Greta Van Fleet’s Fame Started With A Bang On Their EP From The Fires

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 9 mins read

These days, it seems like you can’t open up a Rock magazine or even venture to a Rock-leaning website without seeing mention of Classic Blues Rock revolutionaries Greta Van Fleet in one form or another, be it kind words of praise for bringing mainstream attention to the more anachronistic side of Rock’N’Roll music or seething hatred at the notion a band so young could achieve such ridiculous fame from the very first moment they played their music, splitting audiences straight down the middle in every regard. In a little under a year, these guys went from niche bar-band group with a flare for retro musicianship to literally the biggest name in Rock music today, though somehow the more famous they get the more hatred they receive, as if they were pulling Maroon 5 or Fall Out Boy levels of sellout-ery, some even going so far as to claim they ‘stole’ their sound from legendary rockers Led Zeppelin & are thus riding on the coattails of their esteem into the hearts of less-knowledgeable young listeners today; While these claims may certainly hold an air of truth, as the similarities between the two bands are close enough you’d think Van Fleet had simply become dislodged in time & ended up here, it doesn’t negate the fact that they’ve singlehandedly restored the passion & drive that was so sorely missing from today’s Rock scene & for that alone they deserve at least a little bit of recognition – Whatever your opinion of them may be, we can all agree they had to start somewhere & that somewhere was their debut EP Black Smoke Rising in 2017…or was it From The Fires that they released a mere 5 months later? Honestly, this uncertainty is perhaps the most perplexing attribute of the group’s sudden fast-track to widespread fame, as the circumstances of their initial ‘discovery’ go so many which-ways that it’s hard to lock down just what they had to do & who they happened to have connections with to score such a sweet deal in the end.

Driving On A Fast Track To Valhalla

The story of Greta Van Fleet & their beginnings is really the story of their most famous song, “Highway Tune,” a raunchy, hard-driving Blues Rock number with a decidedly vintage aesthetic permeating each & every note along its runtime, berating the listener with spectacularly grungy guitar riffs that rip through the air like a bat out of hell & phenomenal vocal prowess that immediately stands apart from modern offerings by being so unnervingly nasal & sensual, easily mistaken for a well-produced record straight out of the late-sixties – You see, they had actually released a couple songs back in 2013, dropped their original drummer, recorded a new Live EP a year later, got picked up by a Chevy Equinox ad campaign & subsequently erased all public record of the 8 songs they’d released previously, all before this tune – which at the time technically didn’t exist – suddenly featured in an episode of Showtime’s hit show Shameless months before they’d officially recorded a studio version of it for iTunes & even longer before they’d actually release their very first EP, making the timeline for “Highway Tune” one of the fastest in the industry from its supposed inception to being used on one of the most popular shows in America; Did they know someone who worked at Showtime? Was the song written specifically for the show but meant to appear like a serendipitous discovery by an extremely-gifted scouting agent? Or maybe, just maybe, they were simply lucky & found themselves in the right place at the right time? I guess what I’m trying to say is, money definitely exchanged hands somewhere, backroom deals were made & Greta Van Fleet miraculously found their way to the top of the charts before anyone even knew they were on the radar to begin with, the aforementioned tune’s inclusion on their double EP From The Fires – which added new songs to the previous Black Smoke Rising – cementing it as the true genesis of the band we know today – It’s wild to think that a single song managed to make living-icons of a band most people had never heard of before, but the peculiar nature of its inception & re-ception just goes to show how incredibly magical & oftentimes-frustrating the Rock music industry can be, which is half the reason older veteran rockers find such issue with Van Fleet seeing as they managed to bypass all the trials & tribulations their mentors were forced to endure for decades.

