Reader Reviews: Van Halen's 'A Different Kind of Truth'

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tjmcmillan1992

As was the case with most die-hard Van Halen fans who heard the single Tattoo as their first exposure to this new record, I was entirely uneasy with this new release. Even though I recognized the riff as the original idea for "Down in Flames," the lack of signature David Lee Roth squeals (that I've only ever heard Dug Pinnick of King's X and Michael Starr from Steel Panther (and the VH tribute band the Atomic Punks) be able to copy) and Michael Anthony backing vocals concerned me a LOT. That in combination with Dave's performance on "Me Wise Magic" in '96 as his latest contribution to the band made it almost a sure-fire misfire. However, after stalking YouTube for the leak, I heard the re-recorded version of "Blood and Fire" and any and all conceptions of this being reminiscent of any sort of recent Whitesnake release (sorry, David Coverdale ought to sound like David Coverdale, not a wanna-be Robert Plant) were immediately dismissed. Eddie is on FIRE, all that signature gear and sobriety is doing better than ever before. It's tasteful, potent, melodic, and reaffirms his position as possibly the greatest rock guitarist the world has ever seen. Alex is steady and powerful, as is the norm (I honestly think he's the only member I've never found any fault in performancewise his entire career with the group) with thunder drums that never fail. In regards to Wolfgang, I play in a band with MY old man, so that prejudice that some 19 year old kid couldn't play in Van Halen is dismissed immediately with the intro to Chinatown. He's Eddie Van Halen's son, for Christ's sake. He was probably born with a goddamn six string in his hand. I can even get over Dave's lack of squeals, because smoking for 35 years doesn't even sound like it has left a dent in his vocals at all. And I missed those campy lyrics like nobody's business (Nothing against Hagar, but his lyrics didn't rhyme 3/4ths of the time, and there wasn't really that story telling ability that Dave seems to master, with euphemisms out the ass and endless hooks). All in all, the mix of chemistry, classic unreleased lyrics, Eddie remaining the master, and this youthful energy reinstated makes this record one to be reckoned with for the arena of rock n' roll comebacks without a doubt.

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vanshipman7

Eddie Van Halen is the greatest rock guitar player to have ever lived and his playing on this album just reinforces that. This is my opinion folks, so if you do not agree...fine. Van Halen (with Roth in the band) is the ultimate rock band. When Hagar was with them, he basically neutered Eddie's desire to write great guitar tunes, plus his voice was never really right with them. After having Roth in the band, it was just pointless. Granted, i bought the records everytime in hopes of Eddie surprising me with some old school, but those srprises were just so few. The Roth VH makes Eddie bring his best, and this new album is simply a band on fire. Wolf is the glue that holds everyone together musically, that kid's amazing. Dave's lyrics are perfect, an his voice is the cerry on top of the sundae. Of ourse Dave's not technically as good as he use to be, but it'shis voice, you can imitate, but no one ese alive sounds exactly lik him. Thank you Van Halen for bringing it back in the only way you guys know how...BIG!!!

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wooten

No "sing-a-long" hooks? This album's nonstop hooks. Just not all pop hooks. They're in my head all day. Honeybabysweetiedoll, China Town, As Is etc... Classic Dave hooks. About as catchy as it gets. At least to my ears.

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wooten

This a great album. China Town, As Is, Honeybabysweetiedoll, Outta Space, Bullethead, Blood and Fire. Lots of great tunes. I disagree about it being a great recording. It's very bass heavy and Eddie is buried when vocals are present. Nothing agaisnt Dave at all. He does a great job. He writes great melodies over Ed's riffs, but the vocals bury Eddie's rhythms.

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ccking

Not a memorable sing-a-long hook on the entire album, save for "Tattoo," and that song stinks. Roth's lyrics are way over the top, too many words, and nothing to say. You can say "it RAWKS" and it does. But thats not enough for me. A vain attempt at past glory that falls exceedingly short. Glad Eddie is off the sauce (for now) but color this reviewer unimpressed. And BTW, there is a reason why out-takes never make it on an album in the first place...they arent good enough. To quote "spinal tap": "The musical growth of this band cannot even be charted." Sad, but true.

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spiderbob

It's not pop for sure........................Thank god.

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jhs5150

If you have been waiting for that kickass album here it is.

Production is awesome - best I've heard in a while. It feels like you are right there in front of them listening. Ted who?

Eddie plays the best he has in years and no, it's NOT a bunch of rehashed licks and I've been critical of that in the past also. He pulls a few out you are familiar with but puts them in a different context that works. He's got a bunch of new ones and now that the fog has lifted from his substance abuse his playing really shines and even stands out. Watch VH's Youtube performance of the opening show of the '12 tour in Louisville and you'll see what I mean.

