Album Reviews

Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth Review

Released by: Interscope Records

Release Date: Out Now!!!

Genre: Classic Van Halen

Links: http://www.van-halen.com/

 

Line Up:

David Lee Roth – vocals

Eddie Van Halen – guitar, keyboards and backing vocals

Wolfgang Van Halen – bass and backing vocals

Alex Van Halen – drums

 

Tracklist:

01. Tattoo

02. She’s The Woman

03. You And Your Blues

04. China Town

05. Blood And Fire

06. Bullethead

07. As Is

08. Honeybabysweetiedoll

09. The Trouble With Never

10. Outta Space

11. Stay Frosty

12. Big River

13. Beats Workin’

 

What a strange trip has been for one of the most popular “Rock” bands that has ever graced the planet. Damn, Van Halen has been through as much of a rollercoaster ride as I’m sure they lived through in their hey-day. This is almost a revival of sorts for the band — when the fans begged and begged for a reunion and they finally, finally GOT IT!!! Well this is it folks the new Van Halen album reunion with the charismatic original lead singer David Lee Roth has been completed and these are my 2 cents.

Where do we even begin with these guys, huh? You have a career that started up brilliantly with their debut titled a short time after being scouted by Gene Simmons in 1976 when he noticed them at a local club and financed a recording session for the band. Legend has it Simmons recommended the band to Warner Bros and therefore got their first huge break. This of course opened up a  mindtrip career landing Halen gigs all over the world and the countless multi platinum strip of records and influencing a barrage of bands along the way.

But the band’s rise to fame has featured a bunch of puzzling odd moments; for instance, as quick as they exploded onto the scene, they parted ways with Roth( for various reasons, tensions between both Roth and Eddie grew to a fever pitch, etc etc, exits Roth and enter Sammy Hagar, a different style of singer then Roth, and because of his indifference, some fans didn’t really pay that much attention to the Sammy Hagar years in Van Halen; the truth of the matter is that Hagar did a noteworthy job and built his own legacy with his stint in VH with albums like 5150. It all boiled over in 1996 when more escalating tension between Sammy and the VH brothers reached a new high,  Hagar was out of the picture and, as he claimed he was fired, the band said he quit. Later come to find out Hagar heard the band was secretly recording with Roth led him to bolt, and he probably quit on a technicality. Ahh, the sweet smell of famous rock stars and their soap operas lives. But the downfall would continue: as Hagar was out Gary Cherone entered (which was a bad idea as Van Halen III was a terrible uninspired record and Cherone sounded out of place); his stint was very short lived and most considered that period an utter joke.

Perhaps the biggest fall out came when the band parted ways with their very integral member and crucial bass player Michael Anthony, now doing his own thing and very successfully with Hagar and Chickenfoot. Can it get any stranger? After a long standing rumor of the band coming back and recording and reuniting with Roth in 2010, they finally made it official, and to add curiosity to the lineup Eddie put his son Wolfgang Van Halen on bass guitars instead of  Anthony. At that point I could care less — just release the damn album and prove to the fans that VH has still something to offer to the Rock world.

Finally after a long 14 years the band released their first record and call it a comeback, call it a money grab, or perhaps a generous effort to prove a point about the relevance of the band in the 21st century (who knows?), but I’m glad that these guys in their 50’s have finally satisfied the hunger of their fans worldwide. “A Different Kind Of Truth” is the band’s first full-length offering with original singer David Lee Roth since “1984” was released in January 1984. The new album was produced by famed producer Ross Hogarth. As we break down some of the highlights keep in mind that no matter how high or low expectations you have for an album like this, is hard to fulfill all of those facts if you have any preconceived perceptions about it.

Although the vocals in “Blood and Fire” are a little too Roth-esque, the guitars here are simply stunning (as you will hear throughout the record) with a solid, face lifting riff that only Eddie Van Halen can secure, brings back sounds of a real classic rock band. “Outta Space” has one of EVH most prolific and sick solos. Yes, I get it, call it wankery or whatever, but the man inspired the finger tapping technique and I don’t have a problem with listening to his guitars glimmer with fashion and style, because it sounds good and I like it. The metal grunge sound of the opening hooks in “As Is” leads to a quick churner up tempo crunching guitar madness that makes this song a quick retrospect of “Hot for Teacher”, sounds like a an old demo that the band could have retouched for the record. Roth spits out some Yankee Doodle spitfire lyrics that brings back flashes of the good old days. Oh yeah, and Eddie wanks the hell out of his strings, rocking out with his strap out; this coincidentally is one of the hardest tunes on the record.

Even though the back up chorus could have used more juice (a consistent knock on the album) in “She’s the Woman”, this track alongside side the first 6 or 7 tunes on the record all features some wondrous guitar riffs and ticking tongue and cheek lyrics. Love the fast uptempo hooks here, one of the sparks of the album. The swagging lush vibes of “Chinatown” alongside the Diamond Dave vocal interludes of “Stay Frosty” are a throwback to “1984” all their elements are there with a little regeneration for this new generation, literally speaking.

A few things as I’m not going to review all the songs as 13 seems a few too long and towards the latter half of the record the quality drops a little. First and foremost and this is not offense to the youngster Wolfgang which has some crunchy bass thumping, he’s not Michael Anthony and I did miss those addicting vocal choruses from previous VH records, while this does not deterred from the album overall I can imagine a few improvements in that category if I had it my way. I don’t know who chose the band’s first single “Tattoo” and video, but it was not a grower on me and I don’t like the slow dragging groove in here, thankfully the record as a complete entity produces on a higher level.

Let’s get one thing straight here, this album is about Eddie Van Halen and his guitar playing, should we be surprised? No, I don’t think so, and after spending various stints in rehab battling alcohol, he finally looks like he’s in the right state of mind to put on a show,  and that quality shows here on the new album as I’m sure he will prove live. His guitar playing, while at times a little over the top, is pure bliss to any guitar freak out there, and I’m one of those.

Diamond Dave has lost a step in his vocals but he was never a super vocalist and his range was always overshadowed by the guitar and background vocals during his time in the band, so in essence he does what he has to to hold the song together and not kill the groove but like we always say in the studio they can make anybody sound good, let’s wait and see him live on tour and judge for yourself. Alex Van Halen who usually flies under the radar when it comes to his drum work, once again does the dirty work and does it well. He’s as solid as ever and will always be such an underrated part of the band.

For what is worth “Different Kind of Truth” is a grower with the first half of the album being the stronger point. For a bunch of guys in their 50’s is not a bad comeback and as I finish this review I can see about half of their cities for their 2012 North American tour probably already sold out, it will be a good year for VH and their camp. Regardless of personal judgement and bias, just listen to the record in its entirety a few times and give it a try, is a slow grower that fills end very subtle in end. A fine return to shape for Eddie Van Halen and company and if this is their last hurrah, then at least they gave the fans what they wanted.

 

Written by Denys

Ratings    Denys    8/10

 

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