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Album Review: Greta Van Fleet - 'Anthem of the Peaceful Army'

October 19, 2018

 

No quintessential classic rock band has always been a classic rock band. The Eagles may be classic rock staples in 2018, but they were 20-something men performing the hot, popular music of the day. 

 

Today, some people love classic rock instead of modern and alternative rock, because they dislike the way rock evolved. Others love classic rock, because they oppose the very notion of rock evolving. They want the genre to exist as it always has. While the members of Greta Van Fleet, based on interviews, don't seem to have ill will toward current rock music, their style appeals to those who do.

 

The Mich. four-piece formed in 2012 as teenagers, making the band literally modern. Sam Kiszka, bassist, and Danny Wagner (who joined in 2013), drummer, still are teenagers, while twin brothers, Josh and Jake Kiszka, singer and guitarist, respectively, are the elder statesmen of the band at 22.  

 

While most of the songs on the band's first two EPs (both released last year) were original compositions, the hallmark of Greta Van Fleet's sound has been their distinct similarities to Led Zeppelin. Most notably, Josh Kiszka seized David Coverdale's crown as Robert Plant impersonator-emeritus with the band's debut single, 2017's "Highway Tune." 

 

But there are other comparisons. For one, they aren't considerably younger than Led Zeppelin was in 1968; it's just that their brand of music is no longer the soundtrack of youth, but rather the soundtrack of middle age.

 

My concern with Greta Van Fleet before listening to their debut full-length album, "Anthem of the Peaceful Army," was that they would be pigeonholed into the Led Zeppelin sound and would, either by their own choosing or under pressure from their record label, avoid influences that could make them more accessible to fans their own age. With the first words of the album's first track, "Age of Man," referencing the vaunted "land of ice and snow" from Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," the band doesn't appear to be hiding their intentions to crack into the classic rock pantheon.

 

But at the same time, it's their first album, and expecting any band's proper debut to not sound like its heroes is a bit unfair, unless we treat "Anthem of the Peaceful Army" as the ninth Led Zeppelin album. So while the lead single, "When The Curtain Falls," feels every bit the Zeppelin knockoff that "Highway Tune" was, it also sounds, on a purely instinctive level, really great. The same applies to power chord-driven rockers like "The Cold Wind" and "Lover, Leaver."

 

Of course, Led Zeppelin had slow songs, too. The vocal differences between Kiszka and Plant are far more obvious here, and to the detriment of the former. Like the 2006 debut of fellow Zeppelin devotees Wolfmother, the up-tempo songs work because they're so fun you don't bother thinking too much about them. Slow songs, however, are expected to have a deeper meaning, and "You're the One" and "Anthem," while not bad, come across more as album filler than as necessary components of a larger picture, as they were with Greta Van Fleet's heroes.

 

In 2018, Greta Van Fleet is viewed as a novelty, because bands that sound like them aren't typically comprised of members so young. However, they deserve a pass for their debut album. As a whole, it's an entertaining collection of fun songs, but if they want to escape novelty status, they can't do this forever.

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