Written Before Listen
Greta Van Fleet are an American rock outfit known to “bring back the classic rock sound”. I have never heard a GVF album but I do know their hit song “Highway Tune”. Do I like the song? Nah. I honestly think its a little too derivative and you'll know what I mean once you hear it. I do give them a pass due to the fact that they just recently formed and that they blew up too quick. With that being said, I hope GVF find their own sound on ‘The Battle At Gardens Gate’.
If you know Greta Van Fleet or know about them, you know exactly what name pops in your head. Led Zeppelin. On their biggest hit, the lead singer has very similar wails and moans to Robert Plant. The guitar riff is heavily inspired by Jimmy Page and the drummer sounds like Bonham too. On this record, the Zeppelin influences still apply but less so. The opening track “Heat Above” reminds me of something that would appear on ‘Houses Of The Holy’. The opening riff of “Broken Bells” sounds a lot like the opening riff to “Stairway To Heaven”. It also doesnt help that the singer still sounds like Robert Plant here either. The riff of “Built By Nations” automatically gave me “Whole Lotta Love” vibes but maybe thats just the background knowledge talking. Luckily the influences don’t just target on Led Zeppelin. The track “My Way Soon” low-key sounds like something The Who would do. There are also a lot of tracks where the vocalist low-key sounds a lot like Geddy Lee from Rush. Then there is also the intro of “Tears Of Rain” that kind of remind me of The Eagles’ “Hotel California”. One other influence that I didnt really hear until a couple listens in is the Pink Floyd influence from the instrumental palette. It honestly sounds like something they would do during their Abbey Road Studio days. As you can see, GVF are still derivative. Luckily It's not from on particular band this time.
The production on here is produced by the same producer who produced that Foo Fighters record a couple of months ago. Greg Kurstin. It seems to be very similar to the Foo Fighters when it comes to its subliminal intricacies. There are some subtle pop techniques with some occasional 808s and synthesizers buried in the mix. For a majority of the time, the album just sounds artificial and for a band like GVF, that's a not good rep. The guitars don’t pop, the bass isn’t crisp and the drums are soaked in reverb. The vocals are also upfront which shed light on arguably the worst part of the music (which I will get to). Overall, Despite the great production Greg Kurstin has done in the past, he isn’t having the best 2021.
Greta Van Fleet are no stranger to burying theirselves in an aesthetic. Their instrumentation is mainly stripped down to drums, bass and guitar. Despite that, Every once in a while you’ll get a hint of Organ or Mellotron and half of the tracks even have a string quartet. I honestly think the instrumentation is the best part of the entire album. The guitar work is nice, the bass is melodic and the drums despite not being anything outlandish do a good job. My gripes are mainly directed towards….
The vocals. God damn. I already mentioned how he takes a lot of cues from Robert Plant and Geddy Lee but I should also mention the way he emulates his vocals. His vocals are just very greasy and heady. His shrieks are no longer the wailing soars of Robert Plant but they instead sound like an asthmatic Steve Perry that just ate spicy jalapeño nachos. (No disrespect to Steve Perry though.) Luckily there are times where his vocals kind of work but the vocals are usually the make or break point for every single track.
So let me just say that the track “My Way Soon” is a low-key banger. I like the riff, I like the solo and despite the Itchy & Scratchy voice Josh pulls off here, it’s not a bad track. I should also mention the epic and anthemic “The Weight Of Dreams”. Not only the beginning sounds like a very adventurous classic rock track, but the outro guitar solo is easily the best part of the entire album and one of my favorite solos of the year. Other than those exceptions, the remaining tracks on the album just show Greta Van Fleet still sounding like Zeppelin. Even if they try their best not to.
Greta Van Fleet honestly exceeded my expectations. I thought I would think this would just be a rip-off but instead I got a record that wasn’t insanely terrible. I still disliked a lot of the vocal performance and production here though.