The Battle at Garden’s GateGreta Van Fleet Label: Lava Records Released: 04.16.21 Review by shawnkupfer | April 12, 2021 at 1:00 PM
“Looking at the sky I see the city lights
But no star fights”
These two statements are both absolutely true:
- If you told me the new Greta Van Fleet album came out in 1973, I would believe you.
- If you told me the new Greta Van Fleet album came out in 2026, I would believe you.
There were moments listening to this album that I was sure I was hearing the future, and there were moments where I was just as sure that the mid-70s lineup of Canadian prog gods Rush had somehow travelled forward in time and possessed the bodies of younger men to make some of these songs.
It’s not that The Battle at Garden’s Gate is a copy of a Rush record, not at all. It’s the record Rush might have made with access to technology, 45 extra years listening to pop music, darker imagery, and the combined talents of some of rock’s greats. And even then, Rush probably wouldn’t have made this album, because Rush existed in a certain time and space, and Greta Van Fleet exists in the now.
It’s an intense experience listening to the album all the way through. “Heat Above” starts with an electric organ*—an instrument that recalls the late 60s—before breaking open into an expansive modern production with soaring vocals. It’s epic but still feels grounded, like these are real dudes playing real instruments and belting out real lyrics. It’s a feeling you get a lot listening to The Battle at Garden’s Gate; that feeling of retro without being ironic or imitative, of being timeless without being self-important or tryhard.
But don’t despair, because if epic and timeless isn’t your thing (and if that’s you, who even are you?) the very next track, “My Way, Soon”, is a perfect uptempo pop-rock song. This, too, happens a lot on the album—Greta Van Fleet lets you find your own entry point into the album with several different flavors of songs, all of which somehow hang together and still create a coherent and intense full-album experience.
About halfway through my first listen, I paused the stream and said out loud, “They’re just showing off now.” By that point, they’d done epic prog, pop-rock, and a ballad that made me want to go out, purchase a lighter, and hold it in the air. Before unpausing the stream, I went and pre-ordered the vinyl for The Battle at Garden’s Gate, because even with only half of the songs down, I knew I’d want it in my archive.
It’s hard to pick just a few standout tracks but when you buy the album (because I assure you, you do want to buy this album), pay special attention to “Broken Bells” (the aforementioned ballad), “Age of Machine” (a seven-minute alternate universe of a Zeppelin album that came from the future), and “The Barbarians” (with guitar and vocal work that’s just insane).
Stream it, Buy it, Skip it?: What are you still doing here? How have you not bought this already? Stop listening to me and listen to this record.
* (As a side note: It’s good to see the electric organ getting work again. I remember many times lamenting all the electric organ players who had to find new jobs once the 70s hit, and it’s awesome to see it making its way back in the modern era).