The Battle at Garden’s Gate: Garbage or Golden?


Kendra Collins, Staff Writer

Last year, Greta Van Fleet released their second studio album, “The Battle at Garden’s Gate”. The band consists of 3 brothers and a close friend: Josh Kiszka (Vocals), Jake Kiszka (Guitar), Sam Kiszka (Bass and Piano), and Danny Wagner (Drums). They come from Frankenmuth, Michigan, a tourist Bavarian Christmas town with a population of around 6,000. Even though Greta Van Fleet comes from a small town, they have not stayed small. 

All featured photos are from Greta Van Fleet’s Instagram.

 Greta Van Fleet has made their own mark with this new album. They have had their fair share of criticisms since their start in 2017, with their first EP “Black Smoke Rising”. Josh Kiszka’s singing has been compared to Robert Plant, with a common insult for the band being “A Led Zeppelin cover band”. I mean imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? How many bands get compared to rock legends like them? I will say though, Josh does sound very similar to Robert in their first two albums, “From the Fires” and “Anthem of the Peaceful Army”. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, though, because both albums made the top 100 of the Billboard rock albums. With “Anthem of The Peaceful Army” and “The Battle at Garden’s Gate” both receiving the number one spot upon their release.


The album starts out on a high note, with “Heat Above”, a song about love and how powerful it can be if we all are in it together. With ‘Heat Above’ being the first track of the album, it also is the first song of many of their concerts, starting the show with a positive mood. The next song is “My Way, Soon”, which is about their travels as a band, and feelings associated with that. The song has the same vibe/mood as Fleetwood Mac’s, “Go Your Own Way”. I like how the album starts on a positive beat, then the mood switches to be more serious with “Broken Bells”. It was written by Danny Wagner as early as 2015. Being possibly the oldest song on the album, it’s incredible. With its connection to “The Weight of Dreams”, it makes the album’s themes connect throughout each song. Making “The Battle at Garden’s Gate” more cohesive. 


“Built by Nations” follows “Broken Bells”, and it focuses on the same character, this time in a war setting. The character is trying to travel somewhere, assumed to be the garden’s gate, but outside forces are trying to get him away from where he wants to go. With supernatural forces like hell, trying to drag him down along the way. “Age of Machine” is next, which is about a perfect child, created and raised by machines. The child is raised in captivity of technology, but things go wrong as they grow up. They break free from their underground bunker and finally see the world around them. The child could be a metaphor for technology and its grip on society. They don’t see the world around them, until they unplug from it and escape. Following that is “Tears of Rain”. It follows a town/village that is going through a drought, and they pray to a god to bring them rain. The people search for water, but they can’t find any. They eventually get so desperate that they cry out to the sky, begging for someone to bring them rain.


Starting off the third quarter of the album, is “Stardust Chords”. It starts off with a traveler and his group making it to the garden’s gate, which could refer to the Garden of Eden, even though there’s no evidence to back it up. The chorus follows the religious themes. With it being about sinners drinking the wine and eating the bread. Like what happens at a Catholic mass. The organ present in the song helps with the religious idea. This seems to be the end of the Catholic themes, with the next track being “Light My Love”. This track is about a blooming love between Sam Kiszka (rumored to have written it) and his lover. Instead of saying something outright like ‘I love you’ he says ‘light my love’. He also says, “Your mind is a stream of colors/extending beyond our sky,” alluding to the lover’s mind being so great that it’s beyond us. This song also is one of Greta’s most popular songs with it trending on TikTok last year. With the song being used for videos showing their love for their significant other to the public. Moving on, next up is “Caravel”. The Caravel was the ship that the Spanish and Portuguese used to sail to Africa and back in the 14-1600s. The song is from a sailor’s perspective, describing the ocean and its waves as they sail along them, as they conquer the world. 


The beginning of the final quarter of this album is “The Barbarians”. But, the barbarians are a metaphor for Americans in this song. With the lead mentioned in the song being a metaphor for bullets, which Americans use the most. The narrator is powerless in this song, only being able to watch on as the barbarians lay their claim around the land. A barbarian is depicted on the gatefold of the vinyl of this album, shooting a fiery arrow at the garden’s gate. It may be one of the reasons the garden is in shambles. The next track is ‘Trip the Light Fantastic”. This song is religious, but not in a Catholic way, but rather a song with Hindu imagery. This song is about the elements and how to harness them in our lives. One of the lines in this song refers to astral projection, “Away from the world, we have riddled with scars, to be wholly free and amongst the stars.” They were right, we should do something about the earth, before it’s too late, with the urgent issue of global warming and pollution.


The last track of the album I would say is the best, and is the namesake for Greta Van Fleet’s current world tour, “Dreams in Gold”. “The Weight of Dreams” is an eight minute long track about the gold rush in California, and the greed that came along with it. The song starts out with prospectors and anyone who was chasing the wealth and opportunities that were in California in that era. It also refers to manifest destiny, with the line “Heaven sent us here to meet the hallowed shore.” The next stanza cuts to men mining for gold in the heat of the day as they melt (sweat) in the sunshine. In the third stanza the men are grave robbing a queen for her studded cloak, because gold mining has proved fruitless for them. The town is also experiencing a drought, which could refer back to “Tears of Rain”, with both towns searching desperately for water. The song ends with a 5 minute guitar solo, which really highlights Jake Kiszka’s talent as a self-taught guitarist. It makes the ending of this album incredible. Even though it symbolizes the end of an era, which will most likely follow the ending of the Dreams in Gold tour. The last date of the tour is in the city of Sacramento, which also happens to be the city where the gold rush took place. But, who knows? It could also be the beginning of a new story. “Where do we go from here?” a new single, was announced for a presave, but hasn’t been released. So we can only speculate.

All in all, “The Battle at the Garden’s Gate” is a 10 out of 10 album. In my opinion, it’s one of the best albums to come out of this decade so far. Greta Van Fleet is one of the best rock bands in the current age, and they are bringing the old rock sound back.