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ALBUM REVIEW: Greta Van Fleet's Cinematic "The Battle At Garden's Gate"

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Photo: Alysse Gafjken

Greta Van Fleet’s sophomore album, The Battle At Garden’s Gate (otherwise known as TBAGG) is quite the ride. Through countless interviews for this album, all four members have stated that this album is cinematic, theatrical, a movie soundtrack, and they were spot-on. The band has also kept relaying that this is the album they wanted to make. They felt in complete control. And the producer they worked with on Lava Records, Greg Kurstin (Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, etc.) encouraged the band to grow wings and fly. And they really learned how.

The hype around this album has been insanely exciting watching singles and music videos drop, watching interviews, reading album reviews. Everything has been leading up to this and fans will absolutely rave over this album.

Opening with “Heat Above” is such a sweet invitation, inviting you along on your journey to the garden’s gate. With the opening of the keyboard being so welcoming and calming from bassist and keyboardist Sam Kiszka followed by roaring drums from Danny Wagner, the song falls into place with the main guitar riff perfectly matching the keyboard riff. Josh Kiszka’s vocals already sound incredibly strong, it’s as if there’s no turning back with this album. Being that this is in fact an older song (performed live at shows in 2016 & 2017), it’s no surprise that Greta Van Fleet are staying true to their roots. It’s such an uplifting and positive song, yet it doesn’t set the entire album’s tone…

The best lyrics:

“Life’s the story of ascending to the stars as one

Leading straight into “My Way, Soon”, the first single released in October 2020, it takes us to the next part of the album. Originally written on tour and about life on the road, this song is essentially about and for fans. It’s also the band’s fifth hit single since their debut single “Highway Tune” dropped in 2017. It’s upbeat, catchy, Josh’s vocals are melodic. And it of course has a killer guitar solo from guitarist Jake Kiszka.

The best lyrics:

“I have but a lifetime seems so long but it flies by, and in the moments passing I’ll bear no load”

“Broken Bells” takes us somewhat on a lower level is critically acclaimed as not only the best single on the album, but the best GVF song ever. Since this album is “half-concept” according to Sam in Scott Lipp’sPodcast, anything is possible with this band. The track starts off slow and Josh’s vocals will have you swaying. The guitar solo really kicks it up a notch and you experience how powerful it is. “Broken Bells” is such a power ballad, within not even twelve hours of it’s release, people were absolutely raving over it.

The best lyrics:

“Though I believe the sun still shines and I believe there comes a time, when out of silence we will sing, and even broken bells will ring. Not all the answers are the same, yet we still play the game.”

Built By Nations is where we begin to get chaotic. Yes, begin. The opening riff sounds like sirens, except it’s a guitar. It’s almost as if you’re driving down a road and you slam into this great guitar riff. It’s of course pure rock ‘n’ roll and what Greta Van Fleet is known for. This is where we drive onto the windy road on our journey to Garden’s Gate. This is also the first track where we hear those background vocals. This song is about the beginning of the long and winding road of a journey. It speaks of the devil, sins and defeat. But it’s definitely a fan favor

The best lyrics:

“Woah the trouble get so loud, when all of hell tries to drag you down, woah the wounded warrior on this battle ground”

Already loved by fans, “Age Of Machine” starts off slow, picks up at the chorus, has an amazing guitar solo and then finishes beautifully. What the world is doing to this character (or ourselves) on our journey. In a recentinterview with Loudwire, Sammy explained, “There’s this beauty that a child has and everyday you grow up if you’re not aware. There’s this raw innocence and pure beauty and you see the world in all these different ways. And you get put into this society and you get kind of molded.” There’s so much that goes on in every single one of these songs, but it’s even crazier in this song. “We need some healing” is possibly leading us into “Tears Of Rain?”

The best lyrics:

“Feeling oh god the feeling, we need some healing, we need some healing, God knows if you feel defeated, you have been cheated, you have retreated.”

Tears Of Rain” is like a deep breath. The piano in this song brings such comfort. The opening lyrics consist of “Bathing in the light around us, praying for the night to comfort thee.” It’s a bit full of fear and a cry for help. The ending of this song is so perfect as the band shows their creative side. The track itself sounds so amazingly theatrical and that’s the entire point of this album. When Josh sings, “Who will bring the rain”, you shed a tear due to how beautiful this album has already been, how far this band has come, and how they’ve grown.

The best lyrics:

“Who will bring the rain?”

The dramatic vibe continues in the beginning of “Stardust Chords” with suspense… Jake definitely invites us into this song with his smooth guitar riff. But then again, it’s so easy to visualize everything happening. Then by the chorus, we’re in not only church, we’re at mass.

The best lyrics:

“It has been said by the lights of the living and the dead, make your bed, even the sinners go drink the wine, break the bread”

Moving onto thee love song of the album, “Light My Love”, starts off with an engaging piano and you automatically start swaying. Everyone and everything is so in-sync. Then Josh begins to sing, “Can you light my love.” Somewhat going back to the hope and positivity of some of the earlier songs, “Watch as our world has begun”. This song will be performed live over and over again, and of course, the women will lose their minds over it.

The best lyrics:

“Your mind is a stream of colors

Extending beyond our sky

A land of infinite wonders

A Billion lightyears from here now”

Jake and his guitar get us back on track and remind us we’re still at battle. All of a sudden, we’re on a “Caravel.” Fans will cling on to this song as it’s pure rock ‘n’ roll. Between the melting guitar solos and a lower range for Josh, this is somewhat of a mysterious song. We’re not really sure of where we’re at, until we reach the chorus…

The best lyrics:

“Sail, to the end of the world, whoa

For death or glory ooooh

Bow, with your face to the sky, yeah

We are the movement ooooh”

Photo: Alysse Gafkjen

We’re thrown straight into a synthesizer keyboard in “The Barbarians,” in which Sam Kiszka. Within this song, we’re nearing Garden’s Gate. Smack dab in the middle of this track, the keyboard keeps playing higher and higher. The track takes you as if you’re transcending to a higher level.

The best lyrics:

“Are we prisoners or renegades?”

We are so close to finishing this album, it’s crazy. “Trip The Light Fantastic” screams psychedelia. It’s as if you’re walking into a ‘70s bar or night club. But it’s fun. As Sam has mentioned before, it takes a little bit of extra brain power to listen to and comprehend their music and not everyone can do that. So thanks for that, Sam.

The best lyrics:

“To comet across the blistering hue

Beyond the spaces of false and true

Away from a world we have riddled with scars

To be wholly free and amongst the stars”

To fans, it’s known as "Black Flag Exposition". If you’ve been to a Greta Van Fleet show between 2018-2019, or you’ve watched their Red Rocks performance, you definitely know this song. We just knew this song would be on this album, there was no escaping it. Jake is performing as a rock ‘n’ roll sherpa and your mind can’t even comprehend it. “Weight Of Dreams” is the perfect ending track as it feels like closure throughout its entirety. Critics have mentioned there is a cliff-hanger at the end and I’d have to agree. There seems like there’s more to the story…

The Best Lyrics:

“Spoiled wine tastes so sweet we have gone blind”

Greta Van Fleet have gone from playing shitty (and probably dangerous) bars in Detroit and Saginaw, to dominating the world. The Battle At Garden’s Gate is set to exceed expectations, but Greta Van Fleet has more within them then we’ll ever know.


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