Roth is - Roth. No more, no less. Not a great singer but gets better as the album progesses. He's a much smarter and better lyricist than Sammy which incidentally, isn't hard to do.

Wolfie is more than competent on bass. Eddie wouldn't have him in the band if he couldn't cut it. People still pining for Michael Anthony will never be happy. Wolfie is actually better on bass, IMO. Just listen to him on "Bullethead." He is the son of EVH, after all. It's in his genes.

The harmonies are there. I've heard them live. It wasn't just MA.

Alex, great drum sound. I love his call-out at the beginning of "As-is" - funnier than hell. Speaking of "As-is", I LOVE those heavy-as-hell crunch chords in the intro - a headbanger's dream.

Of the 13 tracks, 4 are old demos but done in a fresh and modern way except for "Big River" which I think is the laggard but still decent.
I consider them bonus tracks. "She's The Woman" just flat out cooks. Hell, we've been waiting ions for new VH material so who's complaining? I'll take 13 tracks any day. Remember Diver Down?

The reason this album is so good is because VH had been missing one thing - ATTITUDE! Roth puts the swagger back in them with smart lyrics and a live-for-today-screw-tomorrow attitude that gets you thinking "HELL YEAH." You hear that attitude in Eddie's playing as well. He was up to the challenge and he succeded. Sammy can't manufacture attitude, Roth IS attitude. They ALL kick ass on this album.

No complaints from me.

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tifosi77

Sammy Hagar is a whiny, two-bit, insecure, prima donna. ADKOT is not the album Van *Hagar* fans would want to hear.... but those of use who like Van Halen are pretty stoked. You know why? Because it sounds like a fucking Van HALEN record, you frizzy, malodorous tool. My favorite thing about the record is precisely that it sounds like older material. You know why, Sammy? Because the older material ROCKED. ADKOT is the album I wanted to hear instead of 5150. (Or OU812, or FUCK, or Balance, or VHIII [and I say that as an Extreme fan]) If you took all the Hagar-era songs that were worth a damn and put them together on one CD, you'd have yourself a very nice coaster on which to rest your adult beverage as you tried to Stay Frosty.

The difference between the two bands is like Bon Scott and Brian Johnson in AC/DC, or Paul diAnno and Bruce Dickenson in Iron Maiden. It's just a completely different musical dynamic, personality and identity. There are rare people who like both, but they are so different that it's difficult for me to find much to be happy about in both iterations; it's one or the other. (Fwiw, the correct answer is Scott, Dickenson, Roth)

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Eviljim

There are only 2 records ( yes lp.s! ) I take to a summertime kegger . AC / DC power age and Van Halen women and children first. This year I will be adding a.d.k.o.t. ... And it will be the lp as well! ... Awesome

KirkBull

It seems like there are two types of Van Halen fans out there, the fans that prefer David Lee Roth as the front man and those that prefer Sammy Hagar. There might even be a couple that like the Gary Cherone Van Halen.

I was one of those in the David Lee Roth camp. The album 1984 brought heavy metal into the mainstream. Even my parents knew the song “Jump” (It’s still the catchiest, most upbeat song I have ever heard about suicide).

Last year I heard the band was working on a new album with David Lee Roth (vocals), Eddie Van Halen (guitar), Alex Van Halen (drums) and Wolfgang Van Halen (bass). The wait was reminiscent of my childhood days waiting for Christmas.

In January the band released the single “Tattoo” and I found myself feeling disappointed. The lyrics were a bit quirky and it just seemed a little cheesy to me. I have been listening to the new album A Different Kind of Truth all week long and realized something that has totally changed my feelings about this album. This is the same stuff that I used to love about the original Van Halen. The message hasn’t changed. The world we live in has. We are just getting out of a war and the economy seems to finally be gaining some ground. The world has been on a trip to Hell and back and a lot of people are ready for some healing.

It’s about time we find our sense of humor again. A Different Kind of Truth is a refreshing journey back to those carefree party days when life was less serious and no one had ever heard of political correctness.

The first thing I noticed about this album was the lack of keyboards. When 1984 came out people’s biggest worry was that there was too much keyboard on it. If you were one of them then this one’s for you.

The second thing I noticed was the bass playing was a lot busier than the typical Van Halen album. The song “China Town” starts with a duel attack of guitar and bass playing synchronized two hand tapping licks. It may be that Wolfgang is a better bass player than Michael Anthony or it could be that Eddie is more willing to share the limelight with his son. Either way it works on this album.

Eddie and Alex have some new tricks up their sleeves. They continue to reach new levels as musicians and David Lee Roth delivers all the tongue in cheek lyrics and catchy melodies you would expect from one of the most entertaining showmen to ever front a rock and roll band.

