GRETA VAN FLEET – The Battle At Garden’s Gate (2021)
When GRETA VAN FLEET exploded into the scene, these bunch of young musicians were regarded as the future for classic rock. And there was a reason; talent. The quartet emerged from out of nowhere (well, Frankenmuth, Michigan) boasting a brand of timelessly bluesy guitar hard rockin’ music that snatched mainstream interest with an immediacy that hadn’t been seen since the genre’s hazy heyday.
There were naysayers aplenty, of course, lobbing accusations of algorithm-driven inauthenticity, boomer-music fetishism and downright plagiarism, but the tide of stadium-ready swagger and old-school soul could not be quelled.
Two-and-a-half years – and a full-blown global pandemic – further down the highway it’s easy to wonder whether GVF’s youthful easygoing and lightning-in-a-bottle electricity might’ve been dissipated by the music industry grind.
Second full album ”The Battle At Garden’s Gate“, however, finds them with eyes only for rock’s good shit, doubling-down on everything that thrust them to prominence in the first place.
From the glowing organ, rattling drum-fill and jangling riff that kick into sprawling opener Heat Above, they’re in comfortable territory, pushing at an easy pace towards the wide horizon.
As Josh Kiszka pipes up with that immense vocal (‘Can you feel my looove?’), though, indebted more to Rush’s Geddy Lee than Zepp’s Robert Plant this time out, there is a pulsating dynamism and a willingness to reach for even bigger sounds than before.
The thrusting guitars of My Way, Soon counteract a retro aesthetic with the youthful urgency of musicians still in their early twenties. Mega-epic Broken Bells, meanwhile, steers into the old Led Zeppelin comparisons, deploying swelling strings, mythic imagery and an outrageous guitar solo across six minutes that dare invoke Stairway To Heaven.
The few extra years and thousands of miles on GVF’s clock manifest more in an increased philosophical depth as songs like the towering Built By Nations, proggy masterclass Age Of Machine and heart-tugging power ballad Light My Love ponder subjects as disparate as globalisation, technological dependency and the very meaning of life.
The band’s move south to renowned music city Nashville, too, has seen them begin to weave in the roadworn southern textures of desert rock, country and Americana on tracks like Tears Of Rain and Stardust Chords, all while executing a ‘Big Band’ sound with more confidence than before.
Ultimately, from its Tolkienesque title and artwork to outlandish tracks like Caravel (named after a type of Portuguese Conquistador’s ship) and The Barbarians, ”The Battle At Garden’s Gate” demands the sort of uncynical approach from before the internet opened Pandora’s Box.
Of course Greta Van Fleet aren’t offering anything innovative or original, and much of their appeal surely comes from listeners’ appetite for simpler times of players plugging in and rocking out which will never truly be rekindled.
Hand yourself over to a psychedelic song of praise like Trip The Light Fantastic, though, or fall into The Weight Of Dreams’ fathomless nine minutes, and this legitimately might be the next best thing.
01. Heat Above
02. My Way, Soon
03. Broken Bells
04. Built by Nations
05. Age of Machine
06. Tears of Rain
07. Stardust Chords
08. Light My Love
10. The Barbarians
11. Trip the Light Fantastic
12. The Weight of Dreams
Joshua Kiszka – Vocals
Jacob Kiszka – Guitars
Samuel Kiszka – Bass / Keyboards
Daniel Wagner – Drums