Monday, April 26, 2021

Greta Van Fleet invite you to join the Peaceful Army in The Battle at Garden’s Gate

After the arrival of the Anthem of the Peaceful Army in 2018, the ‘fight’ has begun with the release of The Battle at Garden’s Gate. For all of the war references, Greta Van Fleet seem to have tumbled straight off the stage at Woodstock ’69, rolling out with peace, love, and hippy vibes in 2021 with their latest album.

First, let us address the elephant in the room. We cannot possibly talk about Greta Van Fleet without mentioning Led Zeppelin, can we?

The four-piece from the small town of Frankenmuth, Michigan has not only acknowledged this comparison but have done their best to overcome the obvious parallel. They even stated in a past interview that they hoped people could “acknowledge it and move on”.

This resounding criticism that they pay too much tribute even goes as far as to suggest Greta Van Fleet themselves are unoriginal. Whilst the glaring comparisons remain, it would be unfair to suggest there is no true creativity or passion behind the project.

With this new release, fans and critics alike hoped to see the band extend beyond their comparative shadows. Unfortunately, The Battle at Garden’s Gate does not deliver the diversity or distinction needed for the comparisons to be laid to rest. 

It is undeniable that Josh Kiszka’s wailing tones are almost the spit of Robert Plant, soaring over what one can only be described as retrospective reflections of the great masters: Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd… to name a few.

That said, The Battle at Garden’s Gate is a fine album. The band initially released the single ‘Broken Bells’ containing four new tracks, a month before the full album release. All four tracks are pretty groovy, memorable and show more personality than their debut release. 

The album is an enjoyable epic, especially the ascendant vocals of Josh Kiszka in ‘Heat Above’ and his brother Jake Kiszka’s catchy (albeit Jimmy Page-Esque) riffs in ‘Built by Nations’. 

The entire album is a worthy listen, despite the occasional disappointingly messy arrangements and harsh guitar production in longer tracks. ‘Age of Machine’ is a good example of this, regardless of the exuberance of its chorus. Drama is certainly a theme here.

Album opener ‘Heat Above’ shows the full range of Kiszka’s vocals, and seems to be one of the most popular tunes. In later tracks though, his voice becomes almost gratuitously shrill, matching the occasionally naïve theatrics of the progressive composition. 

Is it progressive, or trying too hard? Isn’t the magic of progressive music the ability to make the elaborate seem effortless? Perhaps that is a harsh critique, but this is more tough love than savage criticism. 

Reaching musical maturity is a journey; one I am more than happy to join them on. This is only their second album; let's face it, to already be compared to Led Zeppelin (even endorsed by Robert Plant himself) is a pretty good start.

They are a young band and some may say they sound too much like Led Zeppelin: well, I for one love that classic Rock n Roll sound, and their talent is clear. I was hoping for progression, and The Battle at Garden's Gate does deliver in some aspects, but there’s undoubtedly room for growth.

One could say, the ‘battle’ is won, but they haven’t yet won the war.

Helena Pliotis


 Image: Alysse Gafkjen

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