There are some great songs on A Different Kind of Truth. There is the song “Stay Frosty” which sounds like a tribute to “Ice Cream Man” with an updated energy to it. The song “Honeybabysweetiedoll” is unique with an East Indian kind of feel to it. The guitar solos on this one take me to my “Happy Place,” but when I say, “Tap it in” I am thinking about Eddie’s two hand tapping.

The album ends strong with what I consider the heaviest song on the album, “Beats Workin,’” a song that treats us to a funky bass solo in the middle with liberty and cow bell for all.

A Different Kind of Truth is just the kind of truth I have been searching for. The only thing I find myself wanting that isn’t here is Michael Anthony’s backup vocals, but there are a lot of hidden gems on this album that more than make up for it. When was the last time a heavy rock album made you smile? For me it’s every time I play this album.

Kirk Bullough – Muzikreviews.com
http://www.muzikreviews.com/reviews.php?ID=2040

jamcorr

This album kicks ass!! I didn't care for the demos until I heard the album as a whole. Eddie's guitar playing and sound is still incredible. The rest of the band is Van Halen!! So DLR can't hit the high's like he used to. I'm just glad he isn't wearing a jump suit!! Everyone complains about Wolfgang, why. Because he can play. Michael Anthony is great and all. But not replaceable. Everyone needs to stop comparing. Each album is it's own entity and show the progression a band makes in their writing and sound. It sounds like they had fun doing the album and it comes across. Basically they wanted to make it and probably say the hell what everyone thinks. This album is what music is missing today!! Van Halen still and will always kick ass!!

fierceheart66

Ya know...I really don't know what to think. There are elements of this CD that remind me what made me love Van Halen to begin with, and then the rest... I just don't get. I have always felt that no matter who was/is singing the constant was always it sounds like Van Halen. I like the CD but it just feels like something is missing (not talking about Michael Anthony).....I am wanting to like it but .... I am just not getting it??

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spiderbob

I really love this album.I think it will be one of my favorite albums ever. But you touched on something that I very much agree with. I also feel that something is missing in the album. I have put a lot of thought into this and I believe that it is in the mix. This album is very compressed. The previous analog recordings when Dave was in the band had more depth. Whereas later with Sammy it was a very different band dynamic so it wasn't noticed that much as it was a very different sound. Also I believe the multi-tracks of guitars may take out some of the punch we are accustomed to on VH1-1984. IF you listen and isolate Eddie's playing he is doing some amazing things with the guitar on this album than on previous albums. The thing I like about Dave's style is that it is very unpredictable compared to Sammy. Don't get me wrong I like Sammy it's just that he has a more predictable pop style and I get bored with it very easy whereas Dave keeps me interested. Some one mentioned that this album should be listened to with headphone on,They were correct as there is much more depth and separation when wearing phones.Anyway good call but I still think this is one of VH's best.

strat714

Eddie is one the great guitarists of all time. However, this album sounds exactly like what it is...Old tunes that didn't make the cut then being rehashed and churned out to make an album to tour behind. Much of it sounds really forced and I bought the new Chickenfoot instead. I'm sure Sabian will be chiming in to tell me that his opinion is better than mine... Wow, really???

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BillyVoight

I'd like to share the text from my MusicianYou Magazine Review:

A Different Kind of Truth is Van Halen’s first studio album since 1998 when the band released Van Halen III. (Yeah I just referenced the Gary Cherone-era Van Halen this early in my review.) Van Halen III, Van Hagar, Van Wolfgang, I celebrate them all! This is the first studio release with David Lee Roth back in the band since 1984 unless you count that weird 48 hour reunion in 1996.

Also this marks the first album with Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen on bass. I was skeptical, but after your first spin of this album you’ll go, “Hey this kid can play!” Then after you think on it more you realize, “Would it be even possible for Eddie’s son to suck?” or well I could see Eddie just disowning his own son and buying a more talented son! I kid, I kid, but hey there’s no question, the kid rocks!

The first singe, Tattoo was released in January and overnight created a buzz no publicist could even dream of buying. Everyone these days is a music critic, I mean look at me! The song warmly greets you with Roth’s unmistakable voice and Eddie’s signature bag of tricks packed full of unison bends, harmonics and supercharged whammy bar dives.

It’s almost all there. I had my doubts in a Pro Tools era of recording, is Van Halen going to sound too clean and neat? No way! This recording sounds gloriously dirtier than a New Jersey rock club bathroom! I mean that in a good way, unlike when you actually end up in NJ and have to use that rock club’s bathroom. Naturally overdriven bass, live boomy drums and stacks of trebly guitars that don’t always line up. As Is is full of speed licks and some classic spoken Roth one-liners which bring me back to Fair Warning’s Unchained.

