Early this spring, up-and-coming new wave of classic rock band Greta Van Fleet released its sophomore album, The Battle at Garden’s Gate. The band’s sophomore album, it was also the band’s major label debut, as it was released through Lava/Republic Records. That major label support was itself a big statement about the band’s place in the rock community today. It was a statement of support for and belief in the band. That support was and is justified, too. That is because this record actually presents the band as a group that really has made a valid attempt to evolve and grow away from the nonstop comparisons that it received upon the release of its debut album and EP. ‘Age of Machine,’ the album’s lead single serves well to support the noted statement. It will be discussed shortly. ‘The Barbarians,’ one of the album’s later entries, is another way in which that growth and evolution is exhibited in this record. It will be discussed a little later. The album’s contemplative midpoint, ‘Tears of Rain’ is yet another example of the band’s growth and evolution. It will also be discussed later. All three songs examined here do their own part to show Greta Van Fleet’s growth on its latest album. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the album a record that while maybe not perfect, still an improvement over its predecessors and gives some hope for the band’s future.
Greta Van Fleet’s recently released sophomore album, The Battle at Garden’s Gateis a strong new statement from the band. It is a statement of growth and development from the up-and-coming new wave of classic rock act. That is proven in part through the album’s lead single, ‘Age of Machine.’ The song is a stark stylistic contrast to the band’s existing body of work. The song’s arrangement sets a decidedly brooding atmosphere through the use of its guitars, bass, and heavy drums. Yes, front man Joshua Kiszka is still easily likened to Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant here, but that is the closest comparison that one can make here. The production that is used in the song gives the sound from the band in whole a certain echo effect. The guitar riffs throw back to the golden age of rock thanks to that production and their own approach. The drums and bass collectively sound so full, too, while the use of the choral vocal element adds its own touch to the song.
The lyrical content that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement touches on a familiar topic. According to information provided about the song, its lyrics center on “the influence of technology on modern life; the role conflict plays in the global sphere; the deceptive fulfillment of tangible riches; and philosophical questions about life, love and power.”
Jake Kiszka offered an explanation on the song’s lyrical theme during a recent interview ahead of the song’s debut.
“It’s reflecting a lot of the world that we’ve seen, and I think that it’s reflecting a lot of personal truth. What [front man] Josh does very well with the lyrics is telling ancient tales with a contemporary application,” said Jake.
Drummer Danny Wagner built on his band mate’s comments with his own thoughts.
“We realized that while growing up, we had been shielded by many things, and we were unaware of a lot of things,” said Wagner. “And then we were thrown out into this huge world, and it was a bit of a culture shock at first. But as we started to travel a lot, meet new and different people and experience different cultures, our definition of ‘normal’ changed.”
Bassist Sam Kiszka also shared his thoughts on the band’s single.
“I suppose that everything has changed except what got us here in the first place,” added Sam. “Everything – our perception of the world, perception of life itself, what it means to be an artist, what it means to be part of a beautiful, gorgeous society. We’ve gained a larger understanding of why we’re all here.”
’Age of Machine’ is just one of the songs that serves to exhibit Greta Van Fleet’s growth in this album. As noted, ‘The Barbarians’ is another example of that growth and development.
The familiar neo-classic rock sound and stylistic approach for which Greta Van Fleet has come to be known over such a short time is just as present here as in ‘Age of Machine’ and the other songs featured in this album. The thing is that even with that in mind, this song still holds its own unique identity separate from the album’s other works. There is more of a brooding, almost contemplative nature to this composition. That is in comparison to all of the other work featured in the album. The seeming tightness and warmth from the guitar and the definition in the drums and bass serves well to translate that feeling. It is just one part of what makes the song stand out. The lyrical content that accompanies the song makes for its own interest.
In the case of the lyrical content featured here, it comes across as a familiar commentary about mankind’s tendency toward conflict. That is inferred with some clarity in the song’s lead verse and chorus, which state, “Children with their toys of war/ Birthright of death with a fiery breath/Funeral of innocence/Painted up in the red and dressed in lead/We are/Are we prisoners or renegades?/Well, I’ve done my time, woah/Behold visions of burning skies/Alas, Babylon/Woah, whoah, whoah, whoah.” The seeming commentary is made even clearer in the song’s second, brief verse, which states, “Mothers of barbarians, woah/Were your young so spry when they left to die?/We are” This is all just this critic’s interpretation, but it certainly seems in this case, that the song is addressing people’s tendency toward war and fighting in general. If in fact that is the case, then it would make sense that the song’s arrangement is so brooding and contemplative in its nature. Keeping that in mind, the whole here shows even more why the album is at least somewhat of a growth from GFV’s debut EP and album. It is just one more example of the album’s strength. The album’s even more contemplative midpoint, ‘Tears of Rain’ is yet another example of the continued growth in Greta Van Fleet as a unit.
‘Tears of Rain’ is a deeply moving, semi-acoustic work whose depth creates so much emotional impact for audiences. The simple strumming on the guitar alongside the vocals here work with the piano and electric guitar line to tug at listeners’ heart strings. To a point, one can make more of a comparison to works from The Beatles than Led Zeppelin. The song’s musical arrangement is just one of its positives. The lyrical content that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement makes for its own appeal.
The lyrical theme featured in ‘Tears of Rain’ comes across as yet another social commentary, despite what the song’s title infers. In this case, the commentary comes across as addressing the state of the world. This is inferred in the song’s lead verse and chorus as they state, “Bathing in the light around us/Praying for the night to comfort thee/Dancing on the coals below us/Praying for the flood to set us free/And the planet is still turning/And the faces are still burning/And the mother with their children/search for the rain. That mention of the rain circles back to the song’s title. The rest of the lead verse and chorus it seems to comment on all the negativity and how we are just wishing for things to get better and the suffering to end. The song’s second verse tends to lean in the same direction as it states, “Drifting through the plains before us/As it turns to dust before our eyes/Pleading for a god to pour us/Just a little bit of rain from an empty sky.” Again, here is that call for some higher power to make things better in all of the misery. It makes the song’s moody musical arrangement make more sense, looking at all of this. To that end, the song is just one more example of what makes The Battle at Garden’s Gate a positive new offering from Greta Van Fleet. When this and the other songs featured in the album, the whole makes the album a record that while not perfect, still a mostly enjoyable new addition to this year’s field of new rock albums.
Greta Van Fleet’s sophomore album, Battle at Garden’s Gate is a record that is worth hearing at least once. That is proven through its musical and lyrical content alike. The content shows some growth from the band members themselves and as a collective. It shows that the band cannot still be solely likened to Led Zeppeling, even despite the clear vocal similarities. That will always be unavoidable. Regardless, the arrangements and lyrical themes show the band is growing and changing. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s songs, the whole makes the album an unsuspectingly positive addition to this year’s field of new rock records. Battle at Garden’s Gate is available now through Lava/Republic Records. More information on the album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:
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