Greta Van Fleet
The Battle at Garden's Gate


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
April 17th, 2021 | 97 replies


Release Date: 04/16/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Redemption

Around the turn of the millennium, nostalgia rock bands started springing out of the ground unexpectedly. Jet and Wolfmother were the first offenders - er, I mean, instances. Jet wanted nothing more than to be the new Beatles/Rolling Stones on 2003's Get Born, and Wolfmother might have actually thought they were Led Zeppelin at some point on their eponymous 2005 debut. Other lesser-known nostalgia rock bands eventually appeared as well: for example, The Explorers Club aimed to be the Beach Boys with their 2008 release Freedom Wind. What all of these artists had in common - besides the ability to give sixty-five year olds orgasms - is that they were actually pretty damn good. Their flames burned bright and died quickly, but they all succeeded - however briefly - in capturing something that many of us yearned for. It's just as silly to dismiss the great debuts these bands churned out as it is to worship them as the second comings of the acts that they idolized. They can still be enjoyed, but with the obvious caveat that they'll never be artistically respected.

Although this trend slowed down in the 2010s, Greta Van Fleet was the most notable act to carry the torch. The reason they failed to even garner the same begrudging sliver of acclaim earned by the aforementioned bands is because their debut - even by "nostalgia rock" standards - laid it on way too thick. Anthem of the Peaceful Army tried to replicate Led Zeppelin down to the most minute of details. A colleague of mine who reviewed the record captured its flaws perfectly when he wrote, "You can sit in a bedroom for 20 years solid learning everything they ever did and buy all the fancy gear, but you can’t attain the heart and feel Led Zeppelin had – money can’t buy that kind of talent and connection." It's a perfect distillation of why any nostalgia rock band cannot truly succeed long-term; it's exceedingly rare if not impossible for an homage to surpass the quality of the classic it emulates. The best they can hope for is a brief window of novelty value. Not to entirely diminish what Greta Van Fleet has done with its sophomore record The Battle at Garden's Gate, but for them, this is that flash in the pan. It's still not going to knock your socks off with its creative ambition, but much like Wolfmother, Get Born, and Freedom Wind - it's got that rock and that roll.

The Battle at Garden's Gate is a massive sixty-four minute experience brimming with mysterious atmospheres, complex guitar solos, and all-around exceptional musicianship. The most difficult pill to swallow is probably Josh Kiszka's occasionally grating Geddy Lee/Robert Plant impersonations, but if you can move past it, then this is packed with classic rock goodness. 'Heat Above' is the ideal opener because it's so damn memorable. The second biggest criticism of Anthem of the Peaceful Army, other than its derivative nature, was the lack of quality melodies/lyrics to latch onto - it just felt like Led Zeppelin wankery by numbers. That is not the case here. From the get-go, Greta Van Fleet breaks out their best songwriting to date with 'Heat Above' and 'My Way, Soon', both of which prioritize craft and melody above all. They are able to do so without sacrificing their inherent rock n' roll ambitions though, with both featuring riffs/solos interesting enough to make you want to return to the song on their merits alone. These tracks are the first indication that The Battle at Garden's Gate might be on to something, and that perhaps Greta Van Fleet isn't above learning from, and subsequently correcting, their shortcomings.

'Broken Bells' is when this record evolves into something truly special, however. For the first time, we witness Greta Van Fleet veering in a direction that they could somewhat call their own. The atmosphere is gorgeous, with resplendent guitars ringing out delicately like the bells Kiszka sings of - soothingly, not gratingly this time - and the song winds up to a spectacular electric guitar solo which for once feels earned rather than forcibly inserted. It feels like Greta Van Fleet's true artistic arrival, and even though it came a full album late, it's still mighty impressive. What's better is that they rarely take their collective feet off the pedal after that, almost as if they got a hit of dopamine from it: hey, we really like making stuff that sounds different! 'Age of Machine' features layered vocals that cause the song to swell with fanfare, which is offset by the rumble of thunderous, low-pitched riffs which accent the dichotomy of it all in a fashion that is both intriguing and pleasing to the ear. 'Stardust Chords' sees Kiszka singing in his most powerful and raspy tone, atop a brilliant chord progression that even sees some strings swell in the background. That's another difference between Greta Van Fleet now and Greta Van Fleet then - the songwriting remains technically adept, but it is also fluid and dynamic. These songs breathe enough to allow things like the stunning pianos of 'Light My Love' to feel like centerpieces of their respective tracks, rather than frills merely tossed in for good measure.