What’s missing on this album? Michael Anthony’s signature vocal harmonies! You and Your Blues touches on it, but barely wets my appetite for the pipes of the man behind the Jack Daniel’s bass.

In classic cocky David Lee Roth fashion, the bridge of Blood and Fire Dave tells us “I told you I was coming back...Say you miss me...Say it like you mean it!” Yes Dave, we missed you and Van Halen. Welcome back!

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spiderbob

This is Van Halen.
Great tunes about living life.
Eddie regains his throne as the guitar god we have missed for so long.
Dave puts the pizazz back into Van Halen and Wolfie just shreds,the kid is an amazing bass player and Alex rips as usual. This is a guitarist dream album and Dave takes it back over the top.This is one of the best albums they have ever produced.Hopefully this will rejuvenate and inspire a new line of rock bands. This is rock and roll at it's best..................back to the woodshed to figure out Eddie's licks.

millop

Incredible! Everyone listen to this with headphones! This IS Van Halen. Man they nailed it right outta the gate. Eddie's on tone-fire. Wolfgang's drivin' it. Alex is pounding like only he can. Dave's still got pipes and has written lyrics that tell the tale. I can't wait for the show in Chitown this April. Stay Frosty!

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wooten

Lots of great stuff on here. I love when Ed plays heavy dark stuff! My only complaint is the sound is kinda muddy and Eddie's too low in the mix. Great music and playing, though. Dave's sounding good, too!

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jcDesigns

While I agree with most that Tattoo is the weakest song, the album as a whole is way beyond my expectations. This is exactly what I was hoping for. DRL obviously can't hit those high notes, but he still sounds like classic Roth. No one writes lyrics like him, and I was smiling through every song.

Also, as much as I loved Michael....damn can Wolf play. And you can actually hear him! I am glad for the switch. If the rumor that going around about Wolf being the reason for Eddie getting his ass in gear, well then see ya later Mikey. All hail Wolfy.

Eddie...I am not even sure what to say here. He NEVER sounded this good. It makes his previous work look like kid's play. I am probably one of the few that thinks Fair Warning was their best album, but there are some places on this album that really reminded me of Mean Street. He is not just back to playing, he kicked the guitar's ass and made it bend to his will. Unbelievable and exactly what every guitar wanted to hear.

I think what really made me happy is the guitar squeal on Honeybabysweetiedoll at 1:20. If that isn't a tribute to Dimebag Darrel then I don't know what is. I know they were good friends, and it was cool to hear that as I am a huge fan of both.

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jhs5150

Eddie's playing of the Sustainer feedback in HBSD is truly amazing. You are right. Eddie's playing has gotten BETTER! Who would have thought that possible? I love this album. It's an asskicker.

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FretboardMagician

Having listened to the new album several times through, I can say that it is indeed awesome ( I dig almost every track) and most notably, Ed is on fucking fire on this entire record!! Thank you lord.....

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rafalmeidas

Good guitar record, the one and only problem with this new project: David Lee Roth

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Sabian630

Omg...whatever dude..thankfully it's only your opinion. So you think Sammy should still be in the band? I guess lyrics mean nothing to you bc if I had to listen to another sexual innuendo song done by Sammy this album loses rating points quickly. Sammy def had a better voice technically, but thankfully and ESP in rock and roll that isn't the only thing you need to have. Sammy cldnt hold a candle to Roths lyrics..zero contest

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nihilist74

When I first heard tattoo on youtube I was disappointed. I figured the new album would just be a lot of commercial rock songs. I got the new album and listened to it completely. I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was great how a lot of the songs have that progressive sound with fast timing and drumming. Eddie Van Halen does a lot of awesome shredding on this album with his great lead playing and his great rhythm playing and riffs ( I love him for his rhythm playing as much if not more than his tasty leads). Eddie Van Halen is an awesome shredder without trying to be a shredder. Hes got it honest and puts together great songs. David Lee Roth does some good vocals with a lot of character like in the past recordings. Alex Van Halen shreds on the drums like Eddie shreds on the guitar. When I heard tattoo I was afraid a great drummer like Alex would be wasted on this album but he gets to shine on the rest of the album. I thought Wolfs bass playing was good and fit in well with the rest of the band. I thought the production on this album was good for what it sounds like the band was trying to accomplish. It sounds like they were going for a live jamming sound and I think they did a good job of accomplishing it. I seen the tour when David Lee Roth got back together with Van Halen and it was great. They had a great set list of all there classic songs. I was afraid to see them on tour for this new album because I didn't think the new album would be very good after hearing the song tattoo. After listening to the entire album I look forward to hearing the new songs live as well as there old classics. My favorite songs on the album are Honeybabysweetiedoll, China Town (both these songs have that progressiveness like the song hot for teacher and other fast Van Halen songs. Outaspace is another great progressive song with a fast beat, cool riffs and cool vocals.

