Within the world of rock and metal, Led Zeppelin imitators are aplenty. For most musicians, channelling the Rock Gods is a right of passage, but you run a risk when wielding that sound. Case in point? Kingdom Come, whose brazen mirroring of Zeppelin sonics led to them being dubbed “Kingdom Clone”, a tag they were never able to shake.
There's some obvious hypocrisy here, as Led Zeppelin were amongst the most outrageous copycats in the game, brazenly appropriating several blues standards for their own purposes. Even the mighty Stairway To Heaven famously landed them with in court, Jimmy Page accused of filching the acoustic intro from Spirit’s Taurus.
Nevertheless, these are the bands making music right now who've hijacked the legendary Led Zeppelin sound while simultaneously making it their own.
1. Greta Van Fleet
Despite politely asking the music world to stop harping on about their similarities, Greta Van Fleet are arguably one of the best Led Zeppelin emulators out there. Frequently sporting vintage bohemian stageware, this Michigan-based group of 70s revivalists are experts when it comes to mimicking those towering Jimmy Page-style riffs and vocal mannerisms of the ‘Mama’ and ‘Oh baby’ variety.
Robert Plant has been known to point fingers at these young chaps, once describing them in an interview as “Led Zeppelin 1”. In that same conversation, he craftily noted that Greta Van Fleet’s “beautiful little singer” Josh Kizka had clearly borrowed his vocal talent from someone “he knew”. Copycats they may be, but 2021's The Battle At Garden’s Gate proves they’ve learnt to re-channel their influences into something more original.
Earthless may fall short when it comes to duplicating vocals that sound like Robert Plant – because they’re mostly instrumental – but their riffs are straight out of the Led Zeppelin handbook, even if many of their songs explore more psychedelic territory. Smokey, seductive, and encircled by a vintage, dusty warmth, they’re no strangers to hot'n'heavy grooves, such as on the title-track of 2018’s Black Heaven, which is a dead ringer for Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times.
3. Rival Sons
Californian blues rockers Rival Sons have been saluting the Rock Gods since their debut way back in 2009. Over the years, the band have had no qualms in admitting that they’ve nabbed a few tricks from Led Zeppelin, but that’s probably because their sound is still remarkably their own.
Where their ties do cross however, is through Jay Buchanan’s high-pitched wail – which is a lot huskier than Plant's – and through drummer/ self-professed John Bonham fan Mike Miley, who knows how to imitate Bonzo's bluesy thunder. To top things off, the band have even of received a seal of approval from Jimmy Page, who's been known to attend their live shows.
4. Jack White
With his affinity for grand, swaggering riffs or vocals that at times sound remarkably like Robert Plant’s, we’d probably believe you if you told us that Jack White was actually a blood relative of a member of Led Zeppelin. But his connection with the British rockers stems from the fact he idolises them, and that he’s a lifelong cock rock copycat.
White’s 2015 solo album Blunderbuss pulls from Zep’s lighter side, while White Stripes’ 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan and 2001’s White Blood Cells include many moments that see his Zeppelin worship coming into play. In 2015, White even performed The Lemon Song with Plant at Lollapalooza Argentina festival. And in 2009, he featured alongside Page and U2's The Edge in the music documentary It Might Get Loud, which explored the careers and musical influences of the three legendary guitarists.
5. Dirty Honey
Emerging from the Los Angeles club scene in 2019, dripping with sweat, style and Californian sleaze, classic rock champions Dirty Honey are intent on reconfiguring the sounds of the 70s for modern ears.
Their self-titled EP homes in on Zeppelin’s grandiose vivacity, with flirtatious high-pitched vocals, a smattering of John Paul Jones-esque organ, and a bravado that carries the same sexual strut as Aerosmith, most notably on the romping Rolling 7s. 2021’s eponymous debut album sees more of this playful imitation, but with more of an unruly Guns N’ Roses energy.
6. The Vintage Caravan
Across their five albums, Iceland’s Vintage Caravan have bounced to and fro from the bluesy, simple structures of classic rock to the darker, more progressive sounds of desert and stoner rock. Laced with choppy, swelling riffs, their Zeppelin sound is most prominent on 2012's Voyage and on their debut self-titled album, although it’s much faster paced and roughened by rugged, frenetic riffs and unpolished vocals. Songs like Empty Space, with its with clean, acoustic guitar and laid-back rhythm, evokes softer Zeppelin moments like Hey Hey What Can I Do and Going To California,
7. The Black Keys
Feted by Robert Plant himself, Ohio rock duo Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, otherwise known as The Black Keys, have stripped Led Zeppelin’s classic sound back to basics and made radio friendly blues rock from its parts.
They certainly take a more rough and ready approach in comparison to Zeppelin’s stagey fanfare, particularly via Auerbach's bluesy drawl and Carney’s tumbling drums, but when it comes to writing epic Heartbreaker-style riffs (as on Just A Little Heat), they’re one of the best around.
Their most notable connection though, is their song Little Black Submarines from 2011’s El Camino, which has been compared to Stairway To Heaven by countless critics. In similar vein to the flagship anthem, it starts off with a timid folk-rock acoustic melody before detonating into a crashing outro. To encapsulate the Black Keys sound, just listen to Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick.
8. Royal Blood
When Royal Blood shot to global fame in 2013/14, they grabbed the attention of Jimmy Page, who praised them for their “music of tremendous quality” after watching them perform. Although their sonic arsenal is limited in comparison to Led Zep, consisting of a bass guitar (channelled through a signal splitter into different amps and textured effects) and drums, their sound is equally immense.
Driven by memorable and beefy riffs, Royal Blood are essentially a clever simplification of riffy Led Zeppelin stompers like Achilles Last Stand, Nobody's Fault But Mine, Royal Orleans and Trampled Under Foot, fuelled by heavy distortion and radio-friendly hooks.
On rock’n’roll’s ancestral tree, Wolfmother are one of Led Zeppelin’s more clear-cut descendants. The Australian hard rockers are lead by Andrew Stockdale, who nails Plant’s voice, and the band frequently arm themselves with driving riffs and fast-paced melodies that have the same stadium-rock-filling ferocity as their forebears.
The best endorsement any good Zeppelin disciple can receive is a clap on the back from the band themselves, and in 2006, when Page and co. were inducted into the UK’s Music Hall Of Fame, they personally invited Wolfmother as their guests. At the ceremony, the Stockdale-fronted group performed Zeppelin's 1969 anthem Communication Breakdown.
General similarities aside, Wolfmother’s 2021 single Midnight Train captures the classic Zeppelin sound, and there’s even what sounds like an introductory “Mama” thrown in for good measure.
10. Black Label Society
Zakk Wylde’s lovechild Black Label Society is a fusion of Sabbath style vocals deepened by the grungey twang of Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, accompanied by meaty riffs and deafening drums.
Wylde is a huge Zeppelin fan, picking the title The Song Remains Not The Same for their two compilation albums, in tribute to Zep's 1975 masterpiece The Song Remains The Same. BLS’s Bored To Tears makes for a fleshier When The Levee Breaks, while Stillborn offers Immigrant Song wails and a galloping rhythm. The Zeppelin nods appear mostly in their slower tracks, such as The Only Words, which plays with a floaty 70s feel and fervent, heart-wrenching vocals.