Greta Van Fleet, formed by Josh, Jake, and Sam Kiszka with Danny Wagner on drums in 2012, has spent the bulk of their career followed by a single criticism; they sound a lot like Led Zeppelin. Which is a criticism I don’t disagree with, on a technical level, but I also think their sound is more complex than a singular inspiration. On the flip side, I enjoy Led Zeppelin and am not bothered by musicians leaning into their inspirations. The first time I encountered Greta Van Fleet’s music I actually thought they sounded a lot like The Who, with Josh’s stage presence reminding me of Joe Cocker and Freddy Mercury and so maybe, to some critics, that classic rock sound simply melds together into a sound that is not unique enough to differentiate from their inspirations.
On a technical level, this second album is incredibly solid; it’s clear that several years of touring have given the band time to develop their skills and hone their lyrics. The Kiszka brothers have acknowledged in interviews that they had a pretty sheltered, free spirited childhood and that they learned a lot by touring the globe, which really opened them up to the realities of the industry they inhabit and shifted their lyrical and melodic focus.
While their first LP, Anthem of the Peaceful Army, had a fairly frenetic pace, Battle at Garden’s Gate (released April 16) takes a much more relaxed, almost psychedelic tone, with previous fast pacing being replaced by guitar solos that are a little self indulgent and lyrics which, while a little more angsty, still feel like they belong in a high school poetry class.
I really like the overall sound, however, listening to the full album in one sitting can be a little much. Personally, my favorite tracks off the new album were Broken Bells, the second single released earlier this year, and Heat Above, which has been making the rounds as a live performance, and the live versions are definitely worth the watch. Overall, it’s a fun listen and a nice diversion, but by the time the nearly 9 minute final track The Weight of Dreams plays, it definitely feels like the band has exhausted their technical skill.
Overall, this sophomore album feels a little… sophomoric, but it gets an extra half star for being fun; I don’t need every LP to be a perfect combination of heady lyrics and complex melody and Battle at Gardens Gate is worth a listen, even if it’s just a few songs. I think that, in this age of primarily listening to singles rather than LPs, this album has absolutely succeeded in being a worthwhile listen, even if only for the nostalgic novelty of a new iteration of a classic rock sound.