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shredabilly

Van Halen was my favorite band throughout high school. They hold a nostalgic place in my heart - in particular the David Lee Roth era but I also like much of what they did with Sammy, as well. I had almost given up on them. Thinking maybe the creative well had run dry and at least I still have the old albums to listen to. Well I am elated to say that I have been proven wrong. This new album is an outstanding return to the classic VH sound. No keyboards or ballads. Nothing but straight up rockers and the welcome return of DLR. It's a great sounding recording, the band is super tight, Alex is awesome as usual, DLR sounds great (let's face it - he never was a great singer just a fun stylist) and even Wolfy sounds great. (I do admit that Michael Anthony really should be part of this return but whatever...) The most welcome surprise is the fact that Eddie sounds absolutely inspired!! He's playing like he has something to prove and showing the world that he still is every bit the guitar god that we always knew he was. I think it may be their best album since Women & Children First. Has that 3rd album's sense of rollicking abandonment but is twice as long. A must have for an VH fan!!

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gtrslinger

The recording sounds great! Alex and Ed (and Wolfie) really sound good. Very live feel. I love the mixes. Just balls out rocking from song 2 on. I could skip Tattoo. It starts good but just doesn't do it for me. Dave sounds good. He brings back the big boogie/ blues vibe that I always loved about the early records. The best songs for me are Trouble with Never, You and Your Blues and Blood and Fire. Ed sounds great on everything. I don't think they have anything as catchy as Panama or Top of the world but it's a guitar players dream record.

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jhs5150

Agreed. I thought the production was awesome - very live feel to it. I think Tattoo was an attempt for another "Jump" but I like it on it's own. Not a filler song on the album though "Big River" is pretty close.

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Peteski

Bought the album last night. Dave's voice is weak and lost in the mix to hide it, production sucks on everything but Tattoo and Stay Frosty. Thin drums and muddy bass. I'll still go see them live but this disk sure won't see alot of use.
Quite disappointed because the lyrics are clever and guitarwork is great. I can't get past the lousy production. I know it's been said too many time as well but it really needs Michael Anthony's backing vocals too.

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Sabian630

Wow..really? What are you listening to it on a phonograph? Seriously if you are listening to it on an iPod it will not do it justice..put the Cd in a good stereo and Ithink it sounds great. I put it up against Fair warning, and WACF, and it's right there if not even a little "fuller" sounding.

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Sabian630

Wow..really? What are you listening to it on a phonograph? Seriously if you are listening to it on an iPod it will not do it justice..put the Cd in a good stereo and Ithink it sounds great. I put it up against Fair warning, and WACF, and it's right there if not even a little "fuller" sounding.

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t-rev

My face is melted! Eddie Shreds. This is a great album. Period.
VH is sooo much better with Dave.
He really brings that extra dimension the band was lacking with bozo.

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mbryan67

Great, great, great!!! I was so nervous for them before the album came out because Tattoo is good, but not what I was hoping for from them. Van Halen has come through in a big way. This album would easily fit in their earlier Roth catalog. Ed's tone and riffs are some of the best he has ever released and I too am hoping they can keep it together long enough to keep recording and grow as a band. I loved the Sammy era stuff as well, but this is the Van Halen I grew up on. Sam can keep talkin crap all he wants, but anything he has been involved with other than Van Halen, has been mediocre at best. As for digging up old material, I don't care how old those riffs are, I'm just glad I get to hear them.

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njm74

Love it love love it love it! I got it Friday and can't stop listening to it. Any one that doesn't like it should not call themselves Van Halen fans. It absolutely destroys anything Chickenfoot has done so sammy can now shut the hell up.

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leftycarvin

As a longtime VH fan I did'nt have high expectations for this album.Wow was I wrong!Eddie is on fire on this album!This is one heavy, rocking album.Dave's voice is a little strained at times but is surprisingly good.Wolf plays great and has really good vocal harmonies as well.Alex is a monster as usual.However, this record is really Eddie's.He sounds inspired, creative, and on his game!Did'nt know he had it in him.This album will fit in well with their classic material and is definitely one of their heaviest.

strangedude2112

I think Eddie's playing bass on some of this.

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mfguitar

Made me feel young again..Love It!!!

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rastarobbie

In one word......
RIPPING....

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ardiril

Big yawn of an album. Two songs I never want to hear again (Tattoo and Big Frosty), and the rest are too weak for me to ever go out of my way to hear again.

I won't be buying any guitar magazines with Van Halen cover stories, that's for sure.

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Sabian630

Well one of those songs you never heard..it's Stay Frosty dumbo. If you are going to give your review of something at least get the titles correct.

