Greta Van Fleet

Republic, 2023

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Everyone’s favorite Zeppelin tribute band returned in 2023 with their third album, Starcatcher, but this time Greta Van Fleet has toned down their prog-rock aspirations a bit.

Make no mistake, this is still a blues-rock-indebted band, owing much to the sounds and styles of Rush, Led Zeppelin, and Rival Sons; the band also cites the Black Keys as an influence, which bleeds through on tracks like “The Indigo Streak.” But on Starcatcher, they go in two different directions: scaling back the music to 10 songs in 42 minutes, like a classic rock album; and pushing a sort of mystical/wizard/brotherhood vibe to the forefront of the lyrics. So you get songs about the “Fate Of The Faithful,” wizard robes in “Sacred The Thread,” “The Archer” and “Meeting the Master,” and all are coming to a Dungeons and Dragons shop near you soon!

Now, the people who scoff at that aren’t the sort of people who would be listening to GVF in the first place, so pay them no mind. If you liked what the band did before, you’ll like this too; if you were on the fence and wished they would tone down the Zep homages a bit, you’ll like this one more than the first two albums. Sure, there are wailing vocals, and plenty of riffs, and a few solos (one is a harmonica solo, even), and it’s a lot of fun, which you can’t say about most modern rock.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Frozen Light” is one of the better songs here, with loud but confident shifts in dynamics and Josh Kiszka doing a great recall of Geddy Lee’s early days. “Runway Blues” is a fast and loud classic rocker, far too short at only a minute and 17 seconds; it would have been awesome to hear the whole thing. “The Archer” mixes acoustic and electric into a heady stew that’s also an homage to the great outdoors; the band has said they draw inspiration from open spaces, and there is plenty of that in the thumb of Michigan, where these guys are from (about an hour from my home, actually).

“Meeting The Master” was the first single, chosen, I suspect, because of its acoustic sound and restrained vocals, sounding like little else GVF has done before. It has the same vibe as the rest of the disc but takes its time getting there, slowly building up for almost three minutes before exploding into the second part of the song, which climaxes with a guitar solo. Makes you miss when this used to be normal in rock music, instead of a rare (and derided as “retro”) occurrence.

See, the fact that GVF sounds like their influences doesn’t bother me. All rock bands, to some extent, sound like their influences, and after seven decades there’s only so much you can do with a guitar/drums/bass sound that doesn’t immediately make one think of other bands. The trick is to transcend those influences, to use what you know and create something your own. GVF is so close to doing that, closer on Starcatcher than they’ve ever been, but still not quite there. There’s too little variation in the singing and the dynamics, more than there has been on the last two albums, but less than there needs to be to make this feel like a complete work. Plus, shortening the surging blast of “Runway Blues” to just over a minute is a crime.

The guys are young and I think a great album is on the horizon; this is merely a good one, and worth checking out if you’ve written these guys off already.

Rating: B

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