REVIEW: Greta Van Fleet – Anthem of the Peaceful Army (2018)

GRETA VAN FLEET – Anthem of the Peaceful Army (2018 Republic Records)

Greta Van Fleet have become one of the most controversial new bands in a dog’s age. They are either lauded or loathed for their slavish adherence to a classic Led Zeppelin niche. It wasn’t cool of them to claim that Aerosmith was a bigger influence — we know the truth. Just like somebody from Kingdom Come claimed he’d never heard Led Zeppelin. It was bullshit in 1988 and it’s bullshit in 2018.

The problem is, Greta Van Fleet are pretty good. They’re young, they’re impressionable, and this is their first real album. Every band should be allowed some leeway so early in their careers. Especially when, in 2018, that classic Zeppelin sound is so refreshing.  They might get young kids into that sound.  When I was 15, I wouldn’t give Led Zeppelin a chance because they looked old-fashioned and the lead singer wore sandals on stage.  I did, however, listen to Kingdom Come.

What makes the band special is singer Josh Kiszka. A voice like this is rare. A younger, smoother Robert Plant, perhaps. He will eventually develop and come into his own. His soaring voice makes “Age of Man” such an impressive opener that you will have to keep going. Its slow, epic quality is unusual for an opener, and sets the tone for an album that might take itself too seriously, but not at the expense of good music.

There’s nothing as blazingly celebratory as “Highway Tune”, but admit it or not, Greta Van Fleet have written an album’s worth of good songs. “Cold Wind” rocks.  It’s loaded with obvious Zeppelin references like an outtake from Physical Graffiti.  They captured a Bonham-esque drum sound to go with it, but haters will be nauseated by Josh’s “ma-ma-ma-ma” improvisations.  “When the Curtain Falls” might have been chosen as a single because it sounds so Zep (with hints of Deep Purple), but it’s not the strongest song here.  They sound better when using tasteful doses of keyboards, like on “Lover, Leaver (Taker Believer)”, an epic and one of the most slammin’ tunes.  (Great slide guitar too.)

Their acoustic “You’re the One” is Zeppelin III oversimplified; a good tune but not enough to fill the shoes it’s trying to be in.  “New Day” is better because it doesn’t adhere to the blueprint.  Also a lil’ different is “Mountain of the Sun”, but Josh’s yodel-like vocal affectations might be too much.  Still, check out the apocalyptic “Brave New World”, definitely a step in the right direction.  It gets a little wobbly again at the end, with a return to the hippie Zeppelin acoustic format.

Anthem of the Peaceful Army is a good album for a debut long-player.  They will have to continue to step it up.  In the meantime, this collection of songs will be spending lots of time in my ears this winter.

4/5 stars

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6 comments

  1. I don’t remember Robert Plant ever wearing sandals on stage, but I know these guys do. I think the singer sounds like Plant mixed with Geddy Lee, and I like both of those guys, but he annoys me for whatever reason. Stands to reason since I like Zeppelin and Rush that I should like these guys, but his voice just grates, and their music seems wholly unoriginal. I’m sure they’ll progress as they go along though, so I’m not writing them off. They’re still pretty young, there’s time for their balls to drop.

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  2. Great review Mike. There are so many bands that borrow from other bands that it is funny they catch so much slack for it. I guess it is because they seem to be borrowing from one artist where bands like The Struts and The Darkness are taking their style from a whole genre and not one particular artist. Anyway, it is a really good album and I still need to spend some time with it to appreciate it more.

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  3. I’m glad you dig this lot, Mike. They’re not for me, though… I just don’t get it. I’m gonna choose to listen to Led Zeppelin when I want to listen to Led Zeppelin, y’know. It’s all very derivative. The phrasing. Cues. All very Led Zep… the singer’s voice is a bit shrill for my liking. He sounds like a deranged Katy Perry. But aye, the positives are they’re still young, so maybe there’s hope that they’ll actually move past this Led Zep tribute thingy they have going on.

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