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Meet the Masters of Storytelling: Greta Van Fleet Gives a Master Class in Storytelling through Music

Updated: May 4, 2023

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Author: Stef Curran

After over a year since their last release, euphoric rock stars Greta Van Fleet released their first single from their third full studio album Starcatcher set to release July 2023. The Battle at Gardens Gate, the bands highly praised third album, was released in April 2021 and since its release, the band has been on a sharp incline to stardom. The first single off of Starcatcher, Meeting the Master, dropped Friday April 7th and proves that the band has finally unlocked the formula of their magic.

Meeting the Master begins as an acoustic swell that quickly rises, bringing listeners on a ride through the journey of death and rebirth, exploding into an electrifying guitar solo intertwined with haunting vocals (the Kiszka twin recipe for magic), then back down to rest with a slow, calm repeating mantra. Much like many songs on The Battle at Gardens Gate, Meeting the Master follows a beautiful formula of rise and fall which enhances the bands epic storytelling.

Think of it as a rollercoaster; you begin the climb, slowly but steadily bringing you to the edge before the drop. As you reach the top, you quickly descend into fast, high speed exhilaration, weaving through a drumming heartbeat, complex and solid guitar riffs, and a beautiful echo of melody. As you begin to slow, you're lulled into a resolution, showing positivity and gratitude for the ride you've just been on regardless of the context behind the story being told.

This pattern isn't rare, in fact it's the basics of all literature. Introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution.

Since the beginning of music history, songs have been used as a conduit for storytelling and communication between people and generations. From beautiful Indigenous song being used to pass down traditions and culture to the next generations, to modern singer-songwriters like Canadian's own Gordon Lightfoot, the iconic Bob Dylan, and many more, music is there to give more structure and emphasis to the story being told.

In Meeting the Master, Greta Van Fleet tell a biblical style story of the day you finally meet the one "master", or perhaps God if you want to think of it this way, that you've dedicated your spirituality to throughout your life. This song describes the day you are finally able to meet your master after dedication given to them. Lyrics like "What a day to meet the master. I've been waiting for so long Final day to meet the master. It's my time to go home" along with the calming melody softly caressing these words, the band has created a sense of wonder, anticipation, fulfillment, and gratitude. However, there is a twist in the story.

The end of Meeting the Master presents listeners with the repeating phrase "blow it up to give him all of our love." This repeating phrase, along with a complete musical attack much different than the song started with, listeners start to see the havoc this devotion can cause, which can either be positive or negative depending on how you relate to this story. The band has discussed how this ending is a dive into chaos, creating questions of how this chaos came to be, where does it stem from, and how does it effect the world around us.

More Storytelling from Greta Van Fleet

The formula for Meeting the Master is nothing new to the band. Greta Van Fleet has a beautiful way of leaving stories up to listeners for interpretation and reflection, all while accompanying it with powerful rock music.

Tears of Rain

Tears of Rain off of The Battle at Gardens Gate tells the story of drought that has taken a community, leaving mothers praying for rain for their children. Taking the lyrics for face value, this is a story of desperation, as we hear the voices of those praying for rain to heal them from this devastation they have been dealing with. Knowing the spiritual nature of this band, when you dig further, you realize that it may not necessarily be a literal drought, but rather a situation where someone is praying for hope to change the current outcome of their situation.

The most powerful moment of the song is towards the end when the powerful voice of singer Josh Kiszka repeats the question "who will bring the rain?". As he builds in power, showing off his incredible vocal skills, listeners can sense the urgency in this "rain", whatever it may be. The end of the song finishes with a subtle crash of a thunder cloud and the resolution of the music with a major chord. This moment always gives me a visceral reaction because of how well this song creates internal tension and worry. When you hear the resolution, knowing that hope is coming for those who have prayed for it for so long, it is just magical. In fact, it truly may be one of my favourite musical moments (along of course with Gordon Lightfoot saying "paperback novel" in If You Could Read My Mind... but that's not important.)

The Weight of Dreams

The epic finale of The Battle at Gardens Gate, The Weight of Dreams brings listeners a story of treasure hunters on the look out for gold and riches. However, the chorus repeated shows how humans overlook the social experience, and focus more on materialism and capitalism. The beauty of the world around us has become lost on those who focus more on material wealth and riches than the human experience and social involvement. Humans overtime have dimmed the light that surrounds us, leaving the thirst for riches and money being our main goal.

More so than other songs, The Weight of Dreams uses music as the main drive of the storyteller. Along with the support of the lyrics, guitarist Jake Kiszka takes listeners through a multitude of levels within his playing, starting off with a slow build, then exploding at the halfway point to one of the most powerful solos in modern rock. The guitar itself tells the stories of the dangers that come from being so focused on material objects, with speed, agility, and movement. This is accompanied with a primal scream from singer Josh Kiszka, humanizes this music storytelling with immediate indication of danger.

We stole from her a cloak of studded majesty

The queen is dead, we robbed her grave

You can still bathe in the river but it ran dry

And all of us have turned away

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The power of storytelling and musical composition creates real emotional reaction in listeners, and that is a pretty special thing to be able to do as an artist. Hopefully Meeting the Master is just a taste of the intense storytelling that Starcatcher will bring the world.

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