LED ZEPPELIN — Houses Of The Holy

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LED ZEPPELIN - Houses Of The Holy cover
3.84 | 97 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 1973

Filed under Hard Rock


1. The Song Remains The Same (5:30)
2. The Rain Song (7:39)
3. Over The Hills And Far Away (4:50)
4. The Crunge (3:17)
5. Dancing Days (3:43)
6. D'yer Mak'er (4:22)
7. No Quarter (7:00)
8. The Ocean (4:31)

Total Time 40:54


- John Bonham / drums, backing vocals
- John Paul Jones / organ, keyboards, bass guitar, backing vocals
- Jimmy Page / guitars
- Robert Plant / vocals

About this release

Release date: March 28, 1973
Label: Atlantic Records

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This was never one of my favourite Led Zeppelin albums until very recently. I got into Zeppelin for their heavy metal influences and so the albums I enjoyed most were “Led Zeppelin”, the fourth album, and “Physical Graffiti” because they had some of the heaviest songs. Particularly the debut album impressed me with its heaviness and at times its speed. “The Song Remains the Same” was always an album that was hard to love. My favourite track was “No Quarter” for its haunting atmosphere and cool guitar sound, and “The Rain Song” I liked for its beautiful music. “Over the Hills and Far Away” and “The Ocean” I liked because they were the most rocking tunes off the album. “The Crunge” and “D'yer Ma'ker” seemed to me like Led Zeppelin was trying to be funny. And the title track sounded like high speed country music with Robert Plant singing in a falsetto voice that never sat well with me.

However, in the last two years I have been really into progressive music and I have fattened up my progressive rock collection considerably. A few weeks ago I added “No Quarter” to a playlist and I struck me that this was a song with prog styling. I listened more carefully to most of the other songs, including “The Song Remains” and the album appeared in a whole new light. Led Zeppelin usually played heavy blues-based rock with a far helping of folk music. This album still sticks close to that base, however, it seems to me that this album is likely Zeppelin’s furthest foray into prog that they would attempt at least up until 1975 (I can’t remember much about “Presence” because I never bought it on CD).

So, in this new light I have taken a stronger liking to the album. As with most Zeppelin albums, there is good diversity here. The playing doesn’t even need mention. I think what is most admirable is the band’s willingness to experiment with music beyond the borders of their established repertoire, something they always did anyway. But here they push the envelope further than before. I have new respect for that blazing country guitar playing in the title track. John Bohnam’s drumming is not just powerful but strikes me as talented in ways I had not before considered. I still don’t dig the falsetto vocals much but Robert Plant sounds great otherwise. And let’s not forget John Paul Jones for his bass and keyboard contributions. One can’t be a part of Led Zeppelin without having legendary talents. Together these four gents have produced one very interesting album.

Still, I find the album to be light-hearted at times and not very heavy. There's little here that suits the heavy metal moniker. However, as a rock album, I think the band have put out a nearly excellent piece of work. I'd give it a solid four stars but considering this is a metal site I'll drop it to 3.5 stars. Led Zeppelin are, after all, not a heavy metal band but proto-metal and metal related. And hey, this is Led Zeppelin here. They are in a class of their own.
Led Zeppelin's follow up to their masterpiece is a let down.

"Houses of the Holy" was the first Zeppelin album I could not get into like the other 4. It certainly has some shining moments such as the astounding 'The Song Remains The Same' and unforgettable works such as 'No Quarter', but the rest is a bit of a blur over the years. The album simply does not reach the peak of its predecessors.

There is beauty in the music such as 'The Rain Song' and the innovation of tracks like reggae inspired 'D'yer Ma'ker' are undisputable. However, the problem is there are no killer tracks that peak at the top of Led Zeppelin lists for me. Nothing comes close to the likes of Zeppelin classics 'Immigrant Song', 'Whole Lotta Love', 'Stairway to Heaven', 'Black Dog' or 'Dazed and Confused', instead there is a straight rock feel ; it is a straight forward approach and we ZepHeads are so used to inventive diversity with vocal Plantisms and Page's dextrous playing.

