy with a slight nod to Black Sabbath’s ominous bluesy Rock and its seven minutes passes by in no-time. Awesome! The ballad-laden ”Tears Of Rain” starts out down-beat and stripped on an acoustic note. It’s a pretty short number with an almost tranquil atmosphere while it’s earthy and even though the lyrical topic is serious, when it ends with a piano-piece, it feels good and even uplifting.
”Stardust Chords” comes in a mid-pace yet with an enormous groove and some chunky riffage which together with the stompy beats makes for a good swing. The keyboard orchestration makes for a bombastic experience and the song has a floating, almost dreamy soundscape but it’s also rhythmic with melodies that welcome the late 60’s while musically it dwells in the mid 70’s. Great stuff. ”Light My Love” is a slower pop-rocker with its feet in the early 70’s – acoustic guitars, piano, smooth keyboards and a laid-back ambience. The main-melody is nothing short of gorgeous and without sniffing around for air-play, the chorus is amazingly catchy and direct. Fabulous stuff.
”Caravel” is a slow-burner that holds some edgy riffing and an instant groove. It’s quite blues-laden with led Zep showing up here and there but there’s also an obvious Rush influence, especially in Josh’s vocals. The drums kicks hard with a thunderous bass-line which carries the tune into a heavy groover with a big live-feel. Good one. ”The Barbarians” is slow in pace and holds a trippy vibe and a spacey atmosphere which brings my mind to the late 60’s but the tune’s hot and heavy riffage and the chunky and tough foundation belongs more in the 70’s. It’s a strong number with a brilliant chorus, catchy yet not radio-friendly. Very good.
The somewhat laid-back ”Trip The Light Fantastic” continues the trippy vibes mildly but also comes on with a rhythmic groove where both Zep and some Deep Purple influences shows up. Josh’s vocals are intense and in-your-face and there are also some choral voices involved here. But for some reason, I can’t get the song to stick. It’s not bad but only ok. The album’s closer ”The Weight Of Dreams” is more pompous and bombastic yet the groove is distinct and every melody is very direct. It’s slightly progressive with more Rush touches and some comprehensive keyboard orchestration. It’s a Classic Rock stomper with a chunky groove and a floating, levitating rhythm. The almost nine-minute epic song ends with a raunchy jam which swings and grooves big time. Great stuff.
It’s really hard to say if this album is better than Anthem Of The Peaceful Army quality-wise but it’s easily just as good. That said, this album is more varied, not that debut wasn’t, in the way that the record isn’t as full of Zep-isms. They’re here for sure but adulterated
with progressive twists, Rush and 70’s Classic Rock in general which in turns gives them more of an identity. The album is both organic, stripped and pompous and grandiose – and everything is embraced by a huge soundscape which holds everything together. It’s a shame that the album was released in the midst of a pandemic because if GVF could have toured this record, it just might have given them their big break. Never checked this band out? This one’s a damn good way to start.