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rastarobbie

I just need one word

RIPPING!!!!

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pmroche

If you wanna be a monk you gotta cook a lot of rice!

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pmroche

By Pete Roche

It’s been fifteen years since Van Halen issued a studio album, and almost twice that since cutting one with charismatic, karate-kicking front man David Lee Roth on vocals. Diamond Dave ditched the quartet after touring the multiplatinum 1984 to pursue movie stardom. When that didn’t pan out, Dave got back to basics, releasing a terrific, if atypical, EP (Crazy from the Heat) and two worthwhile full-lengths with super-shredders Steve Vai and Billy Sheehan (Eat ‘em and Smile, Skyscraper). Meanwhile, brothers Eddie (guitar) and Alex (drums) Van Halen soldiered on with “Red Rocker” Sammy Hagar at the wheel of their hit-making motor machine. And while the slick 80’s “Van Hagar” sound irked some old school fans, it won over just as many, and the history books show they achieved more even commercial success than before.

But grunge overtook melodic metal in the Nirvana nineties, and neither Roth nor Van Halen flourished in a market overcrowded with loud, temperamental rock newcomers. Roth’s solo efforts became so progressively weak that the “Panama” singer eventually took a day job as an EMT. He also took a stint as morning disc jockey at 92.3 Radio Free in New York, where his leisure time was spent flying helicopters and writing an autobiography.

Hagar was out of Van Halen following 1995’s lackluster Balance, and replacement Gary Cherone (Extreme) didn’t survive Camp 5150 long enough to make amends for the forgettable Van Halen III. Both Roth and Hagar checked in to track a couple new songs for compilations released in 1996 (The Best Of: Volume One) and 2004 (Best of Both Worlds)—but the brothers VH spent most of the 90s and 00s slamming their ex-singers in the press. Roth and Hagar were only too happy to return to favor, going so far as to join forces in 2002 for a “Sans Halen” package tour. Then health problems overtook Eddie, who underwent hip replacement surgery, got treatment for oral cancer, and did a stint or two in rehab to nip a returning alcohol problem. By the time Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the only two guys who bothered showing up for the ceremony—Hagar and Michael Anthony—weren’t even in the band anymore.

So when Van Halen announced a major tour with Roth in 2007, everyone just held their breath and waited for the wheels to come flying off. But this time there was no train wreck. The band packed arenas and put on consistently solid, hits-centric shows for almost two years, using the jaunt to initiate Eddie’s cherub-faced 17-year old son Wolfgang as the group’s bassist. The newly remarried guitarist then informed us his son would finish high school before he’d consider a new album.

“Say ya missed me!” jives Roth on A Different Kind of Truth, echoing a lyric from “Hot for Teacher.” “Say it like ya mean it!”

Yes, Waldo, it’s time for another Van Halen album—their twelfth, and first for Interscope Records. And along with his pen-sull Dave’s brought in a decade of sublimated carnival barker enthusiasm to uncap and a gumball machine’s worth of bite-sized Zen epithets to let fly. This reviewer wasn’t the only one concerned when the band teased new single, “Tattoo,” in mid-January, just after a hush-hush intimate performance at a NYC pub once owned by Dave’ uncle. The middling rocker wasn’t anything to write home about, not after so much time away. But more on that later.

Fortunately, in what was probably the endgame of some clever marketing, the first taste of Truth was the album’s weakest offering; subsequent snippets posted on the band’s website could only be better. And they were.

It’s no shocker to aficionados that the “new” VH album comprises of guitar riffs and vestigial pieces-parts written by Eddie three decades ago. Tracks like “Outta Space,” “Big River,” “Blood and Fire,” and yes, “Tattoo,” are the reconstituted outcome of a composer’s cannibalization of his own work. Indeed, much of Truth existed in rough form on the well-circulated Zero Demos, whose 1976 sessions were financed by Gene Simmons (KISS) in a bid to get the fledgling group signed to Warner Brothers. Many bands recycle old material for new records; each of the Roth-era LPs features one or two cuts written prior to their eponymous debut (e.g. “House of Pain” was originally recorded six or seven years before it landed on 1984). But Truth marks the first time in recent memory that a band has returned from so long a hiatus with a batch of tunes that will resonate immediately with its fan base, who’ve been trading and torrenting the stuff for years.

So re-recordings like “She’s the Woman” don’t sound remarkably different from their demo counterparts, minus (former bassist) Mike Anthony’s sublime backing and harmony vocals. Truth showcases a multi-tracked Dave, which does the trick even if some of the old vibe is lacking without affable Mikey on board. And if Wolfgang really did play bass here (Eddie handled Anthony’s parts on disc from 1995 on), he did a marvelous job; the low end is solid and steady, and his lines are decorated by clever melodic fills—some of which even double his dad’s own not-so-easy to master hooks.

