Out of the Silence, They Sing




Chris Shields, Head Editor

For years now, wearing my Greta Van Fleet t-shirt in public has made me a target criticism and the subject of debate. No band in recent memory has sparked a controversy like this quartet of classic rock revivers, not for the contents of their material, but for the all-too familiar vibe of their sound. Finally, with the release of their sophomore album The Battle at Garden’s Gate, the debate is finished. 

I, like many others, made immediate connection of Greta Van Fleet’s music to that of revolutionary blues rock pilots Led Zeppelin after my first listen through their debut EP Black Smoke Rising. While the double EP From the Fires proved an improvement, the inspiration of their work remained blaringly, and unavoidably obvious. 2018’s Anthem of the Peaceful Army, their first full-length album demonstrated their venturing into the unknown and unexplored while reminding listeners of their roots. Now, three years later, The Battle at Garden’s Gate defies expectations and redefines the meaning of mainstream rock and roll. 

Clocking in at over an hour of original material, and packing 12 songs total, this long awaited album finally made its way to streaming platforms and physical musical manifestation on April 16th 2021. After teasing the album’s production with singles “My Way, Soon,” “Heat Above,” “Broken Bells,” and “Age of Machine” the world stopped and listened in anticipation for what the group from Frankenmuth was capable of, and boy oh boy did they show us. 

Not only did they remind fans of the reason they bought the band’s merch in the first place, but they violently silenced all haters and critics with the sheer electricity, power, and distinct majesty of this album. From the moment the intro riff of “Heat Above” blares through your headphones, to the final, lingering moments of “The Weight of Dreams,” the young blues rockers supply fans of all genres with an action packed, emotional, and boundary-breaking musical experience for the ages. 

The cover of The Battle at Garden’s Gate is simply put, melancholy. It’s a flat charcoal black with the title and “gate” logo in a shimmering gold accent. Contrary to the gorgeous, vibrant covers we have come to know, this one makes a statement with its underwhelming presence. Though it isn’t the visually stimulating mural cover fans may have expected, it definitely stands out. 

Guitarist Jake Kiszka has never looked so gifted than with his wailing guitar riffs and solos interlaced throughout the piece. For an accurate representation of what he’s capable of, listening to “The Barbarians” not only shows his originality and creative prowess, but also his Clapton-style Wah Pedal skillsNasty bends, gnarly licks, and gritty tones are what Jake brings and the ensemble would not be the same without it. 

Josh’s screaming voice pierces through the sound with sheer power in every single song, start to finish. His vocal manipulation propelled the group to the fame they currently possess and continues to reinvent modern music with his unforgotten and familiar style. “Caravel” shows listeners the development he has gained since their first EP, while returning his signature shrieking growl. 

Sam flexes his magic fingers through his thumping bass linesand through his melodic piano lines. He first took to the keys in their debut EP Black Smoke Rising in the song “Flower Power” with an unforgettable classic rock organ solo, and “Light My Love,” he’s right back at it. His powerful and precise rhythm work and gentle keyboard accents progress the band’s sound in a new and much-needed direction. 

Finally, Danny Wagner once again beats the drum skins without a hint of remorse. His slow, trudging beat driving “Age of Machine” is the fuel for the mellow head bang that the song triggers. 

While all these are fantastic tunes, easily the best on the album is “My Way, Soon.” An upbeat, danceable groove composed of blues licks and gritty tones is a kick back to the 60’s British Invasion of classic rock. It’s exciting, enticing, and so very enjoyable. I find myself listening to this inclusion on repeat and has secured itself on the list of my favorite Greta Van Fleet songs. 

The closest this album comes to anything Zeppelin-ish is “Built by Nations,” and that’s only due to the heavily blues based, ripping guitar sparking memories of Jimmy PageWith a concept like the blues there’s only so much wiggle room before sounds start to meld. While this song references Zepp, it’s still unique and keeps the listener on their toes with its various twists, turns, and changes.  

The whole album isn’t simply bangers either. “Tears of Rain” provides a much needed and welcomed mellow change of pace from the blood pumping vibe overall. After describing their new work as a “more worldly” creation and references spiritual and mystic tones. It’s a pleasing evolutionary step in the right direction to progress their repertoire and grow as a band. 

This production has already begun to see some success in the music world, with their single “My Way, Soon” conquering the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart in January, and the album itself becoming a fixture in several “Most Anticipate Albums of 2021” lists by organizations including Rolling Stone and Vulture. Seeing as how it has only just recently come out, the success that it will most likely reach is beyond speculation. This is an instant classic for pop lovers and classic rock lovers alike. Greta Van Fleet is rapidly becoming an icon of a band, and I already cannot wait for their next album.