Greta Van Fleet, the band who has been branded as rock music’s modern saviors, released arguably the most highly anticipated debut rock album in decades — “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” — last friday. The album kicks off with a six-minute tune titled, “The Age of Man” that, in a way, reflects “The Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 space epic, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The sound is tranquil and ominous, but eventually leads into the band’s trademark bluesy riffs and blasting vocals that fans fell in love with the first time they heard “Highway Tune” from Greta’s incredible debut EP, “From the Fires.”
Although “From the Fires” produced more hits for the four boys from Frankenmuth, Michigan, than most artists can only dream of, it also set them up to be held to a higher standard than any band in recent memory. Hard-rocking hippies and die-hard rock fans may permanently place “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” on their favorite playlist, but the album doesn’t always live up to expectations throughout all 11 tracks.
“The Cold Wind” and “When the Curtain Falls” are the album’s hardest-hitting — straight rock tracks that take clear inspiration from an ever-so-familiar sounding group from the ‘70’s. This horse has been bludgeoned to death several times over, but similarities to Led Zeppelin are impossible to ignore when listening to the songwriting duo of Jake and Josh Kiszka. “The Cold Wind” and “When the Curtain Falls” rhythmically and vocally truly capture the essence of Led Zeppelin’s monumental sound. That being said, they are not as catchy as Zeppelin’s classic hits.
Of the softer tunes from the album, “You’re the One” clearly sits above “The New Day” and “Anthem.” “You’re the One” may be the catchiest song on the album, and has a great acoustic guitar on it that feels like a hippie soundtrack to a time of free love and loosened inhibitions. “Anthem” is the one song on the album that drones on as background music and can be difficult to get through without being tempted to skip to the last epic track, “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)”.
This is an album with four tracks that should be remembered in the band’s overall discography. “The Cold Wind,” “When the Curtain Falls,” “You’re the One,” and “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)” are all great rock n’ roll tracks that match the quality of the “From the Fires” EP.
“The Cold Wind”, shoots straight at you with a staccato riff followed up by a classic Josh Kiszka high-pitched shout and into a free flowing melody highlighted by Josh’s Robert Plant-esq rasp. The chorus is not as catchy as the verse melody, but it provides a needed lapse in the energy until the riff cuts right back in.
The lead single of the album, “When the Curtain Falls,” includes Jake Kiszka’s best riff since the opening track off their EP, “Safari Song.” Josh Kiszka takes care of the rest of the song writing cheeky lyrics of a modern Hollywood lifestyle. The youngest brother, Sam Kiszka, has his most memorable bass line yet that is so catchy you can sing along to it alone.
“You’re the One,” is not Josh Kiszka’s best lyrical performance and does not follow the fairy-telling feeling that his lyric’s typically evoke, but it is definitely his best chorus melody on an acoustic track, with the one exception being the epic “Flower Power” on “From the Fires.” Drummer Danny Wagner does not get enough credit in the band of three brothers, but he does a great job lifting the feeling of “You’re the One” from a slow acoustic tune into a powerful outro jam. It can be easy for a drummer to get overzealous on an acoustic track, but Wagner does a great job of playing for the song and not himself.
The six-minute “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer),” is a constant rocker that comes alive on all fronts after the pounding intro is dropped out from under the listeners ears and is replaced by the open chorus, where Josh Kiszka simply screams the song title with intermittent musical accompaniment. It is a solid jam that might hold Jake Kiszka’s best solo’s yet in Greta Van Fleet’s limited discography.
The remaining six tracks, excluding the abridged version of “Lover, Leaver,” leave something more to be desired. Each song has bright spots, but “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” is just shy of the legendary album that it could be. However, it needs to be taken into account that Greta Van Fleet is comprised of four kids whose songwriting abilities will presumably grow with their fame. “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” is a good album, in fact, it is one of the better debut albums to be released. The band is on an undeniable trajectory for rock n’ roll glory, that is aided by the masses who are rooting for Greta Van Fleet to bring back the visceral feeling and authenticity that rock n’ roll once soaked in.