Stoned vs. Sober: Greta Van Fleet wastes their potential on “Anthem of the Peaceful Army”

Henry Netherland

Courtesy of iTunes.

Editor’s note: The activities portrayed in this article were done legally and in a safe environment.

Michigan rock quartet Greta Van Fleet has arrived with their debut album, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army.” The band continues riding the hype generated after the success of their two 2017 EPs.

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In an era where rock is steadily declining in popularity while rap takes its place, rock fans see the band as a glimmer of hope for the genre’s return to the limelight. What has garnered Greta Van Fleet so much attention is that they sound eerily similar to ‘70s rock gods Led Zeppelin. Even fans of the newer band will openly admit to the sonic similarities. In fact, it is often a selling point.

In past reviews, I have tried to examine a few songs individually both high and sober to give a glimpse of an album’s overall quality. For this album, I felt like explaining my conceptual issues with the group as a whole and saving the musical assessment for the stoned section. 

Sober listening

To be blunt, I do not see Greta Van Fleet being relevant for more than five years. I think what initially turned me off from the band was when Lava Records Executive Jason Flom boldly claimed in a Wall Street Journal article that the band would help bring back rock to its original ambiance of past decades.

“With their retro sound, youthful energy and good looks, Greta Van Fleet could appeal to three key demographics,” Flom said in the article. “Older ‘classic-rock Dads’ who tune into rock radio shows and attend classic-rock concerts, younger male fans curious about ‘60s and ‘70s rock, soul and funk; and young women who, in the past, have helped mainstream rock bands become pop stars.”

“Anthem of the Peaceful Army” can be found on Spotify or iTunes.

This is the most out of touch statement I have heard all year. A band writing music in the exact same style as Led Zeppelin will not bring rock back to its peak form, end of story. Music and art are inherently progressive, and while certain aspects of older styles may be repurposed for modern trends, styles and aesthetics will naturally change.

A common defense against criticism of the band is that they are kids making the music they want and letting them have their fun, a sentiment I completely agree with. However, it is true that to stay relevant in the music industry, it is essential to avoid morphing into one’s influences. If the group continues laying in the shadows of Led Zeppelin, at what point do they just become a glorified cover band?

One smoke session later…

F*ck everything I just said. This album’s amazing and Greta Van Fleet will live forever.

Only partially kidding, I can’t really deny the group’s raw talent. Lead vocalist Josh Kiszka has the vocal chops to match his influences. He excels during his performance of “Watching Over,” in which his vocal range spastically jumps everywhere on the verses. I also love the trippy reverb guitar solo in the middle.

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“You’re the One” is the first of two ballad cuts. I like the guitar layering as well as the overall chord progressions, however, the sing along chorus contains some of the album’s corniest lyrics. “The New Day” has some super optimistic lyrics with even brighter melodies. Kiszka soars over the bouncy acoustic instrumental.

The song I was the most conflicted on was “Anthem,” which was the other acoustic cut of the album. I think it’s Kiszka’s most awkward performance. However, I still enjoy the harmonious production and anthemic quality chorus.

The album:

Overall: 6/10

Best tracks: “The New Day,” “Watching Over,” “Anthem,”

Worst track: “You’re the One”

Overall, this album isn’t bad. I’ll admit that the band members are incredibly virtuosic given their ages. I also have to give credit to the production for being so explosive. With more tools at their disposal, Greta Van Fleet is clearly trying to add an extra level of grandeur to their already wild sound. Despite all of the surface-level appeals, though, the unoriginality is just too large to ignore.

Henry Netherland can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @NetherlandHenry.