The Battle at Garden's Gate reaches its zenith on the final track - a winding nine minute epic that (unsurprisingly) plays out like their very own 'Stairway to Heaven.' Kiszka's raw, shrill singing has taken some much deserved flack, but here it works extremely well as he finds himself in an all-out scream by the time the track's three-and-a-half minute long guitar solo arrives. The instrumental components across the entire record range from technically sound to exceptional, but here they're really elevating their game to a new level. Imitating or not, 'The Weight of Dreams' is a monumental rock n' roll song, and it delivers a worthy ending to what I have to admit is an extremely impressive album. With The Battle at Garden's Gate, the Greta Van Fleet jokes can effectively stop. If this is that fabled window of opportunity that closes so fast for what we've come to call "nostalgia rock" bands, then Greta Van Fleet has taken full advantage of their moment. They've cleaned up the mistakes of their first album, fleshed out their atmospheres into some truly lush and breathtaking territories, doubled down on their heavy rock edge, and crafted something that is far better than it has any right to be. Bask in it without feeling any shame.



s
Recent reviews by this author
Chloe Moriondo Blood BunnyJack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall The Marfa Tapes
Squid Bright Green FieldWeezer Van Weezer
mewithoutYou Pale HorsesManchester Orchestra The Million Masks of God
user ratings (74)
3
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


7832 Comments


hmmmm

Slex
April 17th 2021


11183 Comments


I don't believe you

Digging: Origami Angel - Gami Gang

parksungjoon
April 17th 2021


31341 Comments


wild

Digging: Make a Change...Kill Yourself - II

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


5847 Comments


I'm sure the album isn't a 4 but calling Jet and Wolfmother "pretty damn good" is the real hot take here

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


5847 Comments


Get Born is one of the worst albums of the 2000s and I mean that totally sincerely. Can't really speak to Wolfmother but I would purge the existence of Jet from the earth if I had the power to do so

Divaman
April 17th 2021


10612 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I've told this on Sputnik before, but what the hell. A few years back, my wife and I saw Wolfmother opening for The Killers at Jones Beach. There was a kid in a wheelchair next to us who looked about 15. And that kid was having such a wonderful time during Wolfmother's set, heckling them and screaming "Boo! Wolfmother! You suck!" as loud as he could that it kind of made me like them.

Digging: Dinosaur Jr. - Sweep It Into Space

parksungjoon
April 17th 2021


31341 Comments


lolwut

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


7832 Comments


lmao Diva

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


5847 Comments


Based on the first few tracks this is... okay-ish. Still do NOT like Kizka's voice really at all and the music is not terribly interesting but I think they manage to shift their priorities as songwriters here in a way that makes them a lot more likeable

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


5847 Comments


I think the band GVF remind me the most of at this point might actually be The Darkness? They have different influences obv but there's that same earnest fanboyism at the core that, while painfully dorky, is also a thousand times less vile to me than Jet's cold-blooded cynicism

porcupinetheater
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


7713 Comments


Shame nobody told these kids they could branch out their listening past the 20 dusty greatest hits comps of some of the worst musical impulses in history + LZIV on their parents' CD rack

Toondude10
April 17th 2021


14483 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

yeah, honestly this wasn't that bad, I actually kinda enjoyed this one. But ffs it's way too long

Kompys2000
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


5847 Comments


Maybe realizing these guys are much more into the geeky, LOTR-obsessed side of Zeppelin than the swaggering drugged-up rock gods side of Zeppelin is making me a lot more forgiving but yeah this is fine, probably like a really light 3/really strong 2.5?

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
April 17th 2021


16908 Comments


Holy moly, did not expect that rating — or even sput’s average. Gonna read this later

Gyromania
April 17th 2021


32384 Comments


whoa! their debut is so hated... wtf

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2021


2954 Comments


great review, but yea no way i can tolerate anything by this band until they get a new vocalist and wipe having heard 'highway tune' more than once from my memory

Digging: Porter Robinson - Nurture

Scoot
April 17th 2021


20558 Comments


the debut is hated because it's the most blatant ripoff of a band ever

Snake.
April 18th 2021


22890 Comments


lol

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2021


45092 Comments


Wolfmother did have a few bangers before they lost that first lineup and went to shit. no doubt Jet is a bottom 5 band of all time tho

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2021


36153 Comments


Gates of the Garden is a good song amirite

Digging: Flipper's Guitar - Doctor Head's World Tower



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy