The proof that Van Halen is still a viable concern in 2012 is here for all to listen to.
Written by: Dangerzone
ARTIST: Van Halen
ALBUM: A Different Kind Of Truth
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: David Lee Roth – vocals * Edward Van Halen – guitars * Wolfgang Van Halen – bass * Alex Van Halen – drums
TRACK LISTING: 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’
Despite their mammoth success with Sammy Hagar, Van Halen never quite gelled properly with the ‘Red Rocker’ at the helm and it goes without saying the Gary Cherone experiment was a horrendous flop. The true essence of Van Halen has always been David Lee Roth, with or without him, which makes his first studio album in some 28 years with the band a revelation of sorts.
The promise was always there – as evidenced by Roth’s two tracks with the band on 1996’s ‘Greatest Hits’ affair, ‘Me Wise Magic’ and ‘Can’t Get This Stuff No More’, both excellent songs. But it’s taken 16 more years to get to this point, with lineup shuffles, personal woes for all concerned and a slew of bitter feuds along the way.
The proof that Van Halen is still a viable concern in 2012 is here for all to listen to. Even without Michael Anthony this is the bands best album since ‘1984’ and definitely their heaviest statement since that glorious era. The fact many of the tracks have existed since the 70’s and 80’s is a non-factor; they were good then and they’re even better now.
Lead single ‘Tattoo’ came in for some bashing upon release and I’m not too sure why. It’s melodically aware and reminiscent of just about every VH era imaginable. The keyboards are in full effect, which overall is a rarity through the whole album.
Like the majority of the material ‘She’s The Woman’ dates back to the 70’s, but some 36 years later it’s still as effective, perfect North American hard rock. At less than three minutes it’s what you want to hear, heavy and direct, with a great chorus.
‘You and Your Blues’ opens with a guitar tone that recalls the Hagar era, but as this as close as the album gets to remotely modern melody wise. It’s passable, building into a heavy climax, with Roth in fine voice especially.
It’s no match for the speed-metal driven ‘Chinatown’, which believe it or not is one of the heaviest tracks I’ve ever heard the band conjure up. This is knock-out stuff, Alex Van Halen putting in a fierce performance, along with Eddie whose riffs and solo are admittedly awe-inspiring. Try getting it out of your head too, not easy.
Turning back the clock to 1982 is ‘Blood And Fire’, a close relation to ‘Secrets’ and ‘Little Guitars’. The band has always excelled at this type of melodic, mid-paced rock track and nothing’s changed ostensibly. A superb atmospheric workout by the band.
Another old chestnut dusted off is ‘Bullethead’, full-scale heavy metal with more aggression than the band has mustered in eons.
The momentum is maintained with ‘As Is’, starting off in lumbering style, before quickly speeding up into another frantic rocker, a close relation to ‘Hot For Teacher’. It’s a wall of noise, with Eddie playing with all the vitality that he did back in 1978. Roth throws in some spoken word shenanigans giving it that classic VH feel.
‘Honeybabysweetiedoll’ opens as if it’s ‘Loss of Control’ all over again, not as fast, but just as heavy, with some unorthodox riffs from Eddie. The song picks up pace during the guitar solo, evoking ‘House Of Pain’. This is pure magic, there’s no other way to put it.
There’s a funk element to ‘The Trouble With Never’, a commercial rocker with a pretty radio friendly chorus. It has a touch of the Hagar era in the guitar sound, with Roth’s spoken word sections recalling those 1996 tracks.
Elsewhere the intro to ‘Outta Space’ simply shreds, it doesn’t get much heavier it has to be said. This is prime headbanging material, winding the clock back to 1979 with even more wallop. Sound hard to believe? It’s true, as hard to fathom as it is.
‘Stay Frosty’ is a successor to ‘Ice Cream Man’ and even ‘Take Your Whisky Home’, opening with some blues riffs before exploding into a standard VH boogie excursion. It’s predictable, but still fun simply because it’s been so long since the band sounded this inspired.
The huge opening riff to ‘Big River’ obviously owes a debt to ‘Runnin’ With The Devil’, but the inescapable chorus might be the most catchy on offer here. Big and booming, it’s another classy display of hard rock might from a band written off by many.
The penchant for huge choruses appears once more on ‘Beat’s Workin’, which would indicate the last 30 years never happened. True the track is another reworked from the 1976 period, but it’s almost impossible to tell. There’s a hint of ‘Eruption’ in the opening bars, which is a welcome retrospective touch.
One of the biggest issues I have with many albums in this day and age is the lack of replay value. It seems for me that an album might be listened to once or twice and then forgotten about. This is the exact opposite of ‘A Different Kind Of Truth’. Every track has left me coming back for more, something virtually unheard of these days.
It’s a tribute to how strong this recording is, the band firing on every cylinder musically. It’s also refreshing to once again hear a VH album without the word ‘love’ in a title. That’s the complexity Roth has always bought to the band, the quirky lyrics mixed with his distinctive delivery. This factor results in the best display from Eddie in many a moon; his licks here are among the best he’s recorded.
The addition of Wolfgang Van Halen is far from a detriment also, blending seamlessly with his uncle Alex. These guys are still playing as if they are up and coming 23 year olds with something to prove. But that’s exactly what they’ve done; prove they are still one of the greatest rock bands walking the earth. Somehow I think at the end of 2012 this will be well up there as one of the year’s best. This makes rock sound essential again.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)