100% Pure Cocaine-Rock

History lesson aside, the real meat & potatoes of Greta Van Fleet’s miraculous album From The Fires is the absolutely stunning musicianship at hand from beginning to end, with each & every track presenting listeners with a raw Rock’N’Roll experience that this all the right spots while taking some creative liberties here or there, hitting the palate like a scoop of your favourite ice cream brand that you know & love very well but with a slight sprinkle of interesting toppings just to change up the vibe a bit – One of the songs which represents the band’s aesthetic beautifully is my personal favourite “Safari Song:” It verges on shitty Butt Rock with its straightforward percussion patterns & relatively cyclical chord structure, but what it lacks in variety it completely makes up for in attitude, hitting you with some exhilaratingly powerful energy from every instrument as the guitars wail away in unison with an off-kilter melody inundated by scratchy distortion, supported by the incredible high-register vocals of Josh Kiszka who somehow manages to channel the very essence of Psychedelic Rock god Robert Anthony Plant whilst injecting elements of his own effeminate charm that gives an even more sultry atmosphere to the whole ordeal; To be honest, when I first watched the music video for this track – which was also the first time I’d heard it – I though Kiszka actually was a woman, as his vocal register was so pristine & heady that he carried much of the same vocal character Janis Joplin & Grace Slick did back in the day, not to mention his bird-chested frame & more feminine features in comparison to his bandmate brothers seemed too confident & socially-affected to be your average male front-man these days, only serving to make his commanding performance that much more riveting to watch as the song went on – This energy isn’t wasted on a single song, though, as you’ll find similar expressions of sonic brilliance in tracks like “Talk On The Street” with it’s The Who-like punchiness & Wolfmother-esque drive or others such as the delightfully-groovy song of jubilance “Flower Power,” a much more coy number with a heart of gold that just wants you to link souls with another being in holy matrimony as you become consumed by the earth’s spirit or whatever the hell it is old hippies think happens when you fall in love, giving listeners a vast array of classically-leaning Rock compositions with a fresh coat of paint you can really bop your head to.

The Promise Of Sonic Splendor Ahead

Though things certainly took an unexpected turn as of Anthem Of The Peaceful Army’s release in 2018, with Greta Van Fleet adopting a much heavier theme of mysticism in both the lyrical narratives & instrumental arrangements, From The Fires itself was a truly inspirational record as it gave audiences the promise of a more vibrant Rock’N’Roll world in the near future, rekindling the flames of a fire long dried-out & preparing us for a brand new era of Rock splendor the likes of which we hadn’t seen in decades. The purity with which Van Fleet called upon techniques of the old-world & the passion with which they delivered each track drove those of us without a chip on our shoulder insane in the best of ways, reminding audiences that the relevance of your favoured genre to modern interests doesn’t matter at all so long as you’ve got the talent to deliver it in an aurally-pleasing manner; I mean, hell, they not only cover famed Soul & Gospel singer Sam Cook’s signature “A Change Is Gonna Come” but they do so with respect to the source material, keeping the general vibe of the original arrangement & maintaining its vintage Gospel choral energies which are of course the backbone of Rock’N’Roll music itself, showing they’ve not only got the talent to produce a good Rock song but are willing to put in the work to pass the flame from the old generations to the new with style – Naturally, much of this promise was squandered in the group’s follow-up album, giving credence to much of the complaints their incredibly-vocal detractors had thrown their way in years prior, but as its own stand-alone adventure I still think From The Fires is a solid piece of modern musicianship that deserves another listen if you’ve got the time to spare. If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’re already on-board with Greta Van Fleet or are at least open to the idea of coming at this record with an unbiased mind, but I guarantee that if you just allow the constant negativity surround them in mainstream media to flow right out of your mind, you’ll instantly find yourself discovering more artistic ingenuity in this album than you would’ve accepted before, making the world a little more positive & putting yet-another record into your extensive library to call upon in times of need – Then again, you could be even more enraged about them than you were before since I gave such a glowing review, so instead maybe just go listen to some Death Grips or Code Orange & head-bang your rage away, ‘cause I clearly don’t have the answers you want to hear.

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  • Greta Van Fleet