Formerly known as “Down in Flames,” opening salvo “Tattoo” was not well-received when previewed online last month. Roth’s ode to ink culture, it wants for a memorable musical motif and refrain. Instead the one-word chorus is hiccupped through electronic enhancers and backed by keyboards, and Dave’s wordplay (“mousewife to mom-shell in the time it takes to get that new tattoo”) isn’t enough to salvage the supposed track. Not without an assist from Eddie, whose guitar solo here isn’t quite the eight bars of take-your-head off shred we were hoping for.

A largely-unchanged throwback from the club days, “She’s the Woman” is a more fitting start to the soundtrack of the Van Halen resurrection. Boasting tight rhythms from Alex and nephew Wolf, the tune careens over Eddie’s chunky, overdriven chords and benefits from Uncle Dave’s Cracker Jack Zen and irreverent machismo. Another revisited classic, “Bullet Head,” likewise elevates the spirit, quickens the pulse, provides tonal menace, and—clocking in under three minutes—doesn’t overstay its welcome (its chorus also provides the album title). “China Town” is Truth’s barnburner, a fresh-penned track that nonetheless harkens “Mean Street” (Fair Warning) with its seedy, red light district narrative, stuttering groove, and Eddie’s inventive grab-bag soloing. “Blood and Fire” courses from the same melancholy veins that oozed “Little Guitars” and (Roth’s own) “Damn Good” into being years ago; it’s a look-how-far-we’ve-come dose of nostalgia that bounces along Eddie’s bright, finger-plucked broken chords.

In what probably marks the first time since OU812 that we’ve heard an Alex Van Halen count-in on record, “As Is” finds Roth exploring the rags-to-riches promise of Tinseltown while Ed shifts guitar gears from grunge to string-dancing speed metal. “Honeybabysweetiedoll” is Eddie Van Halen-does-Joe Satriani, with the maestro employing feedback, static, and pick-slides as ambient segue to a wah-drenched space rocker. There’s a crescendo and a sudden stop—at which point a solitary dog bark green-lights more psychedelic string abuse. Titled “Let’s Get Rockin’” on the Zero demo, “Outta Space” is another meaty, hyperkinetic cut wherein Roth ponders our planet’s critical mass. Overcrowding never sounded so good.

Kicking off with bluesy, front-porch swing acoustic guitar and coalescing to a full-tilt twelve-bar romp, “Stay Frosty” is “Ice Cream Man”’s delinquent baby brother. But instead of milking frozen confections for double-entendre, Roth juxtaposes the dogma of institutionalized religions with armchair philosophy, like a vaudevillian Robert Fulghum, or ADHD Descartes. Reworked from oldie “Big Trouble,” the similarly-named “Big River” taps Van Halen’s swampy side in a thumping, “Running With the Devil” style travelogue for rock ‘n roll croc hunters. The time-shifting midsection devolves into a comfortably repeated chorus that channels the earthen essence of Doobie Brothers while providing a blanket for some fleet-fingered outro guitar noodling.

Truth does have its weaknesses, apart from the aforementioned “Tattoo.” Borne of castoff Eddie parts from the 1984 film The Wild Life, “You And Your Blues” is little more than Roth referencing Allman Brothers, Rolling Stones, and other Jurassic jam-bands to more eloquently dismiss a depressing paramour. “The Trouble With Never” starts promisingly enough, but then barrels over the cliff of an anticlimactic chorus. “Beats Working” (retooled from “Put Out the Lights”) recalls the AC/DC slink of “Sucker in a Three-Piece” but sputters out, notwithstanding a bass quote from The Beatles’ “Day Tripper.”

But most of the performances here are exciting and as non-rote as can be for a trio of Creem Magazine silverbacks (and one young buck). Someone must’ve unearthed a couple extra cans of mojo in Pasadena; the Dutch Boys play here like they actually give a shit again, and it’s refreshing to hear them doing what they’re famous for with sincerity and earnest, rather than as self-parody. Produced by Grammy-winner John Shanks (studio guru behind Miley Cyrus, Hilary Duff, and Kelly Clarkson), Truth is a polished, dense affair. Eddie ditched his variac voltage-boosted speaker cabs ages ago, and his signature “brown sound” Marshall has been supplanted by his own line of EVH amplifiers. Mr. Eruption also favors his own custom axes over the Franken-strats he cobbled together in his twenties—but he’s still got that magic touch: You hear stuff like the frenetic hammer-on, pull-of intro to “China Town” or the snot-nosed slurs, bends, and dive-bombs in “Bullet Head” and instinctively know the guitarist can’t be anyone but Eddie Van Halen.

