A Different Kind Of Truth review by Van Halen

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  • Released: Feb 7, 2012
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 6.7 Neat
  • Users' score: 8.3 (130 votes)
Van Halen: A Different Kind Of Truth

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.

62 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Tattoo is the only bad track on the album. The rest are awesome in their own way. This is arguably the heaviest album they've ever done. It definitely sounds like Wolf influenced Ed go the heavy route (half the album is in drop D or lower). "As Is" is without a doubt the heaviest track they've ever done. Outta Space, China Town & Bullethead have opening riffs that just make you wanna stand up and kick some ass. Stay Frosty is basically Ice Cream Man 2012, only heavier. The track that surprised me the most was Honeybabysweetiedoll. It's the only track on the album where Ed's using a Sustainer & he puts it to awesome use (not like the 2004 tour where he'd just flick it on for noise.)
    a drummer
    i love how the drums sound like they did in the early 80's. just don't get that anymore
    thf24 wrote: I can't help but think all the naysayers already had their minds made up after they heard Tattoo. As most are saying, it's not their best, but there's plenty to appreciate.
    This moron proves your point...
    w77yyz wrote: Tattoo was so awful, I don't think I can bring myself to listen to the other tracks.
    I don't understand! THIS ALBUM IS AWESOME! To get a few things cleared up, not every song off this album is a reworked demo. Yes, there are a few, but literally almost every Van Halen album has had reworked demos on it, including albums from the Hagar era! Yes, I know some of the reviewers at UG said the sound is different, but it's 2012! The sound will be different! The band just got back together, and they're experimenting with some different sounds! I for one am more than excited about this album, and I think the entire album rocks. Maybe after a few listens, some of those original fans will start to enjoy this album more and more!
    I used to be a huge fan of Van Halen about 5 years ago (when I was 15), since then my musical horizons have broadened significantly, and I have to say I havn't listened to VH or even music like it in a while. When I heard this album was comming out, the 15 year old inside of me got excited, but the matured "musical taste" part of my brain said "ugh, you're better than that", and I had a feeling it would be just another of those horrible old-band-reunited-making-a-modern-sounding-album-to-get-radi o-play albums. But BOY was I wrong!!! This album IMMEDIATLY turned me back into that 15 year old having "guitargasms", and instantly reminded me why I was so enthralled by this band (fronted by DLR that is) years ago. Eddie - the GOD of guitar - plays just as AMAZING as he always did pre-Hagar years and even does some unexpected things I've never even heard a guitar do. Alex is still the thundering backbone, along with Wolfgang, who's basslines are instantly comparable to Anthony's (though missing the insanely high backing vocals, but oh well... Chickenfoot has those, and anyone can tell that has done nothing to make that band not suck). And then there's Diamond Dave. A lot of people have been complaining about his singing, but I don't know why. He's just as fun and entertaining to listen to as he always was, focusing more on the soul and groove of the singing than the technical aspects of being a "good singer", which is always welcome in this day and age of pop and auto tune in the mainstream. The thing that this album has that all other DLR albums had and the Hagar albums didn't (and most other bands of this genre in general) is their willingness to be weird and not take themselves too seriously (something The Darkness have always done, which is why I am still able to listen to them). Songs like "Stay Frosty" immediatly bring to memory "Big Bad Bill" or "Ice Cream Man" or "Happy Trails" or any of those "different" songs (of which every album had atleast 1). Overall I was completely blown away by this album, my expectations far exceeded, and while there was certainly little "new ground" explored on this album, this feels more like "Van Halen III" than that album EVER did... Which is nothing to be ashamed of!
    People that are bitching about DLR's voice showing age can suck it...of course he is older, what did you expect? The same david from the You Really Got Me Music Video? This album is awesome! Quit being ungrateful!!! I HATE when a new album comes out and everyone constantly bitches about it! Just be grateful we have the original singer and a new album!
    I wasnt expecting much after hearing the previews but its really surprised me, obviously not as good as the old stuff but a really good enjoyable album, even tattoo has grown on me
    Personally, I like the album a lot so far (a few tracks in so far). All the guitar is classic EVH (and GREAT), Alex sounds good, and young Wolfgang is a picking up the bass slack well enough. As for DLR, of course the vocals will be lacking, but he still contributes to that old Van Halen sound.
    It's recognisably Van Halen and it's bloody wonderful. By no means their best ever, but who was really expecting that? Its better than I'd even dared hope it would be. Its got that edge to it that makes you want to turn it to top volume and stand up and feel like you rule the world.
