It is somewhat ironic that Jake Kiszika, guitarist for Michigan-based hard blues/rock quartet Greta Van Fleet, uses a Gibson SG as his primary instrument. The SG can safely be considered the younger brother of the Gibson Les Paul, which Jimmy Page expertly wielded during much of his reign in Led Zeppelin, the band that took hard blues and turned it into an art form seldom, if ever, equaled. Greta Van Fleet, whose oldest members were born 16 years after Led Zeppelin’s final album of new music was released, is with no disrespect to either band clearly Led Zeppelin’s musical offspring, wearing its primary musical influence plainly on its sleeve without apology. Fortunately for it, as amply demonstrated on its new album “Starcatcher,” it has become more than sufficiently accomplished to where the unmistakable threads of the might Zeppelin woven through its music now serve as a compliment rather than a clone.
While Jake Kiszika plays a solid guitar, the band’s focus is his fraternal twin Josh on lead vocal. Josh Kiszika boasts an impressive range, belting out ultra-high notes with abandon and, at times, sounding more like Robert Plant without overtly copying him than Robert Plant in his prime. Younger brother Sam Kiszika handles bass and keyboard duties well, while the only non-related member, drummer Danny Wagner, is solid without being intrusive. Despite their youth, Greta Van Fleet is a tight and tidy ensemble.
None of this would matter without material worthy of repeated listening, and “Starcatcher” is a collection of quality tunes. The first track made available, “Meeting the Master,” reveals the band in full sword-and-sorcery roleplaying glory.
Musically, the band has advanced since “Highway Song” without straying far from its roots. Although the new album lacks a standout song, it refreshingly lacks any moments giving reasonable cause for skipping ahead to the next track. There is one moment of unintentional frustration, as “Runway Blues” is a full-throated, joyous, speedy rockin’ romp that regrettably ends far too quickly.
Lyrically, one does wonder if the band is trying too hard. Consider this excerpt from the album’s first song, “Fate of The Faithful.”
Hail, the God song
All trill to the tune, devout reprise
Hail, the eon
We knelt on this slab, the blessed people
We fought for the fable, ah
But instead, we burn
And in the end of time, oh
Left an empty urn
Um … okay then.
Back in the day — okay, way back, as in the 1970s — bands could and often did use the day’s few media channels to create images of, and for, themselves. Led Zeppelin worked this to full effect. In those pre-Internet days, limited interviews and press releases were workable tools with which it was possible to carve out a mythology unchallenged by shared knowledge. Today’s artists have no such luxury, with every word and move scrutinized while being plastered across social media. Greta Van Fleet knows this. There is no other path forward aside from entertainment. Thus, it focuses on entertaining its audience. Is Greta Van Fleet the next Led Zeppelin? No. But it is keeping heavy blues alive, bringing it to a new audience with no knowledge of Led Zeppelin save the occasional t-shirt bought at a pop culture kitsch shop. “Starcatcher” is an enjoyable listen, even for old fogies like me who remember the original artist.