If you were around in the early 70’s, this EP will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. After listening to all four tracks on Greta Van Fleet’s Black Smoke Rising, you’d swear on the proverbial stack of Bibles that this is a collection of Led Zeppelin songs that were buried in a vault for four decades and only recently uncovered. If you weren’t around during that time frame, well, this is what the mighty Zep were like in their prime.
Guitarist Jake Kiszka’s opening guitar riffs to the first tune Highway Song, followed by his twin brother Josh wailing “Woah yeah!” practically scream Page and Plant. Not only is Kiszka’s vocal tone a dead ringer for Plant, his inflections are amazingly, eerily similar. Move to the second track, Safari Song. The heavy hitting, machine gun drum riffs in the intro are the ghost of John Bonham, channeled through Greta Van Fleet drummer Danny Wagner.
The third song is entitled Flower Power, and features the keyboard playing of bassist/keyboard player Sam Kiszka. (Continuing the comparisons, John Paul Jones also doubled on bass and keys for Led Zep). The keyboard’s slow, wistful fade into silence on the outro of this song is very reminiscent of Zeppelin’s Thank You.
The fourth and final song on the EP is the title track, and could possibly be considered the showpiece track of the album. Kiszka really shows off his vocal range on this track, dramatically clawing towards the upper registers, with the result sounding almost like a duet between Robert Plant and Nancy Wilson of Heart.
Sam Kiszka said in an interview with Screamer that, although they are aware of the Zeppelin comparisons, they were influenced by many 60’s bands, and try not to focus too hard on the Led Zep comparison because they don’t want to be seen as a tribute or cover band. Fair enough. That said, the most amazing musicianship is nothing without great songs, and the four on Black Smoke Rising stand on their own merit. ”Instant classics” is a bold statement when describing songs by a new band, but with this debut, Greta Van Fleet has thrown the gauntlet down.