Sound — 10
With the release of the massively successful and mainstream "Led Zeppelin IV" in 1971, it was clear that Led Zeppelin were not the same blues rock band that they seemed to be in their previous albums. I'll admit that throughout the course of their first four releases, Led Zeppelin were maturing and broadening, but in my opinion, it wasn't until 1973's "Houses Of The Holy" that Led Zeppelin really started to experiment with their sound and meld together the best that they could possibly muster. It is possibly the first instance of a great Led Zeppelin album; and by no means the last. Drawing musical and lyrical influences from a stunningly wide variety of styles, it is immediately evident that Led Zeppelin are a changing and maturing band right from the album's opener, "The Song Remains The Same." Not exactly the most farfetched song on the album, it's still a departure from the band's previous sound. Acoustic tracks, powerhouse epics, and just plain rocking songs fill the album in a way that was previously unprecedented for Zeppelin at the time. "Over The Hills And Far Away" is a wonderful and almost country-like softer track, and is no doubt a Zep classic. "The Rain Song" is an odd but still enjoyable and mellow acoustic track. "The Ocean" is an (for lack of a more professional term) awesome and classic Zeppelin rocker, delivering the goods and being one of the album's highlights. Just the way the album sounds is so incredible. The fact that the band wrote differently and more diverse for the album is good enough, but it was also produced so well that as a whole the whole album delivers. A lot.
Lyrics — 10
Lyrically, the band made a stunning jump from the near-clich songs of IV, like "Rock And Roll" and "Black Dog." The song concepts themselves are so unique that it really makes the album shine, but the way some of the lyrics are written makes it all the more enjoyable. There are a few exceptions, of course, like the oddball randomness of "Dancing Days" (e.g. "I saw a lion, he was standing alone/And a tadpole in a jar"), but overall the immense effort it must've taken to take the lyrics to a whole other level is evident, and the effort was well worthwhile.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall, I feel that the album was more a transition of sounds from "Led Zeppelin IV" and "Physical Graffiti" (arguably one of the band's best releases); in much the same way Radiohead's "The Bends" showed a turn point in their sound. The album probably isn't Zeppelin's best, but I wouldn't hesitate to put it in my top 5 favorites list; perhaps even top 3. Containing some choice Zep highlights, this album, as with "Physical Graffiti" and "In Through The Out Door," has something for every rock fan, and that's no doubt one of the greatest appeals of Led Zeppelin.