Monolithic. A masterpiece. These sorts of descriptions seem to follow Physical Graffiti around and for good reason too. On listening to Physical Graffiti a little thought starts creeping into your head; Led Zeppelin's previous five albums might just have been warm-up acts, matinees for the evening's main performance. You're thinking that's sacrilege, right? Well hear me out.

IV, or Zoso if you prefer, is most certainly a musical monster, an album that combines the epic with the delicate and contains just as many small and beautiful moments as it does terrifyingly big ones, but it's very much rooted in a distinct, Led Zeppelin musical world. This applies just as much to I and II, two enthralling rock albums that take a huge, huge influence from the delta-blues world, as it does to III and Houses of the Holy, the former a slice of brilliant folk-rock shoved through the Jimmy Page filter and the latter and album that saw Led Zeppelin experiment a little but, more importantly explore their pop sensibilities. As great as those five albums are they all exist within their own little worlds, they only showcase one or two sides of Led Zeppelin whereas Physical Graffiti sounds like something else entirely; it feels like a culmination, when all of Led Zeppelin's different musical leanings were finally thrown into a pot and mixed together to create something remarkable. Essentially, Physical Graffiti is when Led Zeppelin started sounding like Led Zeppelin.

Even so, Led Zeppelin still manage to throw a left turn into Physical Graffiti by creating two distinct halves. Both halves, or discs if you prefer, still contain that melding of ideas and that ultimate mash-up of everything that came before but while one half sees Zeppelin push forwards on their rock behemoth path, the other sees Zeppelin use those disparate influences and push into an odder direction. That mixing pot manages to fuel the airship in both directions fairly equally so you, the listener knows this is the same band and the same sound just with a different emphasis to each half, which makes a great deal sense given the amount of different styles the band were playing around with on their first five albums. This separation works to the point that using shuffle on a playlist or even creating your own album order, an ultimate Physical Graffiti, doesn't actually work that well, the original album sequencing is actually spot-on.

That might be a little bit of bias on my part towards not wanting to have to break that first disc sequence up as I still believe those first six tracks of Physical Graffiti make the most remarkable disc of music in the rock world, ever. Each song contains everything that any listener would or should associate with Led Zeppelin, the heavy rock band. There's power, aggression and a big dose of confidence in those songs while the band still employ some mysticism and otherwordlyness in 'Kashmir' and 'In My Time of Dying' that allow the listener to get lost in the music. The difference between Led Zeppelin, the heavy rock band of Physical Graffiti and Led Zeppelin, the heavy rock band of II is the bands increasing use of their melodic sensibilities and their confidence in the sensibilities; at times in 'Houses of The Holy', 'Trampled Under Foot' and even 'Custard Pie' Led Zeppelin aren't just employing stronger melodies as an extra tool, they're relying on those melodies to drive the songs forward. Gone are the days when the riff was king, there's a new power player in town and it sounds good. Thankfully the remastering job hasn't been screwed up either and there's some added beef to the first disc with some subtle EQing which enhances the first half of Physical Graffiti. The songs sound warmer, more all-encompassing and most importantly more powerful which fits; this is Led Zeppelin at their rock zenith.

It's still interesting to me how the second half of Physical Graffiti carries a totally different vibe to the first even though the formula is essentially the same. Perhaps it's because there's more quieter moments although it's not as if the half is completely dominated by them, Led Zeppelin still beat their chest in dominance but it seems more reserved than the first half. Still, with the exception of 'Bron-yr-Aur', those quieter moments don't fit into musical stereotypes, they still draw from all those previous five albums and use the formula that works so well in the first half of Physical Graffiti which is why it feels odd that this half has a different feel to it. 'The Wanton Song' might seem like it belongs with the bluesy tracks on I or II but that percussion gives it a completely different edge and takes it out of being firmly in one musical camp. Is 'Boogie With Stu' a delta blues song or a driving rock song without the electric guitars? I can never tell. Then there's 'In The Light' which straddles the quiet/loud line deftly. Even when one wanders into the heavier end of that second half that mash-up is still there, 'Night Flight' is funky as anything else Led Zeppelin ever put out but it's also a good ol' rocker. And that's the second half of Physical Graffiti, a little weirder, a little more disparate than the first but still quintessentially Led Zeppelin. These songs sound less like the sum of their influences and more like Led Zeppelin expressing themselves.

That third companion disc is pretty cool too which is fortunate given that's the main selling point to these reissues. If you've been a fan of a band and a particular album for a number of years there's something cool about listening to early mixes and rough versions, even if it's just to satisfy curiosity. And for those that like playing album god on their iTunes playlists there are some particularly tasty rough mixes that are more than capable of taking the places of the finished mixes in an alternate album, especially the split-speaker vocals (I forget the technical term) of Robert Plant's vocals in 'Brandy & Coke' and the added bass approach of 'Houses of the Holy'.

Reissues and remasters get a fairly bad rap nowadays, something about flogging a horse comes to mind, but this is worthwhile. When an album gets reissued it's almost as if listeners want to go into the album again to reappraise it and give it a bit more attention than before, I certainly did, and that's a good thing. I didn't really rediscover anything, just had a thought reaffirmed: that Led Zeppelin had never sounded this awesome before and they wouldn't match these heights again. Those plaudits that Physical Graffiti keeps attracting even 40 years on? Well, they're deserved because it really is a masterpiece.