BY STEVE WALKER | Go Venue Magazine – October 17, 2018
Greta Van Fleet release their album “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” October 19th 2018 on LAVA/Republic Records. Their earlier release “From the Fires” (2017), has allowed the four-piece from Michigan the opportunity to develop their artistry and creativity to offer a modernist take on the rolling themes of blues rock. The band are an authentic outfit and in a comparative sense have created harmony between generations with a fusion of styles and perspectives whilst not losing any of the traditions.
When blues rock is performed well, you can taste the whiskey; Smooth with a bite. The heavier tracks on this album have this flavor and yet it is under control and safe.
To compare and observe the bands developing style, “Highway Tune” from 2017 is worth a listen as this showcases the initial offer musically whilst the lyrical dynamic is being developed. The first track on the new album, “Age of Man” is the perfect opener, rising from vocal presence to rock hard rhythm. A statement piece, glued with technique and riff to stage this epic beginning. “The Cold Wind” bluesy and smooth providing opportunity to explore the deeper vocal range and to expose the power of the voice and supported by concrete musicianship.
The acoustic “You’re the One” with beautiful Hammond style organ riffs and chords that have been superbly underplayed to create mood and texture. This album has been developed as it should to showcase all the attributes and talents the unit have and this is clear in this release.
The topics covered in the album tracks are considerate in a contemporary style addressing environment, inclusivity, relationships, socio-political narratives and a range of other themes. I like that this is rare and is an advancement to the genre. The album suggests a movement; a peaceful army; a new wave of generational change, devoid of hostility. The output however still rocks and remains upbeat.
The vocals are a real focus and the pitch and range distinctive. The backing vocals are placed well and support the lead, balancing tonal harmonies and adding to the overall audio experience. There are Axel Rose style screams and notes and a Robert Plant smoothness along with originality. The guitar riff work using pentatonic scales in the minor range and rhythm consistency are spliced effectively. All this balanced to promote solid aspects of the blues-esque storytelling in each very individually themed track. The guitar work is delivered exceptionally and the glimmers of bottle-neck slide guitar are more impressive live than on the album. The bands improvised live jam sequences are gig ready and will be festival gold, and the album stages many moments in which this can take place.
Bass and drums are effective, deep low tones and the use of tom-tom lines are prominent and retain the depth needed to oppose and offer differential to the high lead vocal; enhanced by snare and cymbals to elevate the echo heavy; almost vibrato feel to the production. The transition across octaves from vocal to bass to guitar and effective drum sequences have been styled and positioned in an authentic way to synthesize the roles of each performer.
They are many comparisons to make in relation to other earlier bands and artists; yet a developing band should carry something individual to themselves. Greta Van Fleet are contemporary observers of the themes they grew up with, embodied in a music that they love. They have progressively adapted the elements that have influenced their style. The overall sound is in keeping and fluid whilst the appropriation and values are the key symbol of change in contemporary blues rock and this is valuable to a wide audience base and steady future. The origins of blues through the progressive stages has steadily represented an examination of ‘experience’, and Greta Van Fleet have brought this to the modern world brilliantly.
Stand Out Tracks:
The acoustic guitar melodic dialogue ballad; this is a song for someone. The song to share a few moments with. Music is and should always be communicative and should indicate that this is for you. Anthem does this beautifully, and asks for the listener to slow down, sit upon my lap and put their head on my shoulder. As a contemporary Love song, there is a level of equality and the nature of choice and partnership shines through. Patriarchy and misogyny has been replaced and over ridden with a lesser focus on demand and prejudice to a relation to equity and parallel.
“When the Curtain Falls”
In this track, the developing verses are not repeated and promote understanding in stages of the topics. The lyrics draw the listener into an interpretation. The chorus offers consistency of message whilst musically the high aggressive features alongside the calmer bridge gives flow and impedance to emotive phrasing. The riff is rememberable and has not been over used. There is a Guns N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” feel to the style and composition that has come straight off the CD collection that identifies influence. The shift is in the thinking about sending a political narrative of global environmental issues is well delivered.
The Greta Van Fleet YouTube Channel feature the music video for “When the Curtain Falls” watch it here https://youtu.be/86_vnQc1oBE
Clean guitar intro that is reminiscent of the Trogg’s “House of the Rising Sun” to a mid-section that gives a texture of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. Accessing contemporary world issues through the looking glass and lens of yesteryear is a contribution that raises the validity of Greta Van Fleet.
The production is note perfect, crystal clear and effect ridden. Acoustic sequences and balanced electrics have been levelled and drawn together credibly. There are however, notes of over production, effect, reverb and chorus on the vocal are in places too obvious. The live output is where the raw and roar of rock and roll can be captured by Greta Van Fleet, but this album is a touring and festival pivot point to exemplify why you should become a part of their live experience.
The live gig venues are hitting the mid-range size with audience levels hitting around 3500 to 5000 based on current tour venues; and are selling out quickly.
The Berlin Columbiahalle venue acoustics will work well with the band’s sound output. The infamous curved back wall in the Columbiahalle theatre should complement and add to the echo filtering and resonance that can be heard throughout the band’s sound and composition.
The Academy in Manchester promotes some challenges for the band as the vocal can be flattened due to the height inside the venue. This will give the band dynamics to work with and to polish; developing compromise and establishing further strengths in their delivery. The band are touring until June 2019 worldwide, and the album will add to their growing audience.
The material is scripted collectively and it shows; the band personalizes and creates and their output in shared ownership as oppose to commercially focused and motivated music. A band working as a unit; developing the rehearsal room tinkering and forming the material together; working it out and crafting their outputs.
The development is clear and the efficacy is ‘growing up’ through the adolescent experimentation to a stance that is not merely related to who the band emulate; but towards a band that stand out for who they are and what they are becoming. There are some impressive word plays; in “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)” the vocal staggers words to create; “Take Her” from “Taker” and “Believe Her” from “Believer”. Make a choice add to the track, be part of something important. When a band considers how an audience will interact with their material; this is the effort and complexity that will give a longer life to the partnership with an audience.
Greta Van Fleet are lifting old school blues rock and roll out of the space and time it came from and showing it the future. Whilst remaining true to the earlier progressive roots it was founded upon the genre is about to meet the 21st century and become the signifier of change and development. Good Stuff!
Josh Kiszka (vocals)
Jake Kiszka (guitar & backing vocals)
Sam Kiszka (bass & keyboards)
Danny Wagner (drums)
Album track list:
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