REVIEW: Greta Van Fleet fully embraces 70s rock sound in new album

Greta Van Fleet lead singer Josh Kiszka performs in 2018. 

Ever since Greta Van Fleet’s debut album, the Michigan-based band could never disassociate from its parallels to legendary rock band Led Zeppelin. 

Even Robert Plant couldn’t help but compare GVF to his own band’s early work, saying in an interview with Australia’s Network 10: “They are Led Zeppelin I.” Plant had no issue with lead vocalist Josh Kiszka’s tonality, but couldn’t help but laugh at how familiar the screams and yips sound. 

If GVF’s second studio album “The Battle at Garden’s Gate” tells the music community anything, it’s that the four-man band will continue to embody the sound that made them distinguishable, regardless of what finger-pointing music critics have to say about their striking similarities to rock n’ roll hegemons like Rush and Zeppelin. 

From start to finish, The Battle at Garden’s Gate is energetic, heavy and loud – everything you would expect out of a rock album. The opening track, “Heat Above,” starts off with a sweet organ solo, only to lead into an invigorating drum fill that sets the tone for not only the song but the entire album. 

The instrumentals are grasping, but where GVF starts to lose people is with the questionable lyrics that are either too hard to decipher amongst the high-pitched screeching, or just have an oddly mundane effect. For example, in the second track, “My Way, Soon,” this incomplete thought might catch the listener’s ear: “I see many people, there's so many people, some are much younger people, and some are so old.” What are you trying to say here, Josh Kiszka? That whole stanza sticks out like a sore thumb on what should be one of the more catchy songs on the album. 

The Kiszka brothers are still in their early-to-mid 20s, but the absence of attention to detail is what limits the band’s potential to become a household name.

Nevertheless, rock fans should be grateful that they can follow an up-and-coming band with a sound that is so rare in the current era of music. Considering the youthfulness of GVF, there still are decades of musical development and experimentation to be had, which is something that could lead to the revival in the popularity of rock n’ roll music – a feat that even the harshest ends of the rock community would respect.

The chord progression of “The Barbarians” is anthem-like, but the lyrics don’t stick like they do in other songs such as “Light My Love” or  “Built By Nations,” which fuel the haters’ fire with an undeniable resemblance to Zeppelin's “Black Dog.” However, the song that encapsulates catchy lyrics, bold instrumentals and a little bit of the ‘umph’ that sets it apart from the other tracks on the album is the song with by far the best guitar solo, “Broken Bells.” 

There have already been too many Zeppelin references in this review, but this song is GVF’s “Stairway to Heaven.” The more-eloquent vocals from Kiszka flirt with the heavy undertones of drums throughout the song, before the lead guitar enters with a fuzz and wah pedal for a jaw-dropping solo. The familiar screams from Kiszka breakthrough to join the shredding guitar and pounding drums, capping off the song with sharp emphasis.

The 12-track album has been a commercial success, and seems to be of the caliber of the band’s first studio album “From the Fires,” which won Best Rock Album of the Year at the 2019 Grammy’s. Expect to see the Frankenmuth natives back on the stage in the next awards season  with this album.

“The Battle at Garden’s Gate” peaked at number seven on the Billboard 200 on April 30, and “My Way, Soon” leads the album with over 7.6 million plays on Spotify. “Heat Above” is close to 6.5 million plays, and “Age of Machine” is on the road to 6 million plays as well, this data as of April 27. 

“The Battle at Garden’s Gate” can be described as a crescendo that runs uncontested. Each song brings its own unique energy, working in tandem as the listener moves track-to-track, taking in each Josh Kiszka howl. 

Let the critics do their yapping while GVF makes music for a new generation of rock fans, as well as remind the old-heads of what used to be: ambitious kids dressed in flamboyant clothes, singing their heart out about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.  

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