Review: Greta Van Fleet — Anthem of the Peaceful Army

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 at 6:07 PM
Review: Greta Van Fleet — Anthem of the Peaceful Army by Ben McCullough

★★

Greta Van Fleet erupted onto the forefront of radio rock n roll in 2017, and since then have been selling out venues and appearing on late night talk shows. Three brothers from small town Michigan account for the positions of bass, lead guitar, and vocals. The group is signed with Republic Records, the same label that has signed pop stars such as Ariana Grande and Post Malone, along with rock legends ZZ Top and Pearl Jam.

 I was not really a fan of their first two EPs, nor did I thoroughly listen to anything other than what I had heard on the radio. I didn't give them much of my time at all considering their music lacked the power I sought after in good ol rock n roll.

 Despite my lack of interest, their presence in the music world intrigued me enough to check out their live performances. Surprisingly, I was very impressed by their ability to perform their music, keeping their jams tight and on point. Guitarist Jake Kiszka can really smack the hell out of his instrument, radiating the energy I was really hoping to hear from them. This gave me hope.

 The idea of young guys, the majority of them being brothers, coming together to create art was also inspiring. They can really put on a live show and some of their radio hits were enjoyable. This was enough to get me somewhat excited about their debut full length album, “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army,” which hit the shelves October 19th.

 Sadly, front to back, this album couldn't keep my interest for more than a 30 seconds at a time, with the exception of only several instances. Here and there a lead or a bass groove would catch my attention and I’d forget about how crummy the other songs on the album sounded to me. I just didn’t find myself thinking “ok I actually really dig this.”

 The first track on the album titled, “Age Of Man,” is 6 minutes long but drags on to what feels like twice the actual length. At about 2 minutes in I was impatiently tapping my fingers ready to skip to the next song. The basic song structure adds to its overt repetitiveness. The use of keyboard is far from anything extraordinary or impressive, adding no additional depth to the song.

 The second track opens with a riff that sounds like something a guitarist in a blues/rock cover band would randomly bang out while warming up before a set.

 The hit radio single “When The Curtain Falls” opens with a riff that sounds strikingly similar to the one that the previous song opens with. The chorus is actually kinda catchy and the rhythm of the bass helped make it one of the two tracks on the album that I enjoy. The song concludes with a killer guitar solo that leads back into the chorus, where the guitar continues by busting out short flares of notes.

I am unable to tell exactly what the hell vocalist Josh Kiszka is singing about. Not only due to his howling high pitched vocals, but because I get no deeper meaning behind his words. Maybe I’m just not listening hard enough, or maybe there isn’t anything more than what's on the surface. The words are of some importance, but they are nowhere close to captivating. 

 I love the bright, warm tones of an acoustic guitar, so for the band to make use of them on the two worst tracks, “You’re The One” and “Anthem,” was to me, as big of a sin that they could commit; This put the nail in the coffin.

 “You’re The One” is a lame sappy attempt at a love song. If this song isn't just a call to the band’s female fans, and actually about someone specific, I’d hope they feel far from woo’d. They make use of the nouns “Babe,” “Girl,” and “Darling” returning to the chorus to say “You’re the one I want, you’re the one I need.” The same chord progression is used the entire song, not changing even once, adding to the songs mundane sluggish feel.

“Anthem,” takes the same dull approach as “You’re The One.” Four minute of the same three chords played over and over. I was left jaw dropped asking “Are you freaking serious?” Ironically the lyrics ask “Where is the music? A tune to free the soul.” 

The only track that offers anything more than a catchy chorus is “Brave New World.” The song opens with a rich guitar lick creating a dark and serious atmosphere, which is adhered to the entire song. Josh Kiszka exhibits his vocal control and gives his best performance of the album. The use of synth actually adds something to the song, pushing the eerie backing of the overall tone. This is the type of rock n roll I wanted to hear in 2018. 

I was hoping these young guys would make use their testosterone along with the energy of youth to create something meaningful, something that you could tell came from the heart. Sadly “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army” sounds like the work of your conventional, mass produced, big name record label.

 I know these guys are good musicians, however in the studio their work comes off as lackadaisical and recycled. The melodies and riffs on “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army” lack authenticity, luckily the skilled young artists have plenty of time to refine their sound and to draw inspiration from their own hearts and soul. However, if they continue with their current style, they will just be another corny radio rock group.

Benjamin McCullough can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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