Greta Van Fleet oozes '70s rock and swagger on 'Anthem of the Peaceful Army'

Debut album is a call to arms for the Michigan rockers

greta-van-fleet

Album: “Anthem of the Peaceful Army”

Artist: Greta Van Fleet

Label: Republic

Release Date: Oct. 19

Grade: B+

Heavy riffs, thick bass, hammering drums and shrieking vocals. It’s all there for Greta Van Fleet, a group of post-adolescent rockers looking to inject a new breath into rock.

 Citing an array of influences ranging from singer-songwriter virtuosos like Neil Young and John Denver to legends like Led Zeppelin, Greta Van Fleet has personified the hard rock sound that drove the ‘70s. 

With the EPs “Black Smoke Rising” and “From the Fires,” both released in 2017, Greta Van Fleet sought to differentiate itself. The group successfully built on a foundation of emulating heroes and simultaneously seeking to forge its own sound.

“Anthem of the Peaceful Army” is no different. 

Produced by Marlon Young, Al Sutton and Herschel Boone, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” maintains similar production and orchestration to the previous two EPs. With a full-length record, the band is allotted space to expand on its sound, resulting in a soundscape of rhythm that pushes boundaries.

The debut album from the Michigan rockers mixes heavy and tight rock with acoustic-driven tracks that both excites and reminisces. Greta Van Fleet finds comfort taking the pillar aspects of ‘70s rock and renewing its appeal, with a strong effort to both reinvent itself and the music.

“Anthem of the Peaceful Army” is an audacious step forward for the young rockers. The album spans ten tracks of nonstop, unapologetic and brash rock. Built off the strength of singles “When the Curtain Falls” and “Watching Over,” “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” refuses to let go of the listener’s attention from start to finish.

Comparisons and reminders run rampant throughout “Anthem of the Peaceful Army.” The group thrives off its influences and isn’t afraid to hide it. Drummer Danny Wagner chases the heavy-hitting grove that locked John Bonham in the pocket for years, while guitarist Jake Kiszka works effortlessly into the unmistakable smooth and chunky tone of Jimmy Page. Greta Van Fleet shows indifference toward chasing its heroes, however, and instead takes a thought-to-be overdone genre toward new heights with intense vigor.

Album opener “Age of Man” puts forth a hypnotic, smooth orchestration. The track allows singer Josh Kiszka room to flaunt powerful vocals, only to welcome brother Jake with a heavy riff. It’s a simple chord progression that pushes outward, sounding thicker and bigger with each listen.

“Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)” shows Greta Van Fleet stepping into its own pocket of creativity and identity. Kiszka’s opening guitar riff is elegantly matched by the heavy-hitting and smooth drums from Wagner, simultaneously giving bassist Sam Kiszka ample room to lock into the rhythm section. The track is a highpoint on “Anthem of the Peaceful Army,” successfully encapsulating the energy and intensity of a Greta Van Fleet concert in the studio.

With tracks like “The New Day” and “Anthem,” Greta Van Fleet takes its debut toward acoustic-driven performances, which highlights the closeness of the collective band. It’s a seamless transition that gives a softer tone to the heavy first half.

“Anthem of the Peaceful Army” gives room for all to explore. Josh Kiszka’s vocals overarch each track as expected, with power and rasp as he climbs towards the brink of his range. Jake Kiszka plays off the energy provided by Josh and adds synth and power to each track. Bassist Sam Kiszka performs the dual duty of bass and keyboard, opting for the latter with focused immersion on “You’re the One.” 

Wagner hits harder on the album than ever before, finding a niche where he can successfully keep time while also adding to diversity of sounds. Wagner effortlessly locks into a groove on tracks like “Mountain of the Sun” while sliding into a heavy, dragging beat on “Brave New World.”

Greta Van Fleet shows a prowess toward rock of the past that gives the group an outlet to make it a household name. “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” is an attractive album full of both old sounds and new that tenured fans of rock and newcomers will find exciting. 

To step outward, it’s imperative that Greta Van Fleet finds a total voice of its own, independent of emulation or imitation. “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” is truly an anthem, only now it's time for Greta Van Fleet to teach a new discourse rather than preach.

Brian Evans is the senior arts editor and can be reached at Brian.Evans@ubspectrum.com and @BrianEvansSpec

BRIAN EVANS


Brian Evans is a senior English major and The Spectrum's senior arts editor.