American rock band Greta Van Fleet has prided itself on modeling its music after the rock legends that ruled the ’70s, most notably Led Zeppelin. The band, unsurprisingly so, has followed a similar formula for its latest album, The Battle at Garden’s Gate, released April 16. The strategy of mimicking the hits of the good old days may have been innovative when their debut album was released almost four years ago, but now, in The Battle at Garden’s Gate, it is a concerning marker that Greta Van Fleet is unable to conjure up their own unique identity to offer fans. And while efforts toward a classic rock revival — if you can call it that — is nothing to thumb your nose at, the band’s regurgitation of the ’70s formula without any ounce of originality does the genre absolutely no justice.
Right off the bat, “Heat Above” evokes fond memories of Robert Plant through lead vocalist Josh Kiszka’s falsetto, but that’s where the wow factor ends. Like most of the other songs on the album, “Heat Above” is lackluster and sounds painfully generic, like a smorgasbord of classic rock anthems mashed together. The organ is a nice touch, probably used with the intention of capturing a proggier classic rock sound such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer but comes off as if they’re trying too hard.
Greta Van Fleet has catchiness and nostalgia on its side, but what the band overwhelmingly lacks is substance. Each song blends into one another, and not in a good way. There really isn’t any other cohesion, aside from everything on The Battle at Garden’s Gate sounding the same. The songs get old after a few listens, the lyrics aren’t particularly profound and there isn’t any identifying characteristic that tells you Greta Van Fleet poured their heart and soul into this album.
Certain songs do have their quirks, however. “My Way, Soon” and “Broken Bells” are more upbeat than many of the other songs, somewhat like knockoff B-sides from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rush respectively. “Built by Nations” explores a more complex riff, but only in technicality and not quite in sound quality.
“Stardust Chords” comes out as the top contender on the record, wrapping listeners in a decent groove, but it suffers from an excessively slow build up. Though “Stardust Chords” finds Greta Van Fleet’s potential peeking through, the band squanders what strengths they had and instead of using the unique flairs its muses drew upon to keep things interesting, the track grows stagnant. The final minute of “Stardust Chords” is great, featuring one of the rare guitar solos on the album, the one fragment of ’70s allure they manage to capture perfectly.
“The Weight of Dreams” attempts to piggyback off of “Stardust Chords” but at nine minutes long and with minimal deviation from the same few chords for half the song, the four minute guitar solo at the end surprisingly isn’t enough to salvage it.
It is well past due time for Greta Van Fleet to forge their own path and not just follow blindly in the footsteps of those the band looks up to. It’s one thing to be influenced by a band and make new music in the style of the genre so many miss, but bluntly speaking, there won’t ever be another Led Zeppelin, or Rush or any of the big names from the classic rock era. What Greta Van Fleet is doing borders on a bad cover band, only cosplaying as a ’70s-tinged outfit that pretends to have its own volition. If listeners truly miss music from the ’70s that much, they’re better off just taking a trip down memory lane and listening to the originals. Greta Van Fleet won’t satiate that longing for a time machine, no matter how much you want them to.