Sound — 7
Van Halen released their first album, self-titled, in 1978 and has enjoyed a huge amount of success since then. Their success was initially catapulted due to the guitar acrobatics of Eddie Van Halen and the exuberant and boisterous vocals produced by David Lee Roth. Since their debut release they have maintained a respectable amount of fame throughout their careers which involved David Lee Roth leaving the band and putting all of his focus on his career as a solo artist in 1985. He was replaced by Sammy Hagar, who also filled the part of rhythm guitarist. The album "5150" was released shortly after Hagar joined which was the first Van Halen album to reach #1 on the Billboard charts. Sammy Hagar stayed with Van Halen until 1996, and then left over creative differences revolving around Eddie Van Halen's criticism of his lyrics and the choice to do a compilation album. David Lee Roth temporarily rejoined Van Halen in 1996, but this came to quits again after a disagreement backstage at the 1996 MTV Music Video Awards. No new material was produced in this short reunion with David Lee Roth. Gary Cherone was the next vocalist to pair up with the Van Halen brothers and Michael Anthony. They released the album "III" in 1998 with Gary Cherone and began a second album with the vocalist that was never released. Outside of some compilation work Van Halen did not have a new studio album until the release of "A Different Kind Of Truth" in 2012. Sammy Hagar worked with Van Halen again briefly from 2003 through 2005, and then David Lee Roth rejoined Van Halen from 2006 2008, and then returned again in 2009 to begin working on "A Different Kind Of Truth". Michael Anthony was no longer a member of Van Halen by 2006 for reasons never entirely clear, though Eddie Van Halen had expressed unhappiness with Michael Anthony on several occasions before the break. Michael Anthony was eventually replaced by Wolfgang Van Halen.
Van Halen completed recording of "A Different Kind Of Truth" in late 2011, and privately played their new material for a few other artists including Dweezil Zappa and Mark Tremonti before releasing their first single to the public, "Tattoo". While the material was first represented as completely new material, there was soon comparisons made to earlier demos and live performances from early in Van Halen's career and as these comparisons continued it was finally stated that the new songs on the album were actually a re-working of early demos that had not previously made it onto a studio album. On some songs the re-working was extensive and on others it was more subtle. "A Different Kind Of Truth" is also the first album featuring Eddie's son, Wolfgang Van Halen, playing bass and backing vocals. As a single, "Tattoo" has been extremely successful, charting high across the board and was the #1 selling rock song on iTunes the day after it's release. The entire album clocks in at approximately 50 minutes with 13 tracks.
"A Different Kind Of Truth" immediately sounds exactly like what it is Van Halen re-recording demos from their early career. This could be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. Personally, when the first rumors of a new Van Halen album were being whispered on the internet, my excitement started to grow. When I first heard "Tattoo" on the day of it's release as a single then I began to be disappointed. This continued as I heard more bits and pieces of the album to be released, and read rumors of this being an album of old demos. Then, I decided that I was disappointed because my expectations were for a Van Halen album of new material. I adjusted my expectations and as a release of old demos re-worked and re-recorded I have been able to enjoy "A Different Kind Of Truth" to a much larger extent. While steps were taken by Van Halen to re-work and modernize the songs, they somehow do come across as slightly dated. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing just an observation. Another thing that really stands out on the album is that even though at times the guitar work does sound like Eddie in his glory days at other parts the guitar work does not sound like Eddie at all. I also felt like there was too much processing on the solos. While I'm not intimately familiar with Alex's kit, the toms sound like they are tuned much too tight for the rest of the kit and it stands out to me, but maybe that is the sound he was going for.
Lyrics — 7
David Lee Roth's voice is beginning to show some age, in his prime he was a great vocalist his age has reduced him to being only a good vocalist. I'm sure there are those that will disagree with me regarding Roth's voice, but while I absolutely respect even his current ability and his earlier work I consider legendary, he isn't 100% of what he used to be. Anyone thinking differently is hearing with their nostalgia instead of their ears. The main difference I noticed is he has seemed to lose a rather large portion of his higher range. Lyrically, the album has both high and low points. The single, "Tattoo", seems to have the weakest lyrics but the song does seem to at least have an interesting vocal vibe to it. The two songs that I am most disappointed in, lyrically, would be "Tattoo" and "You And Your Blues". On the track "You And Your Blues" it seems like Roth is almost just randomly saying the names of other songs by other artists, or partially quoting lyrics from other songs. It is like a poorly done vocal mosaic. Outside of those two songs, however, the lyrics are generally much better. My favorite lyrics are from "The Trouble With Never" with lines like "I know you never thought about it bu/ ask yourself later/ when you turn on your stereo/ does it return the favor".
Overall Impression — 6
Nostalgia isn't a bad thing, and if Van Halen's intention was to capitalize on their fans' nostalgia, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, either. I do, however, feel that they should have represented this album from the beginning as a re-working of old demos instead of new material. I know my initial impression of this album would have been much more positive if I was approaching it as a nostalgic experience of listening to some old unreleased Van Halen material that was re-worked. My least favorite songs on the album are "Tattoo" and "You And Your Blues" and "Stay Frosty". "Stay Frosty" starts out like a Led Zeppelin vamp and then moves on to sound like some primitive talking blues and was very underwhelming even as the electric guitars come in later in a very George Thorogood type vibe. My favorite songs on the album are "The Trouble With Never", "As Is", and "Honeybabysweetiedoll". "Outta Space" is also a standout track on the album. I would have liked to have seen Eddie stretching himself beyond what he has previously done as he seemed to do previously on almost every release. I understand that this may not be possible as he is getting older and also he did have surgery for arthritis in his left hand a while back. Despite this, it doesn't change that what I missed the most on this album was the type of guitar acrobatics Eddie Van Halen has always been known for. The solos on the album either didn't sound like Eddie or sounded like rehashed material. "A Different Kind Of Truth" is not a bad album to own for the nostalgic value as long as you don't confuse this with being an album of new material.