The album comes into some very mediocre territory with the likes of 'The Crunge', with its funked up rhythm. 'Dancing Days' is an un-Zeppelin sound that never resonated with me. 'Over The Hills And Far Away' is just a flower power ballad. 'The Ocean' admittedly is a great closer but by then it is too late, the album has already lost interest for me.

Overall, this is not the best or worst Zeppelin but sits somewhere in the middle. The music rocks but is nothing outstanding. It is no masterpiece and is more flawed than some may have you believe. 3 stars for the few excellent tracks.
Though I found it fairly impressive on the first few listens, I personally find that Houses of the Holy is a bit of a "hollow" album - once you get over Led Zeppelin's confident move away from blues-rock (proving that, contrary to the opening track, the songs really haven't remained the same), it's hard to say that the new approach showcased on this album has much to recommend it beyond a bit of superficial flash. Two of the tracks on here are simply terrible - a third-rate attempt at reggae (D'yer Ma'ker) which mangles the reggae sound so horribly that I cringe every time I hear it, and the James Brown "tribute" The Crunge - I say "tribute" because if someone did such a lazy, unimaginative and un-funky parody of my work, I certainly wouldn't feel that they were paying tribute to me.

As for the other songs, aside from the dramatic and foreboding No Quarter - to me, the saving grace of the album - we're dealing with middle-of-the-road classic rock from a band which had formerly defined the cutting edge. The Rain Song, in particular, suggests to me that Led Zeppelin were out of ideas at this point: oh look, it's a gentle ballad awash with Mellotron. That totally hadn't got old by 1972. Snore.
Conor Fynes
'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.
After the brilliance of their fourth album Led Zeppelin had a lot to live up to. Its release was delayed until March 1973 due to problems with the sleeve. As IV had been released in 1971 by the standards of the time this was quite a large gap between albums and unfortunately although it has some great moments, overall Houses of the Holy was somewhat of a disappointment. This however did not stop it selling by the bucket load. The band were now getting more experimental, indeed this can be seen to be their most Progressive release but far from their best. There was also a couple of gimmicky tracks which although it's plain to see the band were having much fun spoilt the flow of the album.

Things get off to a positive start with The Song Remains The Same, an up tempo song with many guitar parts from Jimmy Page ranging from picking to powerchords with some excellent soloing too. The one downside of the track is that Robert Plant's vocal's have been speeded up a little giving the impression he was on helium! A better version can be heard on the live soundtrack album of the same name. The Rain Song follows and is a lovely piece of music. Again Page shines on guitar with an unusual chord structure as does John Paul Jones on Mellotron. Plant supplies sympathetic singing whilst John Bonham takes a back seat and doesn't come in until well into the track.

Over the Hills and Far Away starts off with some nice acoustic guitar before the band pile in full force. Bonham and Jones hold down a tight groove whilst Page riffs away over the top. Not a bad track but not one of the better Zeppelin rockers. The Crunge follows and is the first of the gimmicky tracks. It's a James Brown influenced Funk number with some good Drumming from Bonham but ultimately falls a little flat and is a bit of a filler track we could well do without.

Much better is Dancing Days, the intro having an eastern vibe to it but overall the track has a happy summery feel to it. The Reggae vibe of D'yer Mak'er follows and is another disappointment and throwaway track. This is Bonhams track, his Drums well to the fore.

Onto the second Epic of the album, No Quarter is Jones' baby and his keyboards take a front seat. It's an atmospheric piece with a laid back tempo. It proves to be one of the best tracks here and also has an excellent Page riff and some lovely interplay between his Guitar and Jones' Piano.

The closing track The Ocean is an excellent Zeppelin rocker with a stop/start Page riff. Just what we needed after the gimmicky feel of The Crunge and D'yer Mak'er. If those two tracks had been replaced with more rockers along the lines of this then Houses of the Holy would have been a much more rounded album. As it is, it's good but falls short after the majesty of IV.

Members reviews

After the great fourth album, this one is indeed a disappointment. I find most of the songs rather annoying and in a totally different style... but not in a good way. They went with some sort of caribbean, almost danceable sound or something, instead of their hard rock / blues sound that we had gotten used to. I would be tempted to give it 2 stars if it were not for the two great songs that it does have, the soft and beautiful "The Rain Song" and the proggy "No Quarter", which is among my very favourite songs from the band.

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