Once in every while a big hype comes along, a hype so big that if you’re just a little too late picking it up it’s easy to get obstinate and refuse to even give the artist a break. At least I work like that. Rival Sons are the first to come to mind. When they showed up they were everywhere and everybody and their mother seemed to simply adore them as soon as they even laid a fart. So I became obstinate. But when I finally couldn’t resist checking them out, I also totally got why the hype was so big. So they didn’t reinvent the wheel and they wore their influences on their sleeves but they were so good at what they were doing and they had a treasure chest full of brilliant songs so who the hell gives a crap? I’m a huge Rival Sons fan now. This time they hype is called Greta Van Fleet, a band made of three brothers and a buddy of theirs, from Frankenmuth, Michigan, USA.
The band – Josh (vocals), Jake (guitars) and Sam Kiszka (bass) with drummer Danny Wagener – was formed back in 2012 but then with drummer Kyle Hauck, who quit in 2013. They took their name from a Frankenmuth resident called Gretna Van Fleet. Back then, the guys were merely teenagers and it would take them until 2017 to get signed by Lava Records and they released their debut EP Black Smoke Rising in April the same year with a double EP called From The Fires in November the same year which in turn was the debut EP with four new songs added. And that’s where the hype began. Lots of people were amazed by those young kids’ mature sound, clearly influenced by Led Zeppelin to the point where accusations of being clones occurred. Now, that’s hardly anything new – back in the late 80’s, Kingdom Come got lots of beatings for being Zep clones. The question is, will GVF rise to the occasion and be able to handle the hype? Do they have the songs to match it?
With the band out on a sold out European tour that started before their debut full-length album was out, the band really got some major expectations to match with said album – a failure could very well mean that this sold out tour is both their first and last of its kind. “Age Of Man” isn’t an expected opener as it’s slower in pace and even a bit laid-back albeit raw and earthy in sound. The 70’s is present of course and even though I can clearly hear the Zep influence, the song is equally Rush. It’s a big, bombastic belter on a pompous note, epic and a bit dark full of keyboards on top. It’s a damn good song but feels more like a closing track than an opener. “The Cold Wind” brings up the pace lots and to state that this down-to-earth, Classic Rock track have a lot to thank Led Zep for might be a grand understatement. But it’s full of cocksure attitude and lots of hooks which makes it very memorable – a song that sticks right off the bat. Very good.
The single “When The Curtain Falls” comes with a big, fat groove and raunchy and edgy rhythmic swing, a bluesy rocker with an intense and direct refrain that is very catchy without being poppy one bit. A stellar song that will work like a charm in concert – and probably already does. Killer! “Watching Over” is slow, heavy with a dreamy atmosphere and a spaced-out early 70’s stoney vibe in the verses that takes a more groovy and bouncy way when the chorus comes along and Zeppelin are clearly back for the ride. It’s a good, beefy and in-your-face rocker with a solid live feel. “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)” is a kicking and punchy groover with a borrowing from Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” (which, on the other hand was a borrowing as well) that’s a bit too close for comfort. The bluesy mid-break intermission is very dynamic, raunchy and rhythmic and no matter how borrowed the song might be, I can’t help digging it.
On a lighter note, the grand ballad “You’re The One” tags along with a big late 60’s feel but for the first – and only – time, I can also hear a nod to the 80’s which proves that GVF refuses to paint themselves into any corner. Based on acoustic guitar, there is also a big electric guitar sound and on top of that, a Hammond organ which solo is pure brilliance. The Zep vibe is there of course but I also find myself lending a thought towards Great White, who in their turn were also very much Zep influenced. It also hold an amazingly catchy refrain that just screams hit and therefore should be a future single – awesome! The acoustic guitars are back in the mid-paced stomper “The New Day”, a pop-rock laden Classic Rock tune that holds an intense groove with the early 70’s as a base but also a positive outlook in contrast to the darker mode of the previous songs. Very catchy – very good.
“Mountain Of The Sun” comes with crunchy and raunchy guitars and a beefy, rowdy groove. It’s a catchy rocker that blends Zeppelin with Rolling Stones and also a nod towards Southern Rock much thanks to the slide guitar. It’s 70’s retro with a very direct main melody and a big live feel. “Brave New World” is a Zep meets Rush Classic Rock tune, heavy and slow with a darker atmosphere with a deep, organic sound and a good punch. They close the album with “Anthem”, a slower, ballad-like Classic Rock tune, quite sweet but also 60’s hippie-flovoured and a folky vibe. A country influenced steel guitar break things off somewhat and on top lies a massive backing vocal choir that makes for a grandiose ending of the song. It’s not an easy song to get around but once you do, you’ll find it’s one of the strongest efforts on the album.
Any good then? Well, yes, I really enjoyed this record but if these young guys will be able to match the big hype, we have to wait and see. All the Led Zep clone accusations then? Well, the fact that these guys have dug through their parents record collection and got hitched on Zep isn’t even under discussion – they do sound a lot like them. But not only. The early 70’s in general is of importance for the guys and Josh Ziszka do sound a lot like Robert Plant at times but I guess Geddy Lee (Rush) might be an influence as well. So sure, these guys hasn’t exactly revolutionized Rock music and they wear their influences openly on their sleeves but they also know how to write great songs and they’re obviously passionate and honest about their music which counts for a lot in my book. GVF are four young kids in their late teens and their identity will grow with age and I see nothing but a bright future ahead of them. It’s not an original album musically, but a damn good one!
1. Age Of Man
2. The Cold Wind
3. When The Curtain Falls
4. Watching Over
5. Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)
6. You’re The One
7. The New Day
8. Mountain Of The Sun
9. Brave New World