Thursday, February 9, 2012

Van Halen "A Different Kind of Truth" review

 Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth
Van Halen
A Different Kind of Truth
Rating: ****

14 years have passed since Van Halen released a full length studio album. That last album, 1998’s Van Halen III, didn’t go over well with the fans or the critics. It was also the band’s first and only album with singer Gary Cherone. In those 14 years, Van Halen have been active and inactive. In 2007, the band reunited with original singer David Lee Roth for a reunion tour. However, long-time bassist Michael Anthony had been fired and replaced by Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang. Rumors of a new studio album have been flying back and forth since then. Finally after 14 years, Van Halen has released their twelfth studio album. The album, A Different Kind of Truth, is also the band’s first album with Roth since 1984’s 1984. While this is a new Van Halen album, a majority of these songs were written back in the 1970’s when the band first started out. Some may see it as a lack of originality but I see it as an attempt at going back to the old Van Halen sound, which they have certainly done. Despite the firing of Anthony and several other things, it’s safe to say that Van Halen are back!
            The album opens with the lead single, “Tattoo”, which already sounds like a blast from the past. Roth’s voice is in pretty good shape, the song is catchy, and Eddie’s guitar playing is just superb. While “Tattoo” is a great song, it (along with many of the other songs) lacks the wonderful backing vocals of former bassist Michael Anthony. Anthony could certainly hit the high notes and with Roth’s lead vocals, the voices blended so perfectly. Anthony’s backing vocals were also a vital point to Van Halen’s sound that made them famous.  The lyrics are also a bit weak but still, “Tattoo” is great. “She’s The Woman” is also another strong track. It sounds very much like a song that could have been on the debut album. Another thing I’m impressed by is Wolfie’s bass playing. Many fans, including me, have been giving Wolfie a hard time since he replaced Michael Anthony. On this song (as well as the entire album), Wolfie proves himself worthy as a member of Van Halen. “You And Your Blues” is a little bit slower than the other tracks but is a good example of Van Halen’s mash up of clean cut sound with heavier sounds. Roth does really great job on the vocals and the harmonies are actually really great. The band gets to show off their hard rock sound with full blown rockers like the fast pace “China Town” and energetic rush of “Bullethead”. The latter’s lyrics is where the album get its title.  The album is full of rockers but there’s also the anthem-driven “Blood and Fire”, the fittingly “big” sounding “Big River” and “Stay Frosty” could quite possibly be the offspring of “Ice Cream Man” from the debut album.
            If you are a fan of the original Van Halen, you should check out A Different Kind of Truth. It is a bit over polished but it is very much in the vein of the material off the first six albums Van Halen made with Roth. Van Halen should be very proud of themselves: they made a very good album. It’s official: Van Halen have returned!

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