Greta Van Fleet - From the Fires Album Review
With genres like pop, rap and trap taking center stage in today’s music world, there’s not much room for rock and roll. The genre has undoubtedly been in decline since its heyday in the 1970s. Some artists like Radiohead and The Black Keys have continued rock’s legacy by adding their own unique twist to it, but plain old classic rock music has largely disappeared. Enter Greta Van Fleet.
Coming from the little town of Frankenmuth, Michigan, Greta Van Fleet is a four-piece rock band comprised of Josh Kiskza (lead vocals), brothers Sam and Jake (bass and guitar) and family friend Danny Wagner (percussion). The band’s peculiar name is a variation of fellow Frankenmuth resident Gretna Van Fleet.
Although Greta Van Fleet has been playing live since 2012, the band first found its stride in early 2017 with the release of their debut EP Black Smoke Rising. The record reached No. 182 on the Billboard 200, but was far more successful on the Top Heatseekers Chart, peaking at No. 2. Black Smoke Rising was supported by the success of its lead single, “Highway Tune,” which would find its way to No, 1 on the Mainstream Rock Chart by September.
The success of “Highway Tune” turned the heads of many rock and roll fans, who noticed a stark similarity to Led Zeppelin. Josh Kiszka’s wailing vocals could easily be mistaken for those of a young Robert Plant. Jake’s hard, blues rocking guitar is what one would expect to hear from Jimmy Page. When asked about their thoughts on the constant praise and comparisons to Led Zeppelin, Josh simply stated, “We’ll take it.”
Greta Van Fleet was not finished with 2017, however. In November, they released From the Fires, a double EP featuring all four songs from Black Smoke Rising, as well as four brand new tunes. The album received a significant amount of hype in the classic rock community and it more than meets its expectations.
From the Fires starts off with “Safari Song,” which establishes a killer guitar riff right out of the gate. The song rolls along with Kiszka’s dynamic vocals, Wagner’s thundering percussion and, of course, some brilliant guitar shredding. There’s no fancy tricks here; no gimmicks or oddities. “Safari Song” is just a plain old rock song and a fantastic one at that, which is what many fans of the dying genre were hoping for.
Next is “Edge of Darkness,” the first of four new tracks. This time, Greta Van Fleet takes a more modern hard rock stance, but the outcome is just as good. Kiszka’s vocal range on this one is absolutely insane. After three minutes of hard-rocking excellence, the track closes with a minute-long guitar solo that would make Jimmy Page proud.
“Flower Power” is softest sounding song on From the Fires, but that’s just because of the presence of keyboards and acoustic guitars, which blend perfectly with the driving drum, the fantastic vocals and the electric counterparts. The Led Zeppelin comparison makes perfect sense here, as the song bears strong resemblance to the ever popular “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do.”
The first of two covers is “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a blues rock version of the classic Sam Cooke song. Kiszka’s powerful singing is aided by background vocals, which replace the stringed instruments found in the original version. A subdued yet noticeable baseline helps to keep the song trucking. Honestly, this is probably the worst song on From the Fires, but in the scope of things, the term “least best” is far more appropriate.
The second riff rocker on From the Fires is the aforementioned “Highway Tune,” which is about as close as a modern song can come to replicating that Led Zeppelin sound. From its sweeping guitar riff, to the nasally, wailing vocals, to the persistent percussion, everything about this song screams Zeppelin. It’s no wonder that Greta Van Fleet chose this one to be their debut single.
“Meet on the Ledge” is the other cover, which transforms Fairport Convention’s 1968 folk rock classic into a thrilling hard rock number. In constantly shifting between subdued verses and climactic choruses, Greta Van Fleet successfully creates a modern-day classic rock cover.
“Talk on the Street” is the final new song and it’s the best of them too. Like “Safari Song,” the track keeps rolling with an energetic guitar riff. Once again aided by background vocals, Josh Kiszka delivers a terrific performance, complete with his unbelievable vocal range.
Finally, the album finishes with “Black Smoke Rising,” a pure hard rocker that combines guitar, drum, bass and vocals into a perfect blend. Each instrument gets at least one moment to shine and the result is a sensational closer to a sensational album. The mellow middle section’s contrast with the vigorous beginning and end segments only adds to the song’s greatness.
From beginning to end, Greta Van Fleet perfects the classic rock sound that many fans of the genre have been missing. If there’s anything to complain about, it’s the lyrics, which are not as substantial or profound as others, but on such a delightful record, it’s forgivable. It could also be argued that the lyrics are just staying faithful to the style of Led Zeppelin, who, for the most part, were never lyrical geniuses.
Greta Van Fleet has already captured the attention of critics. At the 2017 Loudwire Music Awards, the band won the award for Best New Artist, a positive sign of things to come for rock and roll fanatics who are excited to see what else this band can put out in the future. It’s rumored that their first official album, featuring the eight tracks on From the Fires as well as four more new ones, will be released sometime next year. Until then, rock fans can revel in From the Fires, a fantastic album from one of rock’s most exciting up-and-coming bands. If Greta Van Fleet can continue to perform at this level, rock and roll may never die.
DJ Bauer is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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