Can Greta Van Fleet Revive Rock?

Black Smoke Rising is full of 70’s influences, with catchy, heart-pounding guitar riffs, organ/keyboard, and high-ranged powerhouse vocals. This isn’t to say there’s nothing original — the band has their own sound, mixing old blues, soul, and rock music together.

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Four-man rock group Greta Van Fleet released their EP Black Smoke Risingback in April of this year, and needless to say — I haven’t felt this giddy over an album since I first listened to Zeppelin IV as a kid. With thrashing guitar riffs and Josh Kiszka’s uncanny similarity to Robert Plant, their debut will be difficult to follow up.

Greta Van Fleet is composed of brothers Josh Kiszka (vocals), Jake Kiszka (guitar), Sam Kiszka (bass and keyboard), and best friend Danny Wagner (drums).

Black Smoke Rising is full of 70’s influences, with catchy, heart-pounding guitar riffs, organ/keyboard, and high-ranged powerhouse vocals. This isn’t to say there’s nothing original — the band has their own sound, mixing old blues, soul, and rock music together. All of the members are self-taught, using only “real” instruments to play together.

Drummer Danny Wagner had this to say about their musical style and ideas:

“We all have our own influences, and it’s an eclectic mix, but the core influences we all share are blues, rock and roll, classic 60s and 70s teenage hippie angst. That’s where our style comes from. Nowadays, there aren’t a lot of songs that have real drums in them, so we learned our instruments from the legends of that classic era.” — Wagner, Prelude Press

Black Smoke Rising only has four songs, leaving me craving more. “Highway Tune” and “Black Smoke Rising” are by far the standouts on this album, but that doesn’t mean the other tracks aren’t any good.

“Safari Song” is fast-paced, and Jake Kiszka’s hard-hitting guitar pairs well with Wagner pounding on drums. “Flower Power” slows things down, organ and acoustic guitar blending well together, building up to climax with screeching vocals from Josh Kiszka.

“Highway Tune,” the band’s hit song, left my jaw on the ground when I first pressed play. The driving guitar keeps the whole song together and allows Josh Kiszka to embody Robert Plant in his own way.

“He was a definite influence. We all appreciate Zeppelin and are grateful for what they did. That’s the way I can get the most power out of my voice.” — Josh Kiszka on Robert Plant, Billboard.com

This is a teenage angst, grit-filled song about fast cars and women that pumps energy through your headphones.

“No stopping on the highway girl
Because I want to burn my gas
There’s one girl that I know I’m never gonna pass
She is my special, She is my special
She is my midnight, midnight yeah” — Highway Tune

On the other hand, “Black Smoke Rising” is entirely different. According to Prelude Press, “Black Smoke Rising” was recorded two-and-a-half to three years after “Highway Tune,” allowing the band to mature their sound and solidify their style. This is immediately recognized with the more laid-back guitar, harmonious background vocals, and iconic sing-along chorus. Josh Kiszka’s vocals soar and sound effortless as he hits Mercury-ranged notes.

Also, the lyrics to “Black Smoke Rising” can be interpreted to represent a rebirth of arena rock:

And the black smoke rises
From the fires we’ve been told
It’s the new age crisis
And we will stand up in the cold
Stand up in the cold

We are “standing up to the cold” and welcoming back a treasured era of music. Rock needs a revolution — this is it. No longer will 70’s hippies listen to AC/DC and Aerosmith and wonder why “music isn’t as good in this generation.”

I’m predicting it now — Greta Van Fleet will be the next big thing. Their music proves that rock isn’t dead, and will attract fans of all ages and demographics. Plenty of others have already jumped on board, making them viral on YouTube, and selling out their first tour. With all members only ages 18–21 years old, they will undoubtedly draw more attention with upcoming music and spark the “new classic rock” movement.

Welcome back, classic rock. You’ve been missed.

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