Greta Van Fleet - Anthem of the Peaceful Army
by Jarlath Barrett
Some have called Anthem of the Peaceful Army the best Led Zeppelin album of the decade. Slight hitch: it’s not a Led Zeppelin album.
Up-and-coming Michigan rockers Greta Van Fleet have often been called clones of the iconic rock group, with vocalist Josh Kiszka often being compared to Zeppelin’s Robert Plant in the media. Plant himself approached the similarity with good humour, noting that Kiszka “borrowed… from somebody I know very well!”. Greta Van Fleet clearly wear their influences on their sleeve and don’t purport to be anything other than a classic hard rock band. Far from putting off fans of the genre, this sonic similarity appears to have gained Greta Van Fleet a large audience, even before the release of their debut album.
When Greta Van Fleet burst onto the scene last year, some critics were quick to write them off as a copycat act. However, the revivalist style doesn’t necessarily have to be purely imitation: Revivalism is itself considered worthy of attention, with groups such as the Black Crowes seeking to return to the genre in a seemingly unfashionable climate. This, when combined with the band’s technical proficiency, prevent Greta Van Fleet as an item of interest rather than scorn.
Sonically, this new album doesn’t feel like a huge departure from their 2017 From The Fires LP. Rather, it seems as if they have polished off their blues rock sound with more ambitious production. This is evident in Age of Man, the prog influenced opening track. Clocking in at a lengthy 6:06, the track builds in tempo and energy towards the end but nevertheless provides a slow start to the album. As the album progresses the band thankfully appears to find their familiar bluesy groove, a source of praise from many rock critics over the past year. Lover Leaver (Taker Believer) is arguably the catchiest track on the album with an infectious bluesy riff from Jake Kiszka complementing brother Josh Kiszka’s soaring vocals. Another highlight is the album’s lead single When The Curtain Falls which is similarly filled with energy. With the album’s tight production these tracks take on an anthemic quality that really suits the band’s exaggerated style. These tracks serve as undeniable evidence that Greta Van Fleet can churn out catchy rock singles.
However, whilst the other tracks on the album continue to display technical proficiency and polished production, they provide little to comment on critically as they tend to follow a similar structure. They are entirely passable rock tunes that display the bands signature energetic style but, unfortunately, fail to bring anything new to the table. Whilst this album provides a fun casual listen, there is little originality being shown in the bands approach. As a rock fan, I had hoped that Greta Van Fleet would demonstrate a level of creativity that went beyond their influences on this album and bring something fresh to the rock world. However, this simply wasn’t the case. Lyrically, the band have largely stuck to obscure fantasy imagery, another classic zeppelin trope which seems to hold little relevance today. Whilst the music itself certainly demonstrates skill, it follows the formula of Zeppelinesque blues rock a little too rigidly.
Overall, whilst the album may fall short of the rock world’s high expectations, it contains several vivacious tracks that stand out in the current landscape of rock music. After only one full length album, Greta Van Fleet can still be viewed as a promising young rock band and will hopefully prove to be one to watch as they develop their song writing.