Album Review: Greta Van Fleet’s ‘From the Fires’ Goes Beyond Campfire Jams

 

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The idea for the title “From the Fires” came from the band members’ tradition of summer nights spent around a campfire sharing stories and music.

Hidden in the wilds of mainland Michigan, huddled around a campfire under a star filled sky, sat three brothers and a close friend destined to become the catalyst for the resurgence of rock n’ roll.

Twin brothers Jake and Josh Kiska, along with younger brother Sam Kiska and childhood friend Danny Wagner, under the moniker Greta Van Fleet, have taken the rock scene by storm worldwide. With their nostalgic and addicting blend of blues, folk and classic rock, Greta Van Fleet are ushering in a return to the golden era of rock and roll.

Back at the end of September, I had the immense privilege of interviewing Sam and Danny at the Sonic Boom music festival in Janesville, Wisconsin. If you haven’t read it yet, you can do so at ndsuspectrum.com.

With the release of their double EP “From The Fires,” which includes songs from their first EP and four new releases, Greta Van Fleet further evolve their musical mastery and introduce fans to other musical influences and styles while remaining true to their direction as a band.

“Safari Song”

The band’s double EP kicks off with one of my favorites off of their “Black Smoke Rising” EP, “Safari Song.”

With a vocalization that mimics the guitar riff, a sprinkling of southern rock-inspired guitar bars and a tempo that keeps on rocking, this song will either make you feel like the woman who spited Josh, or Josh pleading for her to see reason. Either way, you end up feeling pretty powerful when singing along.

“Edge of Darkness”

I was first introduced to this song while perusing YouTube for anything Greta Van Fleet related after becoming instantly hooked on their first EP.

The band has been playing this song at gigs for a while, along with another of their first songs yet to be officially recorded and released, “Lover Leaver Taker Believer.” The next time I experienced the power and drop dead cool of “Edge of Darkness” was at their Sonic Boom set before I interviewed Danny and Sam.

The mammoth riff hooks you first, but it is the heavy use of melodic bass that really hits you. Sam’s James Jamerson influence really shines in his technical skill and phrasing. Add in the feature of a wah-wah pedal on Jake’s Gibson SG at the breakdown, a drum feature and epic guitar solo to ramp up the song, before it fades out to Josh’s soft vocals to end an otherwise action-packed song.

“Flower Power”

You could call “Flower Power” the black sheep of Greta Van Fleet’s track list.

There is still no question that it is a GVF song, but it is by far the softest.

The jangling acoustic guitar gets its sound from a slightly loose bottom string. Adding in some picking, plentiful cymbals and softer vocalization, the song still brings in the electric guitar to amp up the track.

What really drives this song home is the melt away keyboard solo Sam shapes to end the song.

“A Change Is Gonna Come”

The millennial Michiganians prove their blues backbone and old souls with their cover of the Sam Cooke classic, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

The song sees an update with bright electric guitar and drum features at the end of each verse, as Josh manages to craft a vocalization that has the bite of his now famous wail while maintaining the overall emotions of the impactful original.

The addition of a choir backing at the breakdown and Sam on keys brings in the organ sound that really anchors the spiritual heart of the song, even with the reimagining.

“Highway Tune”

With the music video for first single “Highway Tune,” Greta Van Fleet burst onto the rock scene, eventually winning title of #1 mainstream rock single and over a million views.

From there as they say, “the rest is history.”

The perfect song for yelling along with on solo road trips, this song is literally indescribably cool. The high gain guitar, addictive beats of the drums and bass guitar and frontman Josh’s powerful wail make this song one you will never tire of hearing.

“Meet On The Ledge”

Josh’s storytelling ability and creative phrasing shine in this song as he takes you on a mythical journey with the flair and attitude of a Renaissance minstrel.

An addictive circular guitar riff is mirrored by the chorus as Josh reassures, “if you really need it, it all comes round again.”

A song which psychedelic breaks harken back to Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Mak’er,” the rest of the song focuses on harmonies pulling from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young mixed with a secret ingredient that makes it uniquely Greta Van Fleet.

“Talk On The Street”

Part of the new half of “From the Fires,” “Talk On The Street” showcases the band’s varied musical stylings still rooted in the golden era of rock n’ roll.

Introducing fans to a few new flavors not previously experienced on the first EP, this track introduces warm background harmonies to temper the cool blade of Josh’s voice as it cuts through verse after verse.

A slightly mellowed song in comparison to hard and heavy rockers like “Highway Tune,” this track still rocks steady but with less emphasis on explosive guitar. Jake’s solo at the end of the song however still proves his musical prowess goes far beyond his years.

“Black Smoke Rising”

This song will most likely remain my favorite for eternity.

There is just so much to love about the title track from the band’s first EP.

With its anthem rock-feel, lyrically calling for change, the chorus cries, “And the black smoke rises from the fires we’ve been told, it’s the new age crisis, and we will stand up in the cold.”

Instrumentally, this song features a lot of younger brother Sam’s bass ability. Sam’s playing adds a groove to the song beyond serving as solid backdrop for older brother Jake as his fingers deftly roam the fretboard, creating addictive riff after addictive riff.

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