Greta Van Fleet gives hard rock howl on ‘Anthem Of The Peaceful Army’

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Grade: 4.5/5.0

Six years since its forming, Greta Van Fleet is finally breaking the hard rock scene with debut full-length album Anthem Of The Peaceful Army. Its first two EPs were released last year, but this 11-song compilation contains a deeper look into the hard Americana rock base of the group.

Made up of vocalist Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka, bassist Sam Kiszka and drummer Danny Wagner, this band is a solid fit for those who grew up listening to bands such as Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Heart or any of the other vinyl superstars.

A fairytale-esque instrumental melody starts the album off, bringing a folky tone with it in “Age of Man.” The song gradually transitions into the classic-rock sound typical of the Michigan natives. Josh’s vocals hold the high-pitched essence of old-school metal frontmen, mixing the right amount of drama with ballad-esque belting.

“The Cold Wind” takes listeners even further into the fusion world of blues and rock ‘n’ roll. Many of Josh’s vocals imitate the sounds of a harmonica during the instrumental breaks — his powerhouse vocal runs break through the solid guitar solos throughout the album. The emotive guitar and strong bass also bring the blues influence into the string sections of the song.

Reinforcing the importance of the bass in any rock song, this record holds one of the best bass performances of any album released lately. This is all thanks to Sam, who follows much of the lead melody with his fast hits and bold slides.

The album takes a slower turn with “Watching Over.” The forceful driving of Josh’s voice is accentuated with a subtle vocal chorus in the background, which builds into a more classic, soft metal howl. Many of the lyrics in the song point to one who watches over but is never seen, making references to sin and our “demise.” This could come together for a religious allusion, but it is left up for interpretation as no clear religious connection is made.

“You’re The One” brings back the folk sound of the album, with brighter guitar riffs and clean keyboard sounds fixed between brassy guitar tones. The chorus features a rustic vocal sound, making the gritty, vintage core of the band appear through the modern, heavy rock sound typical of the rest of the album.

Josh’s vocals get wavy on “The New Day,” his voice bouncing back and forth throughout the verses in a grainy vibrato. This song has a pleasantly positive message, talking about growing up and blooming into the metaphorical “new day,” or phase, of life. The instrumentals of the song put listeners into a hopeful, sunshiny mood among upbeat riffs and raw acoustic guitar melodies.

On “Brave New World,” Jake tells stories with traveling guitar lines and distorted power chords. The song drips with dystopian scenes of acid rain and smoggy skies, painting a picture of chaos for listeners. This may have some connection to the classic science fiction novel of the same title by Aldous Huxley, which is also set in a dark, accosting society.

The lyrics on “Anthem” profess some of the most unarguably Woodstock sentiments released in a while. With lines such as “Where is the music? / A tune to free the soul / A simple lyric, to unite us all” and “Stay and open up your own mind,” the wavy, psychedelic harmonies come together to contrast the more metal-influenced tracks on the album.

This genre of blues-soul-rock may not be as popular as it was in the late 20th century, but Greta Van Fleet is making sure the genre does not disappear from the Spotify playlists of new-age rock purists. Anthem Of The Peaceful Army can be easily characterized as something rock lovers young and old can get behind.

Skylar De Paul covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.