Hammer of the gods.
Another excellent Zeppelin album that resides comfortably as one of the all time greatest albums in rock history. It is still proto prog not quite living up to essential to the genre but it is nevertheless a vital component of rock history. The album cover was a trippy psychedelic multi faceted art romp. As you spun the wheel the images changed and none of it made sense unless you were stoned. The super foursome were already legendary by the time this third release found its way into stores. I guess fans were wanting more killer riffs and blues heavy rock with acoustic moments and Plant’s blazing vocals. On this album Led Zeppelin certainly delivered all that and more.
The opener is brilliant proto metal with a driving riff and freak out Plant screams. The lyrics were always engrained in my consciousness and are unforgettable, focussing on the Nordic adventures of rampaging Vikings preparing for Valhalla as they release their souls into the void, well that was my take on it. The lyrical phrases were perfect for the song; "Come from the land of the ice and snow…….. hammer of the gods...... Valhalla I am coming…….. whispered tales of war, a howling come, the tides of warm, we are your overlords….. " Perhaps Manowar took a leaf out of this songbook as it encompasses the exact content of their 80s metal. Of course Zeppelin were way ahead of their time but the influence of this song is insurmountable. Immigrant Song would perhaps be my all time favourite Zeppelin and all this in a paltry 2 minutes and 25 seconds.
After this short sharp blast, Friends is quite a breath of fresh air. The focus on acoustics and dark orchestration is really unsettling. The middle Eastern modality was akin to what The Beatles were doing on their Sgt Pepper opus.
The boisterous guitars and Plant roaring are a feature of Celebration Day. The Zep were masters of slow moody blues and the stunning Since I've Been Loving You is mind bending. Page is a man possessed on guitar with mega string bends and sweeps, he literally makes his guitar cry. The emotion poured out is augmented by pulsating basslines and slow drum patters. That’s the way it is features more acoustic and horns to augment the melancholy flavour. Plant sounds reflective, rather like he is speaking to a lost generation; “all the fish that lay in dirty water dying, have they got you hypnotised, yesterday I saw you kissing tiny flowers, But all that lives is born to die, And so I say to you that nothing really matters, And all you do is stand and cry.”
Bron-Y-Aur Stomp is another fan favourite but I had to remind myself of what this sounded like as it was a less memorable track for me. It breezes along with manic folk slide acoustics on steel guitar and foot tapping percussion that sounds characteristically like a live festival, indeed it really is raw and sounds unfinished which is part of the whole illusion. It conjures up images of a traditional Welsh dance troupe out among the trees celebrating at a festival. A representation of hippy freedom. Hats off to Roy Harper is another raw Delta swamp bluesy thing that has dominant scratchy steel guitar with Page sounding Like he is playing with a beer bottle up and down the strings. Plant breezes in with the voice of power, “shake ‘em on down”, and his voice warbles processed and it may even represent a drug induced state. Obviously the band did entice the drug culture and this is the type of song they would revel in under the influence.
The album has a heavy reliance on acoustic and folkish nuances. It ventures into some parodic dark humour with songs such as Gallows Pole. This one reminds me of what Iron Maiden did on Hallowed Be Thy Name, "cos at 5 o'clock they take me to the Gallows Pole, the sands of time for me are running low." In comparison, Zeppelin are rather restrained but still must have had an impact on metal giants of the 80s. So here is the fourth 4 star album in a row for me. When will they reach masterpiece status as they are certainly worthy. The following fourth album put all things to rest.