From The Fires (EP)

Greta Van Fleet

Republic, 2017

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


After Led Zeppelin reunited for a magnificent one-off performance at the Ahmet Ertegun memorial concert in 2007, there was tremendous demand for a full reunion tour, which ultimately never happened. The guys in Greta Van Fleet appear to have observed this turn of events and said “Okay, fine; if you won’t do it, we will.”

Which is pure invention my part, of course; for one thing, these particular four guys would have been in elementary school at the time. And, while the above paragraph offers a fair description of the sound that emerges when you hit “play” on this eight-song EP—which inspired no less than Robert Plant himself to comment "they are Led Zeppelin I”—the guys insist they never set out to be soundalikes. It’s hard not to smile, though, when you see the Michigan quartet even managed to duplicate precisely Zep’s distinctive configuration: twin brothers Josh and Jake Kiszka sing and play guitar, respectively, while younger brother Sam doubles on bass and keyboards, and Danny Wagner hammers away behind the drum kit. Plus, there’s simply no denying that Greta Van Fleet’s sound—from the sky-scraping lead guitar to the bruising, grooving bass to the rolling-thunder drums and keening, passionate vocals—is a remarkably rich and detailed recreation of everything that made Led Zeppelin distinctive. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

From The Fires opens with the thundering “Safari Song,” which sounds like a lost outtake from Led Zeppelin II, right down to Jake’s ripping little between-line fills and the way Josh sings “mama,” before moving into the bluesier groove of “Edge Of Darkness,” featuring Jake’s dark, menacing licks atop brother Sam and Danny Wagner’s booming, deliberate foundation, as Josh wails over the top. When they follow this one-two punch with the solo mandolin that opens the more pastoral “Flower Power,” it’s hard for any Zep fan not to laugh… I mean, it’s exactly what they would do.

“Highway Tune”—which also appeared on the group’s original four-song EP Black Smoke Rising, is another highlight, big, dirty licks leading into a heavy groove, building to a furious, wordless chorus with more than a little “Immigrant Song” in its genes. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the group’s sound is the way they infuse these four songs with the same primal surge and push and pull that Zeppelin mastered.

Notable also is the fact that this eight-song EP features two covers, and neither is of a Zep tune. Instead, they give Sam Cooke’s soul epic “A Change Is Gonna Come” an injection that’s half gospel and half nitroglycerin, while Fairport Convention’s “Meet On The Ledge” receives a ringing, almost stately treatment. Both show great arranging chops and considerable maturity.

There’s a small but noticeable a drop-off in quality at the end. “Talk On The Street” feels like generic ’70s hard rock, complete with fat, straightforward riffs, bass dropouts between chorus and verse, and lead vocals belted more than sung. “Black Smoke Rising” is similarly underwhelming, a solid enough rocker that’s neither as complex nor as memorable as what preceded it.

From The Fires is a fairly quick listen at eight tracks and 33 minutes, but offers ample reason to look forward to Greta Van Fleet’s full-length debut, expected later this year. With the chance to build a fuller songbook and consider ways to continue expanding and evolving their admittedly familiar sound, this quartet appears poised to deliver a powerhouse debut album.

Rating: B+

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