Review by Matty K & Diane DiMemmo

April 16, 2021

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L-R: Danny Wagner, Jake Kiszka, Josh Kiszka, Sam Kiszka

Photo credit: Matthew Daniel Siska

With the release today of their second studio album - The Battle at Garden’s Gate  - Greta Van Fleet delivers an anthemic body of work which should really be of no surprise considering the trajectory they’ve been on since first hitting the scene. The album is a masterwork sure to leave you with a sense of hope, but not before it thoughtfully reflects on a world in dire need of some.

The Battle at Garden’s Gate opens with “Heat Above,” a single that elicits goosebumps as you start to feel the tone of the album and realize that this journey is just getting started. The sound of an angelic organ welcomes us in as we’re told the story of a peaceful army here to soothe the earth and save the lives of those consumed by war. Righteous acoustic riffs set the stage for Josh Kiszka’s signature vocals (which continually amaze) to guide us through this narrative.

Next, we move into “My Way, Soon” which can be considered a master class on how to write a chorus with a catchy hook. This is a tune about choosing your own path and celebrating the decision to do so. A steady beat, scorching guitar solo, and driving bass line makes this one an instant favorite where you can already envision massive crowds once again celebrating live music together at a Greta show.

"Heat Above"

Broken Bells” is a symphonic rock performance which begins as the first "down tempo" track on the album, but then crescendos in intensity with layered chords, innovative guitar work and soaring vocals that seem to come from the heavens. The philosophical thematic piece boasts a Jake Kiska guitar solo that will simply leave you speechless and band instrumentation with musical intricacies reminiscent of The Beatles’ finest songs. An intense and uplifting piece which demonstrates an incredibly mature sound for musicians so young.

With roots clearly embedded in the soil of classic rock, “Built by Nations” is a dramatic track which explores the challenges of maintaining one’s own identity, while at the same time, preserving allegiances. More incredible guitar work and weaving bass lines by Jake and Sam Kiszka and for those pedal fans out there, we  think we heard a spring reverb on this one. Danny Wagner really kicks it into high gear on this one, and fans can only hope he’s given a few minutes to solo in the middle of it during live shows to really bring this one home.

Age of Machine” rings in with intriguing guitar tones ... almost mechanical in nature, which seems appropriate as you dig into the lyrics. “Plugged in since the womb, Prophet of the dune, In this electric tomb."  An ode to man’s overconsumption of technology perhaps? It’s a hypnotic track that delivers masterfully chaotic guitar solos that drive the theme home as cymbals crash all around us. The harmonious plea for healing is almost haunting as the track winds down.

Stream The Battle at Garden's Gate!

With another beautiful and dreamy performance, “Tears of Rain” will choke you up as it sings of mothers and children in search of relief within an arid dystopia. There’s a skill in painting a beautiful picture with introspective lyrics of something so bleak that really shines through here. Josh’s impressive vocal range is undeniable as he effortlessly takes listeners through several octaves against the backdrop of rich, ethereal piano chords.

Stardust Chords” cooks up some lyrical storytelling reminiscent of great works from the likes of Rush or Bowie. Whimsical in theme and tempo, this track uniquely stands out with an uplifting string arrangement and harmonizing supporting vocals. An exceptional single all around.

On “Light My Love,” Sam Kiszka treats us to some very graceful piano work which frames a uniquely poetic piece. A love song perhaps but layered atop a deeper meaning. This one will give you chills as it becomes increasingly apparent that no two songs on this album are alike. Atop their signature Greta Van Fleet sound, the band innovates and varies the song structure track-by-track, keeping listeners engaged and excited about what’s coming next.

The heavier riffs return with “Caravel” leading us on a trip to earlier times; times of high risk and adventure. We’re conveyed there by yet another brilliant vocal performance and a soulful instrumental composition that feels high-powered and charismatic, yet uncomplicated.

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L-R: Jake Kiszka, Josh Kiszka, Sam Kiszka, Danny Wagner

Photo credit: Alysse Gafkjen

The Barbarians” is an attention-grabbing performance throughout. As the song opens, a layering of guitar effects sets an interesting- almost magical - vibe. It’s a bluesy track that rings of antiwar and hope for the world’s youth. Is that a mellotron playing at the start of the track?

Probably the most unique song on the album, “Trip the Light Fantastic” is a rock mantra filled with references to Hindu philosophy. A tribal, foundational drumbeat punctuates and fuels the composition accompanied by several different guitar stylings and layered, hymnal choruses. The production value really shines here and one day throngs of concert-goers will be linking arms and singing in unison to this one!

The Weight of Dreams” is a track that might be interpreted as a cautionary tale of man’s effect on the environment. Clean guitars accompany more of Danny Wagner’s masterful drum work, which will steal your attention. It all leads to a crushing crescendo accented by another bold string arrangement and a blistering guitar solo, satisfying rock fans’ constant need for a classic jam session. A great closer for the album!

Although not necessarily advertised as a concept album, The Battle at Garden’s Gate possesses both a lyrical and musical cohesion that makes a strong case for being considered one. There is a purposefulness to the album. Josh Kiszka is a poet as much as he is a singer and the instrumental backdrop that he’s provided could not be more complimentary to his particular turn of mind. Greta Van Fleet continues to propel and elevate “classic rock” from a genre defined only by fundamental elements for decades, to a genre now defined by introspective lyricism, multi-faceted instrumentation, and artful song arrangement.

"Age of Machine"

Great Van Fleet @ Stone Pony Summer Stage {2019}

Live Photos Credit: Diane DiMemmo

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Matty K is an avid rock & roll fan. The sounds, the imagery, the folklore...there’s a passion for it all. Lifelong Jersey local and a self-proclaimed “basement musician,” he finds himself spending a lot of time explaining why he’s not a music snob. “Hmm...maybe I am.”

Diane DiMemmo stumbled into and fell in love with Asbury Park and photography a few short years ago. An avid concert fanatic, photographer, and former musician, she recognized the need for a Jersey Shore music publication to highlight the accomplishments of local and national musicians through photos and press. Asbury Park Vibes has been her labor of love ever since, along with her Golden Retriever – Cooper – who you’ll often see walking Diane through the streets of Asbury.

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