Greta Van Fleet – ‘The Battle at Garden’s Gate’ review: technically impressive (and that’s about it)

One nine-minute track on this indulgent second album covers almost no interesting ground throughout its bloated run time, which pretty much says it all

Urgent and guitar driven, Greta Van Fleet crashed onto the international stage in 2017, with two EPs and a debut album released over an 18-month period. Through it all, the band proudly wore their love of Led Zeppelin on their leather jacket sleeves. Their epic, blues-driven rock & roll quickly saw the Michigan-based four-piece heralded as the saviour of the genre – just like Royal Blood, The White Stripes and Kings of Leon before them. Commercial success quickly followed.

Second EP ‘From the Fires’ won Best Rock Album at the 2019 Grammys and although they’ve been largely absent from UK Festivals, the band sold out three nights at London’s Kentish Town Forum in 2018. They’ve played shows on five continents and shifted a million tickets in just three years.

The band said they wanted album two to be an evolution of their sound, yet ‘The Battle at Garden’s Gate’ is still a love letter to classic rock There’s not a moment of the hour-plus record that feels remotely dangerous. The grunge-inspired ‘Caravel’ has nods to Soundgarden, while the big riffs of ‘Built by Nations’ once again find the band doing their best Led Zep impression. It’s never offensive, but it’s of course all been done before.

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Lyrically, Greta Van Fleet take on a more worldly view with this record, presumably due to the fact they’ve actually seen some of it thanks to that gruelling tour schedule. Still, despite the abundance of material provided over the past few years, ‘The Battle at Garden’s Gate’ is a mixed bag of heavy metaphor and lazy observation.

Bassist Sam Kiszka has said that delicate folk rock song ‘Broken Bells’ is about “what the fetter of society does to impact a pure and innocent soul”. What vocalist Josh Kiszka in fact sings is: “I never want to fall asleep / Within our dreams, the weight, we sew, we reap.” Elsewhere, the garage thrash of ‘My Way, Soon’ starts with the line: “There are so many people. Some are much younger people and some are so old.” You know – just in case you weren’t aware that other people actually exist.

It seems the main purpose of ‘The Battle at Garden’s Gate’ is for Greta Van Fleet to show off how good they’ve got at wielding their instruments. Most of the tracks take the form of free-flowing jam sessions or psychedelic trips. It’s all very relaxed, with that early-career urgency replaced with indulgent guitar solos. The closing pomp of ‘The Weight of Dreams’ is nearly nine minutes long and yet covers almost no interesting ground in that time. Like the rest of the album, it’s technically proficient but doesn’t leave much room for fun.

Details

Release date: April 16

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Record label: Lava/Republic

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