ALBUM REVIEW: Greta Van Fleet displays potential, familiar trappings on debut

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Greta Van Fleet/Anthem of the Peaceful Army

From the first track of its debut album, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, Greta Van Fleet makes sure that listeners are aware of the sound they are going for. With heavy guitar melodies, crashing drumbeats and Robert Plant-style vocals, the young group from Michigan steps boldly into the crowded blues rock scene. With Anthem of the Peaceful Army, it’s clear that Greta Van Fleet has yet to expand its range beyond the expected and the played-out.

Anthem of the
Peaceful Army

Great Van Fleet
Oct. 19

Greta Van Fleet displays an ability to execute classic rock tightly and methodically, but not very uniquely. Throughout most of the album, vocalist Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka, bassist Sam Kiszka and drummer Danny Wagner fall into a hard rock sound similar to latter-day AC/DC. This replaces the blues influence with which they made their initial impact.

“When The Curtain Falls,”a song about a film star’s loss of youth, and “The Cold Wind,” which centers on accepting death, both prove the potential of Greta Van Fleet as songwriters. However, they’ve only just begun the journey of settling into a unique sound. So far, that sounds doesn’t sets the band apart.

“Brave New World” verges on breaking out of rock and roll tropes by using intermittent choir vocals and uncommon tempos, at least for rock. Unfortunately, each section of promise is short-lived and leaves listeners wondering how the song might have ended up if the band had committed to jumping beyond Led Zepplin worship.

“Age of Man,” which discusses how the world is entering a new age, also attempts to break out of the rock mold with flutes and violins opening the number. But what could have been a solid symphonic track reverts back to the safety of the familiar riffs and a whacking backbeat.

The band does offer some groovier tracks, which bodes well for the band’s future. “You’re the One,” a slow rock ballad from one lover to another, brings am increased level of depth to the band’s arrangement. “Anthem,” a simple reminder of life’s resilience, even turns to steel guitar that accompanies an acoustic to create a feel-good anthem. Josh Kiszka’s vocals on tracks like this one steer away from the loud, piercing timbre. He instead follows the instrumentals of his brothers into an intimate, charming and almost conversational approach.

Greta Van Fleet has a long way to go if the band wants to emerge from under the shadow of the rock gods, but Anthem of the Peaceful Army packs enough skill to get that journey started. The band’s future success now rests on the stylistic explorations on which it embarks in subsequent records, and whether those explorations will lead it to a style more of its own.

Follow writer Piper Westrom at Twitter.com/plwestrom.

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