Greta Van Fleet has touched upon their potential as true rock stars; just like classic rockers that have become legends in the golden years. The new album showcases their progression from purely showcasing their talent and have become something far more intentional, raw, vulnerable, and cathartic. The Battle at Garden’s Gate, the sophomore full-length album, yearns to be listened to from side-a to side-b; a conceptual and carefully crafted set of tracks that tell the tale of the band’s growth, not just in skill, but how religiously and through the fiber of their being, the band has embraced the trueness of rock and roll, where before this release, it seems to have been lost for decades. Greta Van Fleet has struck gold where countless musicians have sought out this essence for their entire careers and never found it.
The artists showcased their growth over the last year in their concrete visuals, painting a picture in heavenly whites and creams while contrasting intentionally with splashes of color. The first track of the album, “Heat Above,” shines as the pure example of this, creating a heavenly aspect in their choice of wardrobe and performance onstage. Contrasting the white and creams are chainmail jewelry and body armor, creating an otherworldly and ethereal aspect to their look.
And whereas “Heat Above” introduces fans to the album, it also sheds light on something deeper. The track is the first look into their new-and-improved sound; where the band didn’t hesitate in their sound and chose to embrace it further and to embrace the entire identity in becoming something legendary and worthy of never losing its shine over the ages.
Up next, “My Way Soon” is not only visually but lyrically, a documentary of the band’s process in growing together; whether that’s through performing on tour, writing and creating, or purely living out their days together. While sharing film footage, Greta Van Fleet takes this track to reflect on their beginnings and how far they’ve come since then.
A continuation of their tales as artists, “Broken Bells” also shows off the skillset of the musicians throughout the track. While making the electric guitar sing its own powerful and emotionally-rich harmony, Beautiful guitar solo and bridge; powered to the brim with emotion. They’ve hit the essence of rock and roll– whereas in the previous album, they were purely just singing about a girl. Now they’ve touched into something far deeper; the essence of pain, passion, and experiencing the rawness and vulnerability in creating true rock music.
Beginning with a classic electric guitar hook, “Built By Nations” fills the ears with cool sound while it signifies the growth from the band’s beginnings, the influences, and the support from others that helped them gain traction and succeed in the music industry. The vocalist’s soothing falsetto plays out to impress throughout, conveying “the hero’s journey,” in a new light, where the hero struggles to find their footing without an identity to call their own.
While commenting on how technology is impacting us, “The Age of Machine,” released as a single with a music video, visually shows its impact through a series of images; scientists working on the members of the band, trying to make them blink and express emotion. Oil rigs dot the landscape and smog blocks out the rays of sunlight. Technology and our impact as humans block the natural order and the way we can feel and think, and the track becomes a cinematic take on the attempt to free oneself from technology’s tight grip on man.
“Tears of Rain,” begins with an acoustic, stripped introduction, and the vocals involve a beautiful showcase of grit and true, deep heartache. Instrumentally, it feels intentional and poignant in its ballad-feel as the electric guitar sings its own tune; the title alone is dramatic and classic to the essence of true rock and roll; it’s not just about shredding or playing well. It’s the emotion conveyed in each chord and note and stylistic choice throughout the track.
Creating a world of heaven in its ambient introduction, “Stardust Chords,” then breaks into the first verse; becoming much more playful throughout as vocals play with various falsetto chords, and the synth-like electric guitar washes the ears clean with a fresh take on classic rock-and-roll meets “modern.”
“Light My Love,” continues along in the playful melody; and remains lighthearted in its instrumental melody’s style choice, all while still touching deeper on romantic feelings and love than in past work. It goes to show that in experiencing the world more helps one be able to convey things far more confidently about vulnerable and raw feelings like being wracked with grief, heartbreak, and more.
Next, “Caravel,” defined as a light sailing ship used through the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries in Europe, uses the song’s title to paint crisp images of the wind tearing through hair, and embracing the difficulties in the band’s spiritual journey to finding success, going through hell and back. The track’s dramatic diction shares Greta Van Fleet as characters in a grand, adventurous quest, worthy of epics and poetry as they play out until their hearts would soar and find rest.
Featuring one of the coolest intros yet, “The Barbarians” also contains some of their most poetically-rich lyrical content to date. As it attempts to appeal to the masses of our generation and in generations past, they sing about things thematically similar to “The Age of Man” (from their previous album) and “The Age of Machine,” while selling its conviction to their message through the fiber of their beings. We claim to be evolved from our past, far better in our knowledge and technological advances, yet our nature to destroy and tear others down gives us away. In the chorus, Are we prisoners of renegades?/Well I’ve done my time, woah/Behold visions of burning skies/Alas Babylon,” the crisp vocals convict their audience for change, a cry out for peace before our inevitable destruction. Just as Babylon fell, so will we, if we let our hubris decide our fates.
“Trip The Light Fantastic,” seems to sequel the previous track, seeming to share that the band themselves have found their answer to contentment in their digging and searching. Referencing Hindu and Buddhist culture throughout the lyrics, they comment about how our actions will impact our future. If we “do good,” in this world while our feet are still planted on the ground, we can root in the actions we choose to reflect and spread out positivity, compassion, and acting justly to all.
As the conclusion of the album, “The Weight Of Dreams” in title alone shows the heaviness in potential for this track. And being a full nine minutes in length, the track is packed to the brim. Although the previous tracks convey the band’s journey through hell to find success in their dreams, this track could stand alone strong, but equally depends on the previous songs to build upon its impact; the pursuit of finding success in fulfilling your dreams when everything out in the big world fights so hard to stop you from doing it. This track, too, could be a comment on how American and capitalistic society seems to be turned against the creative dreamers, how it distracts humanity from acting peacefully to others and pursuing a life of true appreciation instead of greed.
As Greta Van Fleet embrace and talk of different forms of religion, its impact on humanity, they break down the battles of humanity over the last year, over the ages, and create a desperate call for change while sharing their growth and convictions as a band. Whereas in albums past, they shared the same talent, and potential for growth in their sudden rise to fame. The band says they took the time in writing the album to pursue their message and dug everywhere they could to find the essence of who they are as a band. With The Battle At Garden’s Gate being the fruits of their labor, it shows how their potential has truly become reality. They not only play like the classic rock and roll legends but now they show that they’re sold on becoming one of the greats. They’ve filled the shoes lain out for them and shone beyond them. I will be looking forward to hearing more from this band as they continue to grow.
Listen to The Battle At Garden’s Gate now, available on all streaming platforms.