Greta Van Fleet

The meteoric rise of Greta Van Fleet has not been over-exaggerated. Most bands would give their right arms for the attention that they garnered since they stormed onto the music scene in April of 2017, having introduced themselves with the Black Smoke Rising EP. The Led Zeppelin comparisons, the snarky takes on the band’s style choices, all coincided with the band’s ability to take it all in stride, and their perseverance led to them delivering their most cohesive and best album to date with Starcatcher. While I felt that The Battle At Garden’s Gate was a bit of a mixed bag of quality tunes and bloated song structures, the 2023 version of this band has my undivided attention. The latest LP was produced by veteran hitmaker and Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell), and he does a tremendous job of accentuating the best parts of this artist. Through Cobb’s attention to detail, he gets the best performance out of each musician on these ten songs brimming with purpose and reigniting the fire in this ultra-talented young band. Guitarist Jake Kiszka shared, “We didn’t really have to force or be intense about writing, because everything that happened was very instinctual. If anything, the record is our perspective, and sums up where we are as a group and individually as musicians.” Through this process of sticking to their musical instincts and getting back to the basics of early days of the band, Greta Van Fleet are creating their own lane and driving themselves down the highway of rock & roll immortality.

Starcatcher opens with the sound of an organ on “Fate of the Faithful” before the rest of the band comes into the mix to re-introduce themselves to the world. The restraint shown on the vocal wails by Josh Kiszka are worth mentioning here, since they seem to be more purposeful in this latest version of the band. Through Cobb’s direction, Josh is able to “pick his spots” of when it makes sense in the song to be louder, calmer, or somewhere in between. By finding the sweet spot on the vocals, Greta Van Fleet appear to be more in control of where they are taking their music.

”Waited All Your Life” follows the interesting opener with some great storytelling in the verses that further showcase the band’s improvement in their songwriting. The drumming by Danny Wagner is as purposeful, as it is on point, as he’s fully aware of when it makes sense for a drum fill or to occupy the void with a break in the percussion. Bassist Sam Kiszka is in sync with Wagner throughout songs like this, and while he has his moments later on in more energetic songs, it’s definitely worth commending his approach here.

One of the first songs to be released on the record is the single, “The Falling Sky,” a track that sounds like a logical progression to the material covered on their sophomore album. Josh opens with, “I’ve been handed a quite demanding / And hardly standing lie to tell / Life is sorted and never thwarted / It’s just supported by being well,” before wailing in the chorus with some “whoa-ohs” and sounding clear enough to decipher the lyric of “Holding Up The Falling Sky.” Other early songs like “Sacred The Thread” sound inspired by the Blues records the brothers all grew up listening to, and yet it’s a refreshing take on the genre with its cool, echoing drum beat, and dreamy vocals. The pre-chorus features the great lyrics of, “I’ve seen it in the stars /
To dress up a wound, heal a scar,” that have come a long way since the early days of the band.

The brief rockabilly guitar rock bliss of “Runway Blues” ends way too soon, as it sounds like the band were having a blast and a half recording and rocking out to it. These fun little moments never distract from the quality of music that comes pouring out of the speakers. “The Indigo Streak” falls into some of the old habits of Greta Van Fleet with more somber verses, paired with a wailing chorus, and it’s the only song that I thought I could do without.

”Frozen Light” puts the band back on the right path, fortunately, and showcases the great guitar skills from Jake, who remains the MVP of the group. Jake Kiszka is able to tell a story with just his guitar playing ability, but Josh does a remarkable job of keeping up with the pace and growing as a vocalist as well. “The Archer” reminded me a bit of classic rock by The Who, paired with Aerosmith, with its picturesque guitar riffing mixed well with the poise of each musician to pick their spots and be memorable with them.

Greta Van Fleet saves their best songs for last, with the penultimate song “Meeting The Master” being my favorite track that the band has written to date. Josh’s vocals are truly breathtaking on the opening verse of, “What a day to meet the master / I’ve been waiting for so long / Final day to meet the master / It’s my time to go home,” that make it a very exciting time to be a music writer. The song never rushes its crescendo, and by the time that drummer Danny Wagner starts to really get going, its quite a feeling to be lost in that wall of sound that the band pushes forth. It’s the best version of themselves that they have put to tape, and while I always knew that they had the talent to figure this out, it’s nice to be validated.

”Farewell For Now” ends up feeling more like a victory lap, since the aforementioned song is really difficult to top with its sweeping instrumentation, backing orchestra, and just gorgeous production. Greta Van Fleet treat this as a bit of an “encore” moment in the set, and it’s quite alright for them to pull back the curtain a tad and show off their immense talent. Bands like Greta Van Fleet don’t come around as often as one might think, and Starcatcher proves that point in one of the more seamless rock & roll records of this decade.