What is Classic Rock? Is it restricted to a particular era? Is this guitar-driven musical style one that, ultimately, they “ain’t makin’ any more,” meaning we’re stuck re-listening to musicians that broke up (Led Zeppelin, The Beatles), died (Jim Morrison, Janice Joplin) or peaked early (The Who, Deep Purple). What if you’ve worn out all your old vinyl? What if you’re searching for new material that’s not archival and rediscovered? What’s a hungry Classic Rock fan to do?
Enter Greta Van Fleet, a relatively new band from Frankenmuth, Michigan whose 2012 single “Highway Tune” (from their debut EP Black Smoke Rising secured the top spot on Billboard’s US Mainstream Rock and Active Rock charts for four consecutive weeks.
If you haven’t heard the song or the band yet, queue up Black Smoke Rising and you’ll have to admit this sure sounds like Classic Rock. From the distorted guitar to the Robert Plant vocal interjections, these guys are sonically the real deal, and frankly, they’re just getting started. The band is a family affair with the three Kizka brothers — vocalist Josh, guitarist Jake, and bassist Sam — all supported by Danny Wagner on drums. (Former percussionist Kyle Hauck left the band some time ago.) And together, they’ve been hailed as “Led Zeppelin for Generation Z.”
That’s quite a claim considering that Black Smoke Rising only contained two songs, the aforementioned “Highway Tune” and “Safari Song.” Yet the latter, what with Danny Wagner’s mic’d snares and solid kick patterns, along with Josh Kizka’s wailing, is so Zeppelinesque, you might think you were hearing a tribute band, albeit one with serious chops. Even the straightforward blues riffs smack of Jimmy Page-isms. Until recently, for earlier evidence, you had to do some serious digging since the group’s eight other previously-released tunes weren’t easily accessible: “Standing On” was used for a local Detroit Chevy ad but who wants to watch that over and over?
Thankfully, in 2017, Greta Van Fleet released its first fully-loaded LP: From the Fires which included six new songs, notably: “Edge of Darkness” which could’ve been another AC/DC release with its plodding power-chords and rhythmic bass patterns; “Flower Power” recalling classic Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” and maybe the latter parts of “Stairway to Heaven” with a sprinkling of rock organ accompaniment; “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a Sam Cooke cover; and “Meet on the Edge,” a power-ballad version of vintage Fairport Convention. (I can easily picture a packed stadium slowly swaying while waving their iPhone lighter app to the chorus of this last one.)
Even better: the band has just officially released its newest album Anthem of the Peaceful Army, after sneaking four of the songs earlier this year on iTunes. Of those, “When the Curtain Fails” has an immediately catchy-driven guitar hook with a punchy rhythm underscoring its an ominous warning to an aging female rock star: “Walk the hollow halls babe, once a valley doll, now you’re not at all,” while “Lover, Leaver” combines the classic Zeppelin technique of bass over distorted guitar and pentatonic walk downs then throws in some echoed background vocals.
Interestingly, the bandmates have admitted that their individual musical tastes are not Classic Rock but cite instead such influences as world music and jazz. Lead guitarist Jake Kizka confessed that he did study Jimmy Page. Then again, what serious rock guitarist hasn’t? If Greta Van Fleet continues to take the best of the Zeppelin without becoming a knock-off, then maybe Classic Rock is still alive and well in the new millennium.
Photo Credit: Josh Kiszka of Greta Van Fleet performs onstage during the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival Daytime Stage at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on September 22, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)