Containing some of the band's most famous songs, including "The Song Remains the Same", "The Rain Song" and "No Quarter", Houses of the Holy became a huge success, and was certified eleven times platinum by the RIAA in 1999. In 2012, it was ranked #148 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The title track was recorded for the album, but was delayed until the band's next release, Physical Graffiti, two years later.
Much of the album was recorded in Spring 1972 using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio at Stargroves, a manor house and country estate in Newbury, Berkshire. Some songs from the album had initially been tried out earlier than this, such as "No Quarter", which was first attempted during a session at Headley Grange.
Several of the songs were produced as trial recordings (demos) at the personal studios of guitarist Jimmy Page and bass player/keyboardist John Paul Jones. Having recently installed these studios in their homes, it enabled them to finish the arrangements which had been laid down earlier. In particular, Page was able to present complete arrangements of "The Rain Song" and "Over the Hills and Far Away", while Jones had developed "No Quarter".
This album was a stylistic turning point in the lifespan of Led Zeppelin. Guitar riffs became more layered within Page's production techniques and departed from the blues influences of earlier records. In the album's opening opus, "The Song Remains the Same", and its intricate companion suite, "The Rain Song", Robert Plant's lyrics matured toward a less overt form of the mysticism and fantasy of previous efforts. Houses of the Holy also featured styles not heard on the first four Led Zeppelin albums. For example, "D'yer Mak'er" is a reggae-based tune (the name of the song being derived from the phonetic spelling of a British pronunciation of "Jamaica"); "No Quarter" features atmospheric keyboard sounds and an acoustic piano solo from Jones; "The Crunge" is a funk tribute; and "The Rain Song" is embellished by Jones on his newly acquired Mellotron. The album's closing song "The Ocean", which features an a cappella section and a doo-wop influenced coda, is dedicated to "the ocean" of fans who were massing to Led Zeppelin concerts at this point of the band's career. Subsequently, one view is that the title "Houses of the Holy" refers to the massive venues they played full of their adoring fans. However, when Page was asked about the significance of the title in a Sirius XM interview in New York City 7 Nov. 2014, he responded, “It’s about all of us being houses of the Holy Spirit, in a sense.”