Greta Van Feat
21 April 2021-
US Hard Rock outfit Greta Van Fleet are back with a second album that draws a lot from the first one — and from its influences, for better or worse...
This will come as a shock to no one: Greta Van Fleet are arguably a bit of a rarity. A bunch of 20-somethings (3 of whom brothers, 2 of whom twins) hailing from a small Michigan town, making great music that would have already been considered great around 1971. We didn’t pick that date at random either: that is the year cult Rock band Led Zeppelin released their fourth (untitled) album. You know, the one that featured “Stairway to heaven“. And that single window on the cover. The one every Western student possessed, when students still possessed discs. Or Vinyls. Or CDs. You pick.
The point is this: the connection between our young Americans and their British forefathers has long been established. Starting with the very first 2017 EP, one might say, and its remarkable “Highway tune“. Indeed, from the way the Kiszka brothers — and drummer Kyle Hauck then, Danny Wagner now — play guitars to the way Josh belts out his vocals, you would be remiss if you did not reference Led Zeppelin at first listen. To be clear, that is obviously a huge compliment: being compared to one of the greatest outfits in the history of Rock n’ Roll would be embraced by virtually everyone.
There is, however, an obvious drawback to this: when the new artist references the original so faithfully that one starts to wonder how genuinely original the new artist’s work really is. That is a fine line Greta Van Fleet have been playing with since the beginning, and it is still very much the case with sophomore album The Battle at Garden’s Gate. Starting with opening track and lead single “Heat above”: Robert Plan wouldn’t laugh at these vocals, while the accompanying instrumentation, including subtly elaborate strings, provides a tastefully crafted piece. The same can be said of the rather grandiose ballad “Broken bells”. The heavier “Built by Nations” that follows add the Blues Rock edge Zeppelin became near synonymous for way back when.
“The Barbarians”, towards the end of the album, could be seen as a “Kashmir”-esque reference, as it attempts to build a bridge between seemingly different musical worlds, with somewhat experimental vocals answering swinging riffs that try to incorporate more exotic harmonies. Then you have final track and bona fide anthem “The Weight of Dreams”: nearly 9 minutes of pure Rock ballad, à la Led Zeppelin, early Aerosmith or classic Lynyrd Skynyrd… Once again, these references alone make the record a must listen. As you very well should: this song, as well as the rest of the album, is an extremely enjoyable, high quality piece of classic Rock-infused contemporary fare.
Yet… is it original? The same way Muse were (rightfully) being criticized a few years back for seemingly not being able to move beyond their demonstrable Radiohead and Queen influences, the Kiszka brothers have a slight problem here: their love of all things Led Zeppelin, while ensuring they always deliver strong music, may prevent them from creating great music…