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‘The Battle at Garden’s Gate:’ Breaking free from the machine

| Thursday, April 22, 2021

Jackie Junco | The Observer

What once was just a small band in Michigan with three brothers, Greta Van Fleet has soared to the front of modern-day rock with vocalist Josh Kiszka’s incredible voice and his brother, Jake’s, sensational guitar skills. My first time hearing them was with my brother during Thanksgiving break of my senior year in high school. Listening to their music was a simple past time of mine to connect with my brothers, but their newest album has shaped how I see the medium of music.

Greta Van Fleet’s third album, “The Battle at Garden’s Gate,” evolves the band’s new-age rock and roll sound with a slower, ethereal chorus. Josh Kiszka perfects his angelic voice to preach verses of nature and peace, though with sparse depth found in the lyrics. The more I listen to the album and the band, I realize it is not what they are saying that is important, but what I am hearing. This band knows that their sound is stronger than anything they will ever be able to write. As the drums bang audible pyrotechnics and smoke as the guitar takes center stage, fashioning electric solos with unstoppable force, their chords surround you like fireflies in the forest.

It is the little things in each song that build this album up to the next level. From the rumbling thunder in, “Tears of Rain,” to the individual symbols for each song on the album art on Spotify, if feels like every moment was crafted just for you. The layers of sound and mixed-in elements of both church choirs and electric guitar make a clashing mix with a surprisingly gentle experience. A war of machine and nature exists in the notes, swaying through the choruses in a river of sound. The two intensities are expressed in the metallic end of the world with “Age of Machine,” and the floral pastures of peace in “Heat Above.” The entire album has a cohesive theme throughout, using this conflict to sway the tone from one side to another, creating a holistically diverse album. It all looks scrambled at first glance, yet it sounds so connected that each listen unravels a new, subconscious understanding.

My only reservation with these songs is how little weight the lyrics hold. Most of the songs sing just two verses outside the chorus, the longest song only reaching its length by having a four minute guitar solo. The brief words sung bring out striking imagery of burning skies and war-swept landscapes, but does it all mean anything? I feel if the words were supposed to be as prophetic as they appear, there would be more of them. Behind the curtains of the stage, the band has really shifted its focus to the instrumental rather than the lyrical elements of their writing, allowing the gifted guitarist, Jake Kiszka, to lead the band for the future. Hopefully, this shift will evolve beyond the need for lyrics, because right now, it feels like I’m missing the underlying message of the music.

“The Battle at Garden’s Gate” signals a new chapter for Greta Van Fleet, pushing past any misconceptions of their skills and sailing to new horizons of wonderful sights and sounds. Even if they merely sound cool to you, this album serves as a perfect way to lose track of time and space for an hour. Just plug in the headphones and relax for the best listening experience. At first it will only sound cool, but soon you will find yourself cracking your voice trying to hit Josh Kiszka’s notes as you pretend to know how to play air-guitar. Their style is contagious as they continue to evolve. Each album builds its own unique sound and texture with climactic beginnings and endings. The craft of their music is timeless, and I cannot wait to listen to it for the rest of my life.

Artist: Greta Van Fleet

Album: “The Battle at Garden’s Gate”

Label: Lava/Public Records

Favorite tracks: “The Weight of Dreams” and “Age of Machine”

If you like: Police, Van Halen, Rush

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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