According to Greta Van Fleet, rock is not dead.
In the 3 years since their first appearance, the rock band from Michigan has risen through the ranks, moving from hometown concerts to winning at the Grammys with their album “From the Fires.” Now, with the recent release of their second studio album, many wonder if they have what it takes to stay relevant in a rapidly changing industry.
It turns out they do.
“The Battle at Garden’s Gate,” a collection of 12 songs said to reflect the new scars the band has collected from their time on tour, marks the simultaneous continuation and exit from their past work. Though they keep their distinctive 70’s rock sound, with vocals from Josh Kiszka comparable to rock legend Axl Rose, themes such as war and individual discovery ring throughout each of their songs. The most notable include “Heat Above,” “My Way,” “Soon,” “Broken Bells,” and “The Weight of Dreams,” all of which provide the precise combination of notes and lyrics that make one wonder just how relevant they are to modern society.
Leading the album, “Heat Above” sets the scene for the entire album, one comparable to a John Wayne western gone wasteland. Though it may at first seem grim, echoing images of a battle better left abandoned, the song builds into a hopeful call to the band’s following, a call meant to bring them together. “Marching across the land / Is a peaceful army joining the band / Walking hand in hand / To an anthem loudly sung where they stand,” proclaims the 3rd verse, reminding the peaceful army that there is glory in standing up for what you believe in, and that those who do so are not alone.
But there soon comes a pause to Greta Van Fleet’s cries for community, an interruption more commonly known as the subsequent song, “My Way, Soon.” The first single to be released from the pack, the song sounds straight out of an old 70’s rock bar’s soundtrack for the night, with vocals that move fast and a guitar that moves even faster. It details the personal changes the band has gone through with their time on a worldwide tour, learning about the vast array of experiences around them, especially those of darker nature. “I have yet to wander / Many miles far yonder / And with so much left to ponder / I choose the road,” belches out Kiszka, who like the rest of the band, has wondered just what to say now that he’s been given the stage.
The narrative returns with Broken Bells, whose soft exterior hides harder undertones that shine through in its lyrics. It’s solemn nature makes reference to the lost state of the world that has lost sight of the stars. But there is still hope, with words like “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” foretelling that what is true will shine through in the end. The battle may not yet be over, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for all.
At the back of the pack is the hard-hitter The Weight of Dreams, its title only outweighed by its length (at approximately 9 minutes, it’s the longest one of all). The epic continues as Kiszka sings of the blinding nature of the materialism that lines our veins, leading us to destroy our home and ourselves in the process. “Spoiled wine tastes so sweet, we have gone blind” reveals one line, asking the audience just how lost we are, concluding “ah’s” showcasing the depth of the futile war we fight.
The story told within an hour and three minutes is one that spans more than just one album and just one band. With messages surrounding self-discovery, the power of the collective, and the task we must face, “The Battle at Garden’s Gate” resembles more of a novel than a band of four’s recent musical release. Though some songs in their collection may slip into the background, the overarching force of Greta Van Fleet’s work proves a formidable force within the rock genre. It begs the question of what lies next for the future of rock n’ roll, and what the peaceful army will be called to make a stand for next.
For Greta Van Fleet’s battle is not over, but just beginning.