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Back to basics: Greta Van Fleet’s “Starcatcher” review


Artist: Greta Van Fleet

Label: Lava Records, Republic Records

Producer: Dave Cobb

Release Date: July 20, 2023

Rating: 3.5/5

In an age where most classic rock stars are making headlines for all the wrong reasons, Michigan-based rock band Greta Van Fleet is known for keeping the music alive. 

Although some have criticized the group for mimicking the sound of other popular bands, many have praised the band of brothers for introducing decades of music to a new era of listeners.

On July 20, Greta Van Fleet released their third studio album, “Starcatcher”. In a press release, bassist Sam Kiszka described the album as, “going back to our roots while moving forward at the same time.” With an already-impressive catalog and distinguished style, where does Starcatcher stand among the band’s discography?

If you’re unfamiliar with the band’s works, you’re more likely to be familiar with their constant comparison to Led Zeppelin. It’s a challenge to find an article that fails to mention the similarities between Robert Plant’s falsetto and that of GVF frontman Josh Kiszka. An especially scathing Rolling Stone article proclaims that, “It’s simply impossible to listen to Starcatcher and…not think you’ve stumbled upon a vault of outtakes from Led Zeppelin and some of their peers.” This point is doubled down upon when their instrumentation and lyrical style are taken into consideration. 

Yes, Greta Van Fleet does sound like Led Zeppelin. But is that such a tragedy?

As long as music is being made, artists are going to imitate other artists. Some call it inspiration, others call it stealing. The members of Zeppelin themselves have been sued at least five times for ripping off others’ music, which is pretty gruesome in comparison to GVF’s clean track record. Furthermore, the talent that Kiszka and Plant possess only comes around once in a generation, so why fix what isn’t broken?

This comparison has accompanied most of the reception for GVF’s releases, and the new release is no exception. Yet with time, the band has further developed their sound by adding in prog rock and psychedelic elements. The release could be considered a continuation of its predecessor, “The Battle at Garden’s Gate”.“Starcatcher”, which has debuted at the top of multiple Billboard charts, documents one’s journey to the afterlife (perhaps the journey of a “wounded warrior” after a great battle?). Within the album’s 43-minute run time, the band gradually builds upon its tracks to a heavenly conclusion.

The album opens with praise: “Hail, the God song! / All trill to the tune devout reprise!”. Greta Van Fleet has touched upon ideas of heaven and death, but this may be the first time the group has name-dropped God. The song describes devout believers, kneeling in prayer as they recount their courageous efforts in battle. The line “A noisy device to take the toll” could allude to the bells at a funeral service, alerting listeners that someone of importance has passed on. Where others see death as the end, “Starcatcher” reframes dying as the great beginning.

Guitarist Jake Kiszka shines on this otherwise darker track. He provides a heavy-hitting solo that proves that he is one of the greatest guitarists of this generation. Twin brother Josh lays down solid vocals, quickly demonstrating his vocal progression over the span of just a few years. 

An electrifying guitar drives the album forward with “The Falling Sky”. Greta Van Fleet are at their most radiant on tracks that require high energy. As put by Jake Kiszka, the song describes, “An unwavering warrior carrying on the endless, eternal, and impossible battle for salvation.” These words, paired with Josh Kiszka’s signature wail, make for a fiery and fierce hit.

“Sacred the Thread” is a tribute to the sparkling jumpsuits which have come to be associated with the vocalist. Josh Kiszka compares the light cascading off of his sequined outfits to the glow of shimmering stars. He refers to his threads as “freedom sewn”, which is likely a reflection of his experience as an LGBTQ+ individual. This past June, Kiszka revealed that he was gay, and has been in a same-sex relationship for over eight years. The clothing that Kiszka dawns on stage is a means of self-expression, which can feel liberating and powerful when closely connected to identity. Though this track has been under scrutiny for its similarity to Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks”, with context, the track is a standout within the album’s lineup.

“Runway Blues” is the band’s shortest song, clocking in at only one minute and 17 seconds. What the song lacks in length it makes up for in power, making for a fast track reminiscent of ’70s glam rock bands. The track is followed by “The Indigo Streak”. The song describes a painter-turned-prophet whose visions are depicted in their artwork. The wildly abstract lyrics are coupled with a magnetic drum line from Daniel Wagner, making for one of the best tracks on “Starcatcher”.

“The Archer”, which describes the lonesome journey of a warrior without his bride, is another standout. This is the album’s most epic track, and it arguably rivals tracks like “The Weight of Dreams” in its grandeur. 

The final tracks conclude the hero’s journey as they reach the great beyond. “Meeting the Master” is soft and sweet, as Josh Kiszka laments the peace he feels in the hands of the Maker. The track explodes into “Farewell for Now”, which doubles as a message to Greta Van Fleet’s dedicated fans. Kiszka sings, “And I wish we all could stay…And it means the world to play / But I bid you farewell”. It’s obvious that the group appreciates those who listen to their music and travel for their shows. From casual listeners to the most loyal concertgoers, the band pays respect to them all.

Overall, “Starcatcher” pushes Greta Van Fleet’s thematic exploration while maintaining their signature sound. It sits well within their discography and verifies a bright, successful future for the group.

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About the Contributor
Grace Doyle
Grace Doyle, Associate Producer: #THAT
Grace Doyle is a senior 3+1 film, television, and media arts major from Dedham, Massachusetts. She works as production assistant on campus and has interned with 7News WHDH-TV and Tuff Gong Worldwide. She is an Associate Producer on #THAT and has previously served as a Music and Television Beat Reporter for Q30TV.

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