I can't believe I am getting the oppurtunity to write a review on a brand new Van Halen album. Honestly, I never thought the day would come. I always told myself that someday Van Halen would simply HAVE to come out with a new album, and not leave their fans with the dreadful Van Halen III as their last full length record. Yes, they reunited with Sammy Hagar in 2004 and released three new tracks for the Best of Both Worlds greatest hits package, and it was much to my glee of course, a new album never came - the band went silent again. Over the past few years however, a reunion with David Lee Roth sparked new life into VH. They toured, yet, no new album, then things went silent again. Thankfully Sammy Hagar has been regularly pumping out new music, because VH has been so inconsistent over the past 14 years. Things however changed...
All of a sudden, 2012 has come as the year of Van Halen. Bursting onto the scene, suddenly out of nowhere, a new era had begun. Yes, I had heard they signed with Interscope Records back in September of 2011, but I still was not certain new music would arrive - at least not this soon! But 2012 ushered in a new single, new music video, a new album, and a new tour! Wow! Who would've thought? Well, with Eddie Van Halen sober and healthy, the heart behind the music, and the namesake of the band, is ready for a new chapter, and us fans couldn't be happier. I've always preferred "Van Hagar", but I absolutely love Van Halen, with Roth, with Hagar, it doesn't matter, as long as they are back. A Different Kind of Truth is a statement. A bold, loud, boisterous, aggressive statement. Van Halen just didn't come back, they roared back! I am so happy to say that this new record is a completely success. It has such focus, and determination, and raw power! Eddie Van Halen shines the brightest, and he is back with a vengence. His riffs, and especially his solos, are harder and faster than they have been in decades. This is probably the heaviest Van Halen album to date, even more so than 1981's Fair Warning. It's style echoes more of that era of play, more of the Women and Children First - Fair Warning era, where VH's sound was a little heavier than that of their first album or of 1984.
This newest album, though very much sounding like a Roth era one, sounds like a natural successor to 1995's Balance, the final record with Sammy Hagar. There are nuances to the sound of the guitar, and to some of the riffs, that sound like they could have been taken from that time period. It completely glazes over the abysmal Van Halen III, as it should, but I like the sense of continuity with Balance - just listen to the song "You And Your Blues" and you'll see what I mean.
There are a lot of songs to love on A Different Kind of Truth, many of which are re-worked demos and snippets of unfinished songs from the 1970s. Obviously, there are some new ones mixed in, but it strikes a nice balance by sounding somewhat retro, yet strikingly modern and new. "She's A Woman" is a cult favorite finally released on an official disc and it is surely one of the highlights. "Outta Space" is apparently a relic from the 70s, but is also one of their best. "Stay Frosty", a song some consider symbolic of the VH sound, is reminiscent of "Ice Cream Man." The fast and furious "Chinatown" is another one that is a reworked track and it is awesome. What's amazing is that there isn't really a weak song in the whole bunch.
The musicianship is top notch as expected. As I mentioned before, Eddie Van Halen is phenomenal. Alex Van Halen, definitely one of the most underrated drummers in rock history, is thunderous and precise in execution. Eddie's son, Wolfgang, making his studio debut as the bassist (in place of Michael Anthony), definitely has his father's DNA and some of his chops. Wolfgang has a great touch on the bass, and he has some really thrilling moments on this album as he mirrors some of his father's solos in "Chinatown" for instance. As for vocals, David Lee Roth doesn't sound quite the same as he used to, but he still has it after all these years. He seems to strain on the higher octaves, but I still love his sound, and ultimately, he sounds great.
If I had to rank the VH albums with Roth in order of greatness, I'd vote this way: Fair Warning, Van Halen, Van Halen II, A Different Kind of Truth, 1984, Women & Children First, Diver Down. And also, for the record, "You and Your Blues" is one of my personal all-time favorite VH songs.
What will the future bring for Van Halen now? It seems that their current tour is doing well, the album is getting rave reviews across the board, and the commraderie between Eddie and Dave seems strong. Will there be another album? Will there be an extension of the tour? As a huge Van Halen fan, I am just so giddy that they are back, I really just want more of the band I've been deprived of for so long! Long live the mighty Van Halen! Here's hoping the future is as bright as the present.
"You and Your Blues"
"She's The Woman"