Once known for his distinct, lock-up-your-daughters banshee wail, Roth can’t hit the harrowing highs like he used to. The voice that charged “Sinners Swing!” began waning with 1994’s Filthy Little Mouth, at which point Dave compensated either by singing lower more often, or by scatting like some coked-up used car salesman or auctioneer from a Flannery O’Connor novel. It’s clear the 56-year old pushed himself on Truth—but it also sounds like he relished the challenge, proving to himself (if not to Eddie and his minions) he’s still got enough gas left in the tank to do VH justice. And we do get a couple signature rasp-yells out of the former man-heathen, who dispenses enough pearls of deliciously witty wisdom on Truth to fashion a candy necklace.

Finally, Van Halen are back, and my kids can hear new Eddie Van Halen tunes instead of listening to their old man harp about what used to be.

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jhs5150

OMG, this review went on way too long. Verbal diarrhea. Just say whether you like it or not and why. If you're trying out for Rolling Stone just send them your resume.

Also, Eddie does not "do" Satriani. It is the other way around. He's been playing the Fernandes Sustainer for years and is always experimenting with effects and when he finally uses them it's masterful.

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mojo_zangus

The mighty Van Halen have returned with their first full length studio album since 98's "Van Halen III" - and their first with Roth since 84'. At least they had the decency to make their intentions known from first listen. This is NOT an album thats gonna take VH into the new age...this is a band reconnecting themselves with their classic sound...and what better way to do that than to release an album filled with tracks that were written in the early-mid 70's and re-recorded with a new spin. Die hards will recognize most of the songs on here as the unreleased demo versions have been circulating forever and many have gained a cult-like following among avid VH fanatics. You've got the classic "Shes the Woman" here virtually unchanged from its original demo (minus the "Mean Street" break before the solo) alongside "Big Trouble" (re-christened BIG RIVER) "Put Out the Lights" (now known as BEATS WORKING) and "Bullethead" among others.

To put it bluntly...it works for most of the record, feels contrived at times, but even with the absence of Michael Anthony, it still feels and sounds like classic VH. THIS is what the fans wanted, they wanted classic Roth-era material, well....you got it. Did they play it safe? Of course they did. This is a legendary band that is trying to reintroduce themselves to the industry after decades of misfires. While the album wont exactly set the world on fire, its a good start.

Of course, no amount of drama can outshine the main thing that makes this band unique...and that of course is the one and only Edward Van Halen. Eddie's tone is in your face, up front and nasty (in all the right ways) and while at times it seems hes doing nothing more than rehashing licks from the past 3 decades of his career...he smacks you in the mouth with a blistering lead that just drips with "Yeah, I'm still the baddest motherf#@!er alive" attitude. Eddie is an enigma....a rare caliber of player that the world only sees once in a lifetime....I'm just glad the man is making music again.

The album is very strong for what it is. A nice mix of smoking rockers, melodic ditties, and s***-hot playing. Roth is in fine form and gives as good of a performance as he has in as long as I can remember. And YES - Michael Anthony's absence is felt throughout...but it doesnt spoil the overall scheme of things. Besides, Mikey is happier than ever in a great band of his own so theres no need to dig into it any further. Wolfgang isn't a joke...the kid can play, and has a ballsy tone as well!

Is this the album VH fans have been waiting for? Well, I can't speak for everyone but personally.....no, it's not what I've been waiting for. Overall, I dig the album...alot. And I'm a happy fan. But I strongly believe that the NEXT record will be the one I've been waiting for...an album that shows the growth and experimental nature of Eddie's playing that really came to the forefront on VHIII, but encapsuled in material that more suits the band as a whole while maintaining that classic sound and at the same time bring Van Halen into a new era. With Eddie focused and healthy...anything is possible. That is if they can just get along long enough for another record ;) 7 out of 10 - BUY IT

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jhs5150

VHIII? Are you fking kidding me? That album belonged just where Eddie wrote it - in the toilet. If this album doesn't give you what you wanted from Eddie's playing your are going to die a dissappointed fan.
His blistering "experimental" solo on Honeybabysweetiedoll should be enough to satisfy you for years. Some people are never satisfied.

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Steve Dunlap

Good album from start to finish. Eddie's guitar sound sounds great. Lots of excellent riffs and hooks. I prefer Wolfie over Anthony. My personal favorite tune on here is "Stay Frosty". Very enjoyable album!

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lesmesa

sounds great makes me want to listen to it again........

that to me mean a successful record........

sounds like it was fun to record........

who care's what Sammy thinks he is a billionaire now of course he can say shit.........

great eddie guitar record........

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jhs5150

Exactly! That's what a good record does - makes you want to hear it over and over again. Nothing Chickenfoot has done comes close. Your other points are valid also.

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