'Houses Of The Holy' - Led Zeppelin (9/10)
Despite the seemingly lacking appreciation on this site for this album (at least compared to the other works of the band) I would have to say this is my favourite Led Zeppelin album of all time; even more so than 'Led Zeppelin IV.' It is the most progressive sounding, and in basically disowning their blues roots, the band went deeper into unexplored hard rock territory by adding some new influences to their melange, including Reggae.
The song lengths are definately starting to grow here, although there are still songs that fit the conventional 'four minute' ideal. Songs like 'The Song Remains The Same' and 'The Ocean' show considerable progressive influence as well.
In terms of flow, I don't know what people are complaining about. The opener (The Song Remains The Same) is energetic and frantic, before toning down for a really warm ballad (The Rain Song,) shifting slowly into the next song (with an acoustic opener) that fires into a pretty up tempo song ('Over The Hills And Far Away.') Next is the strange and abstract-rhythmic ('The Crunge') which could be considered prog if it wasn't for it's similarity to conventional groove music. Next is 'Dancing Days' which despite it's melodic hooks and upbeat speed, is one of the darkest-sounding tracks the band has ever recorded. To break this darkness and feeling of unease, the listener is granted 'D'Yer Maker' which is an incredibly happy song, despite it's heartbroken lyrics (an interesting contrast.) As the album sets out on it's final stretch, 'No Quarter' starts playing. While the fact that is a song that takes a long time to build up ended up causing me to mostly disregard this track when first listening to it, I've realized that it actually has a fantastic buildup to some of Led Zeppelin's best hard-rock and overdriven riffs.
The last song on the album is one of my favourites, and a perfect closer. 'The Ocean' has a memorable and rocking riff, with some intelligent lyrics sung by the ever-musically strong Robert Plant.
The guitar work on this album is without a doubt the band's most innovative. As with all progressive music, this shows the band exploring new sounds and tastes of new forms of musical expression. I love it, and along with 'Led Zeppelin IV,' this makes up the high point of one of the greatest bands of all time. Epic.