Photo Credit: Alysse Gafkjen
Greta Van Fleet’s rise is somewhat mysterious, funneled by expert placement in popular streaming playlists and a resurgence of rock n’ roll. Formed by the Kiszka brothers from the thumb of Michigan’s mitten, the band ascended in the middle of the last decade and won a Grammy for Best Rock Album. Their sophomore album The Battle at Garden’s Gate extends their catalog of dense jam anthems in the vein of the rock icons of old.
Lead singer Josh Kiszka’s voice carries an unnatural similarity to Robert Plant’s of Led Zeppelin. Given Greta Van Fleet’s chosen genre, their music invites Zeppelin comparisons with each note. Kiszka skis over melodic choruses like he’s outrunning his demons; as the listener it can be tough to keep up until you realize the song sounds suspiciously familiar.
“Stardust Chords” and “Broken Bells” are notable highlights that sound like a Zeppelin cover band messed up by a happy accident and began exploring. Greta Van Fleet is most enjoyable when adventuring deeper into their inspirations, and the final minute of “Stardust Chords” feels like a harmony of muse and idea in this way. “Light My Love” is a lilting waltz with a honkytonk sparkle that makes it feel almost relatable.
The worst part about having an attention-grabbing voice is the heightened scrutiny toward what comes out of it. The lyrics on Garden’s Gate aren’t particularly revealing and are often clunky, lacking details even remotely specific enough to grab. “I’ve seen people // There are so many people // I’ve seen places // There are so many places,” begin the first two stanzas of “My Way, Soon”, which finds Kiszka advocating for a life on the road and then disowning it.
The album’s 63-minute runtime languishes as songs build to climaxes that don’t feel deserved and vocal exercises fall into the abyss. The Battle at Garden’s Gate is a cumbersome record that feels like a continuation, not an evolution. It’s possible that these brothers are more comfortable recreating the sounds of their idols than exploring new ideas, but their talents are undeniable. We can only wish for a new inspiration to strike.