ALBUM REVIEW: Greta Van Fleet – Starcatcher

4.0 rating
Greta Van Fleet – Starcatcher

We will start with the boring bit. That same old repetitive narrative that gets dusted off and shovelled out any time Greta Van Fleet releases something new – ‘obsessed with the past’, ‘Led Zeppelin Lite’ and ‘just a tribute band’. It’s a critique reserved for those with no capability for original thought.

These people probably told you James Corden is funny, Nickelback is crap, and Avatar was one of the greatest movies of all time…yet you can’t even remember the main character’s name. Without question, Greta Van Fleet is one of the most polarising bands in rock music today.

The most bizarre stick people like to beat them with is the ‘sound like Zeppelin’ stick. I struggle to understand how this could be as stinging as suggested. Since when was sounding like one of the greatest bands of all time a bad thing? Don’t all bands take inspiration from those who came before? Surely, sounding similar to one of the most legendary bands of all time should be applauded? Anyway, with the boring bit addressed, let’s look closer at Starcatcher.

The album kicks off with ‘Fate of the Faithful’. It sets the tone and establishes clear differences between Starcatcher and its predecessor. Luring us in with some melodic-styled distorted piano, it’s not long before its calming allure is shattered for a stronger blues rock foundation. The song is slow in pace but powerful. Its full of the Jimmy-Page-style “big riff” sounds that Jake Kizska is fond of, but as we have come to expect from the band, frontman Josh Kiszka doesn’t take a step back vocally; he comes out swinging, standing at the forefront and blasting out his trademark wails.

The album then flows to “Waited All Your Life”, holding the pace at a slower but powerful tempo before we reach ‘The Falling Sky’, which takes the album up a notch with some faster-paced heavy blues rock riffs and Jake beginning to fall into a groove, using his vocals more like an additional instrument for the band, rather than just trying to deliver the message.

The effortless flow of the album is something that is a constant standout. It’s worth noting that they worked alongside Grammy award-winning producer Dave Cobb for this latest release. It feels much more stripped down than The Battle At Garden’s Gate and allows the instruments to blossom. To achieve their vision for Starcatcher, the band entered the legendary RCA Studios in downtown Nashville in early 2022 with Cobb. Bassist Sam Kiszka said, “The whole concept for Starcatcher, even before it had a name, was, “Let’s take it back to the beginning. Let’s capture that same energy.”

Slap bang in the middle of the album, we find ‘Runaway Blues’. It feels like an easter egg thrown in for fun. Sounding like someone had mistakenly left the system recording while the band had an improvised warm-up jamming session; it’s a fun flash that only lasts 77 seconds but leaves a lasting impression on the album’s overall makeup.

Later in the album, we find ‘The Archer’, beginning with a beautifully vibrant guitar riff; the drums then come thundering in with gut-trembling authority. On top, here are some of the best vocals from Josh Kiszka. He delivers captivating lyrics that take the listener onto another plain, driven home by immense vocal emotion, mountainous in scale – its songs like this that make you laugh with delight at how insane the vocal range is and how masterful Josh is at controlling it.

The band’s crowning moment on the album comes during ‘The Master’. If someone wants to find a song that encompasses this new evolution that Greta Van Fleet is going through, look no further. It’s a song that is equally felt as it is listened to. It’s full of beautifully arranged melodic motifs with a psychedelic prog rock underbelly that is sometimes skin-tingling. It’s a song that encourages each listener to invoke their interpretation. Josh is again at his best here with some amazing vocal vibrato technique, harmonising perfectly with the delicately rising swell of instruments that bring us to the climax. My only critique is that I wish this were the final song on the album. It’s an epic song that would have been the perfect knockout blow delivered by the band to anyone still on the fence.

When judging a collection of art like this, it’s always worth looking around first. When we look at the landscape of music today, we see that rock has primarily been overtaken in popularity by exciting innovations in hip-hop and R&B. The industry is putting more and more pressure on artists to converge on the common. In a world driven more than ever by trend culture, many artists are encouraged to take the safe route to a palatable sound, allowing them to maximise views, streams and radio time. With this in mind, there’s no surprise that we find rock music experiencing somewhat of an identity crisis.

A look at the charts will show its fall from grace. The current trend has shifted past it. This makes Greta Van Fleet and this album so deserving of appreciation. They have the courage to refuse the trend and stick to the style of music they feel passionate about. A broken clock is right twice a day, and so too are the Avatar-loving critiques we spoke about earlier.

Starcatcher is like Led Zeppelin but in all the right ways. Alongside this, the album is also a shoutout to Cream, The Doors, The Who and a host of other influences tucked away here that defined this genre. It’s an album that’s sure to delight the already established fan base but also lure more newcomers over, showing that this style of music is still alive and well.


Xsnoize Author
Niall Donnelly 16 Articles
Writer born and bred in Belfast. Self-diagnosed music obsessive and lover of the arts. Written for a few publications starting from my time in University, having always had an interest in music journalism, religiously reading magazines such as Q, Kerrang! and NME. Difficult to pick what my favourite genre would be as I have quite an eclectic taste. However given that guitar-driven music has always stood out to me and that most of this style finds its roots coming from the blues, it would probably be the stand out on my list. Some of my favourite albums of all time include Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’, Robert Johnson’s ‘Cross Road Blues’ and Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’.

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