5 Bands That Revived Classic Rock in the Modern Era

When exactly a rock band becomes “classic,” we don’t know—20 years is a fair guess—but in the early ’80s, classic rock stations (or “album oriented rock” stations) sprouted and bands like Led Zeppelin, The Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pink Floyd, Van Halen, Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and The Doors were playlisted. But “classic rock” also became a sound, one that definitely features guitar rock—either straight-up or with homage to the blues, rather than pop or punk.

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While the current Top 40 soundscape is filled with pop, hip-hop, R&B, and EDM, there are some newcomers keeping classic rock alive the same way The Black Crowes did when they debuted in the early ’90s. Below are five of these revivalists.

1. Greta Van Fleet

This flashy act from Michigan has been going for more than a decade, and is now starting to headline arenas. Signed in 2017 to Lava by A&R legend and label founder Jason Flom, Greta Van Fleet is comprised of three brothers, twins Josh (lead vocals) and Jake Kiszka (guitarist), and younger brother Sam (bass, keys), plus Danny Wagner (drums). Their debut single, “Highway Tune,” from their debut EP, Black Smoke Rising, rose to No. 1 on mainstream and active rock charts. Their follow-up EP, From the Fire, won the 2019 Grammy for Best Rock Album. Then followed three full-length studio albums: Anthem of the Peaceful Army (2018), The Battle at Garden’s Gate (2021), and Starcatcher, which debuted in the Top 10 upon its 2023 release.

[RELATED: Behind the Meaning and the History of the Band Name: Greta Van Fleet]

2. Rival Sons

Going since 2009, the Long Beach, California-formed rock band is fronted by Jay Buchanan and joined by guitarist Scott Holiday, bassist Dave Beste, and drummer Michael Miley. Live, they bring along keyboardist Todd Ogren.

When they put out their debut album, Before the Fire (2009), which was produced by Dave Cobb, the accolades flooded in, and opportunities to open for AC/DC, Alice Cooper, and Kid Rock followed. They ended up signing with Earache, and then moved up to Atlantic. The cover art for Pressure & Time from 2011 was designed by the legendary Storm Thorgerson (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath). Rival Sons was also the support act on Sabbath’s The End Tour in 2016-17. In 2023, two Rival Sons albums were scheduled for release: Darkfighter came out in June and Lightbringer was given an October 20 drop date.

3. Crown Lands

The Canadian duo of Cody Bowles and Kevin Comeau formed their psychedelic prog-metal band with clear nods to Led Zeppelin, Rush, and Queen. The name Crown Lands means “stolen from First Peoples.” Singer-drummer Bowles is half Mi’kmaq (many of their songs focus on Indigenous issues and injustice); Comeau, who plays guitar, bass, and keys, is Jewish.  The band scored early slots opening for Jack White, Coheed and Cambria, Primus, and Rival Sons, who introduced them to producer Dave Cobb. They cut their full-length eponymous debut album with Cobb at the helm, and followed that release up with Fearless in 2023.

4. The Glorious Sons

Fronted by Brett Emmons, this Canadian rock band attracted fellow rocker John-Angus MacDonald of the Trews as producer of their 2013 debut EP, Shapeless Art.  MacDonald then helmed their full-length, The Union, which ushered in constant appearances on the Canadian rock radio charts. In 2014, they hopped on tour with Airbourne, and in the U.S. with 10 Years. With a trad rock ‘n’ roll sound that sometimes softens into rootsier territory, The Glorious Sons rose to headlining arena status at home, and opened a one-off for the Rolling Stones, as well.

5. Dirty Honey

The L.A.-formed band, fronted by Marc LaBelle and managed and produced by industry vet Mark DiDia, received instant radio play in 2019 for the track “When I’m Gone.” That success made Dirty Honey the first unsigned band to top Billboard’s mainstream rock chart. The band opened for Slash in 2018 and 2019, and went on to tour with Skillet, Alter Bridge, and The Black Crowes. They also were given assorted gigs supporting such heavyweights as The Who, Guns N’ Roses and KISS. Having only formed in 2017, and encountering a bit of a setback due to the global pandemic, the band finally released their self-titled full-length in 2021 and followed it up with Can’t Find the Brakes.

Photo by Patrik Skoglöw, Courtesy of Elektra Records

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