The classic rock band Greta Van Fleet is back and eager to show personal and musical growth in their long awaited second album The Battle at Garden’s Gate.
The band’s first album, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, was not only highly criticized by some, but it was also highly compared to the works of other artists. Now, the band’s second album has finally shown some of the individuality that was needed all along.
It’s been almost four years since brothers Josh, Jake and Sam Kiszka (on vocals, guitar and bass) along with friend Danny Wagner on drums, have released their debut album to the public. Originally from Frankenmuth, Michigan, they use this next album to show their maturity in both material and sound.
In The Battle at Garden’s Gate, Greta Van Fleet continues its well known retro aesthetic as it tries to separate itself from bands of the same era. The band has been compared to the likes of Led Zeppelin and other bands of the ‘70s. However, the new album shows a huge effort to stand out from the iconic group and gain its own sound while still keeping the same throwback inspirations.
The album’s opener “Heat Above” was not a song; it was an anthem. Lead singer Josh starts the album out strong and puts on an over-the-top performance of this classic rock track. The track is also just one of many examples we see of Josh’s unique falsetto. It is exactly what a classic rock song should be: powerful and dynamic.
This energy continues on with tracks “My Way, Soon” and “Broken Bells.” The first-mentioned song speaks about true rebellion and longing for freedom that rock music brings. The latter song gradually intensifies from the beginning, and still keeps the retro aesthetic of ‘70s rock.
Both songs feature stunning guitar solos from member Jake, yet they never seem to overpower Josh’s angelic vocals. They are complimentary, and somehow never dominating.
“Built By Nations'' sounds right out of an action movie. A hard rock track with old rock inspirations, it tells the tale of a warrior in battle. The lyrics say “woah, the trouble gets so loud / When all of hell tries to drag you down,“ it’s as if you’re on the battlefield with the band. Like the rest of the album thus far, it starts and ends strong.
Psychedelic rock song “Age of Machine” and Americana folk root song “Tears of Rain” are two of the album’s featured ballads. However, they start a pattern in the album of a similarity in tracks. Not only do these songs use the same structure from beginning to finish, but the lyrics and actual sound start to blend together.
“Stardust Chords” and “Light My Love” continue these structural patterns. Both tracks hints of Americana folk rock, but the lack of variety in these songs make it hard not to compare these to the work of other ‘70s rock music.
This repeated structure finally breaks free with the album’s closer “The Weight of Dreams,” and the track finally brings back the strength that was present in the beginning of the album. It speaks to the American dream of traveling west and finding riches. Josh sings “Gold mines melting men in the sunshine/ Spoiled wine tastes so sweet, we have gone blind,” to touch on capitalism and materialism today and the satisfaction we get from it. It was a great way to close the album, but unfortunately it does not make up for the rest of it.
Fleet was able to show some great tracks but the album needed to be cohesive, not uniform. The song structures were all the same and even had similar guitar riffs. It got hard to tell when one track ended and another began.
The band was also never able to muster any real and raw emotion throughout the album. Most of the music was powerful and intense, but the lyrics never touched below the surface area. Metaphoric lyrics do not mean much if there’s no experience or story to back them up.
Greta Van Fleet was able to stand apart from some of the great rock n’ roll legends with certain tracks, but the individuality needs to be present throughout the album. The Battle at Garden’s Gate ultimately lost the war with this one.