photo & text by nacrowe
since childhood ive always been partial to LED ZEPPELIN's fifth album HOUSES OF THE HOLY (ATLANTIC, 1973). written and recorded in comfort at the band's two home studios in the wake of their landmark LED ZEPPELIN IV (ATLANTIC, 1971) release, its contents are a bit more EXPANSIVE and EXPERIMENTAL than their previous material and marked a turning point in their sound.
not that i knew that as a kid. i remember going to my father's stereo system and plugging in his SONY MDR7506 studio headphones and completely get lost in the MAJESTY of epic tracks like "THE RAIN SONG," "OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY," "THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME" and especially "NO QUARTER." i recognized that these songs had a sonic narrative arc to them, as if through the music alone an EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE had been expressed evocatively in VIVID TECHNICOLOR. for me that DOWNTEMPO and ATMOSPHERIC side of LED ZEPPELIN's material always stood out, even amongst the ROCK N ROLL numbers they are renowned for. the CINEMATIC peaks of HOUSES OF THE HOLY hold up and are still RELEVANT today and one needs to look no further than ALL-EMBRACING bands like TORCHE, BARONESS, JANE'S ADDICTION, ISIS, TOOL, MASTODON, HIGH ON FIRE and INTRONAUT, all of whom touch on this same HAZY DYNAMIC in their sound.
strangely, this is also the record where LED ZEPPELIN seemingly found their GROOVE, like literally. tracks like the downright FUNKY "THE CRUNGE," the START-AND-STOPE-ON-A-DIME riffage of "THE OCEAN" as well as the REGGAE-inspired "D'YER MAK'ER" found the band playing around with UNCONVENTIONAL TEMPOS and SONIC TEXTURES hitherto unexplored. some find this record unfocused relative to their previous discography, but in my mind i liken it to THE BEATLES' WHITE ALBUM (APPLE, 1968) in that they were taking advantage of the opportunity their stature in the industry afforded them and really went about exploring the STUDIO AS AN INSTRUMENT in and of itself. the only song ive never been crazy about is "DANCING DAYS," which the ALTERNATIVE ROCK band STONE TEMPLE PILOTS famously did a STANDOUT cover of in the 1990s. for me that song stuck out as something more down the middle and a retread of past ideas, not that there is anything wrong with that.
for me this is an all-time CLASSIC album of the first order. its part of my early childhood and my personal narrative of getting into music, so im completely prejudiced, much like i also am when discussing THE SMITHS, THE STRANGLERS, THE BEATLES or THE ANIMALS as well. regardless, HOUSES OF THE HOLY is absolutely worth checking out and exploring again and again and again.