Before the Curtain Falls

Nicolas Padovani

Chris Shields, Guest Writer

In 2012, a band from Frankenmuth, Michigan known as Greta Van Fleet burst onto the music scene with a sound that people hadn’t heard in many years. Despite the growing popularity of the rap and techno music, Greta Van Fleet went a different musical direction, deciding that it was about time to bring the “era of rock” back onto our radios and into our ears. Since signing a record deal with Lava Records in March of 2017 and releasing their first album, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, this group has rapidly risen in popularity.

From the Fires, the band’s second EP released late last year, is a very interesting listen. It comes equipped with seven songs and some beautiful album cover art featuring hooded figures gathered around a campfire.

Many modern-music listeners see this group as “influential” and “unique,” but other hard-core rock addicts took little time to figure out that their “new sound,” has far too many similarities to legendary rock band Led Zeppelin. With eerily similar guitar riffs and progressions, and Josh Kiszka’s unintentional, but spot-on impression of Robert Plant’s vocals, the band has been receiving just as much criticism as they have praise. In the beginning of their run, most people assumed that they were attempting to be a Zeppelin cover-band, so when they started releasing their own original material, people were shocked.

For Led Zeppelin fans, the obvious resemblances were a little off-putting at first, but after listening to more of Greta Van Fleet, an acceptance of their sound has risen.

Every song on the album is professionally recorded; right of the bat, how crisp and clean the audio sounds is apparent for this up-and-coming quartet. Another quick notice is how rehearsed the songs are, which is a virtue that you rarely see in a “new band.” The songs are interesting enough to please a listener who hasn’t been around this type of music much, but for someone who was born with rock and roll playing in the hospital room, I feel quite a bit of the material becomes boring and monotonous.

The majority of the songs use very few effects on the instruments, making them quite a bit less interesting than they could have been. The overall sound of the album can be described in two words: heavy and distortion. These boring and annoying aspects of the songs make them tedious to listen through at times, but they were nearly balanced out with many guitar solos by the lead singer’s brother, Jake Kiszka. Jake has a unique guitar playing style that involves mostly muted strumming that really compliments the songs. An example of this can be heard in “Edge of Darkness,” “Change is Gonna Come,” and “When The Curtain Falls.”

Sam Kiszka, the bass playing brother, definitely knows what he’s doing on his instrument, incorporating many complex and difficult rhythms to his finger-picking style. Drummer Danny Wagner is the only member of the band who isn’t related to the others, and although his style becomes repetitive throughout the album, he is a very developed percussionist.

Fans of Led Zeppelin often describe Robert Plant’s unique voice as a “banshee wail.” While Kiszka seems to be imitating this effect, and quite well, he throws a lot of his own flair into the style. With many difficult bends and octave jumps, his vocals on “Edge of Darkness” and “Flower Power” set these songs apart from the Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant wannabes.

The majority of the songs on this album sound very similar, which is a problem that many bands have in the start. Hopefully they can figure out the trick of getting more variety in their musical arsenal. Greta Van Fleet has yet to create their “break-through” song or sound that can set them apart from other aspiring rock bands. While they are being praised for their “revolutionary sound,” the majority of people can tell you that what they’re doing so far is not as special as it could be.

Despite the album’s flaws, rock and roll fans of any kind should give it a listen. While certain tunes, including “Meet on the Ledge” and “Black Smoke Rising,” can seem difficult to bring yourself to listen to, others are great and could easily make their way to chart toppers.

One song in particular that stood out from the others, was the longest song on the album “Flower Power.” With a psychedelic name to match the acoustic guitar, banjo, and classic rock organ, this song easily works its way into the listener’s memory. Other-earthly vocals and guitar riffs make the third song on this album easily the best and catchiest of the album.

Overall, this album is enjoyable, but there are many things they could have done differently. Hopefully as their career progresses, the band can find their own sound and steer away from sounding like Led Zeppelin, but as of right now, they are doing a pretty good job of bringing rock and roll back into the music scene.

Greta Van Fleet
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