    This a GREAT comeback album! Does this sound like men past their prime and in their late 50's NOPE. It's sounds like a rejuvenated, ready to take on the world, fire burning in their bellies VAN HALEN! Eddie has not played this well in ages. And his tone is just HUGE! Like the Brown Sound met a mountain and gave birth to a tone monster. Roth has the magic that Sammy never had (and never will have). Some highlights from this old meets new fantastic disc of heavy and hard VH rock are: "She's the Woman"... the boys re-worked this a fair amount from the Simmons demo. The verses and chorus's are now worthy of a number 1 hit. It's in-your-face classic VH with a modern production sound. "You and Your Blues has a killer bridge and chorus, with terrific backing vocals by Wolfgang (whom is a better bass player than Michael Anthony). "Chinatown" SMOKES! With music taken from Ed's instrumental "Ripley", Roth lays down the coolest lyrics and those classic hook laden melodies on "Blood and Fire". It's an instant VH classic! "As Is" takes it's cues from Woman and Children First meets 1984 meets the year 2012...it's a blast. And "Stay Frosty" is an updated, super-energized, "Ice Cream Man" meets "Hot for Teacher" hard-rockin boogie. All in all, anybody that loves VH will be thrilled with this. Anybody that doesn't like it...I have ZERO tolerance for you. Ed re-invented the electric guitar, and I welcome back the king!
    Am I the only one that actually liked "Stay Frosty"? :/ Anyway glad to see Eddie shred a bit. Too bad the album is a little underwhelming.
    J.R. Legrasse
    Like a lot of folks, I was dubious about this album when I saw the "Tattoo" video and my first thoughts were 1.) I don't like the song and 2.) Why is TMZ's Harvey Levin singing for Van Halen? But I'm currently in my second play-though of the album, and it's definitely growing on me. "She's The Woman" sounds like it could've been on VH II, and that's a very good thing. Yeah, Dave isn't hitting the highest of notes any more and there's scarce moments of "wow!" in what Eddie's playing, but it's just great to hear the (mostly) real Van Halen again. They're the gold standard of good time hard rock, and A Different Kind Of Truth is proving to be a solid continuation of that legacy.
    after the low expectations set by tattoo, im completely blown away by this album! burns a giant hole in every VH has done since 1984. eat your heart out, sammy hagar.
    I didn't expect this album at all. It really truly fells like it should have come right around fair warning. The songs are pretty dark and much heavier in tone than anything since that album aside from a few songs here and there with Sam (judgement day, don't tell me, feelin, aftershock). There are moments that I think they missed, on this new album, like the trouble with never chorus, and the keyboards on tattoo (I think it would've been better without them). But all in all, I'm stoked about it. Just a great, classic feeling album. Asking about listening to it 30 years from now is a mute point. No one can predict tomorrow, let alone 30 years. All I know, is I don't see myself taking this cd out of the player for awhile, and that's the same I've felt with a lot of my favorite albums from the past few years.
    Only listened to the tracks on youtube, but I'm pleasantly surprised. Eddie and Alex are in fine form. DLR not so much, but very few rock singers manage to keep their voice in top shape throughout their careers (bono, anyone?). I'm not a Hagar hater or anything, but IMO this album sounds better than those few songs he did with VH a few years ago and most of the Chickenfoot stuff as well.
    Tattoo was so awful, I don't think I can bring myself to listen to the other tracks.
    I can't help but think all the naysayers already had their minds made up after they heard Tattoo. As most are saying, it's not their best, but there's plenty to appreciate.
    Totally disagree with the review... Van Halen are back baby...they're kicking ass The album is F-CKING AWESOME... So many great songs,everyone sounds awesome on the album. cant wait for them to come to Australia. i thought it was going to be good,but damn its damn good.
    This album exceeded my expectations, which weren't all that high. By no means is it their best, but it's still great. I've been listening to it all day!
    I'm pretty excited to pick this one up. I know I may be the only one to say this, but I liked "Tattoo." No, it wasn't classic Van Halen, but it was by no stretch of the imagination a horrible song.
    I'm planning to buy this record either this week or next week. With Dave back in the band, this will be their best since 1984 (5150, OU812 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge were OK, but were still not my favorites and I'm not even a huge fan of the Hagar-era).
    ravelle X
    I enjoyed the album, with songs such as "stay frosty" being along the lines of "ice cream man". I really like the songs "Bullethead", "As Is", and "Honeybabysweetiedoll". I don't really prefer the riff in "Tattoo"(It sounds like AIC) even though it is catchy.
    Vic Magnetic
    People need to think that "Tattoo" is a pretty good rock/groove song with great tongue in cheek lyrics....If you still feel that it's a bad VH song then go listen to "Poundcake" and just tell me what the hell is that s#!t??
    I bought the album and I love it. I think every song is good. Some are better then others, sure. Great bass, wicked and taseful riffs, nice solos, great drumming and Dave sounds alright ater all this time. Feels like they really gave it their best effort. It's also (I think) a pretty heavy album for VH. Just great rock music.
    All of Eddie's playing sounds like pure Eddie to me. He's always had a variety in his style. Yes, I know a lot of these songs are reworked demos, but they don't sound dated to me at all. The new tracks (if they are are not doesn't matter, at least I haven't heard them before) sound great as well. Dave sounds fine. He never had a big range, but he's a master of melody and catchy vocal rhythm. As Is,China Town, Honeybabysweetiedoll, Blood and Fire etc..great tracks! If I had to criticize, I think Eddie is a little low in the mix. Some people have had to eat their words on this record and they are just not gonna admit that they were wrong. Ego's can be like that.
    I think it is a solid package. Honeybabysweetiedoll in particular is amazing.
    I wonder if you cynics listen to Led Zeppelin I and go "I can't give this the credit it deserves because it's not completely original material". "All new" material in this case. This album rocks regardless of its setbacks.
    Way Cool JR.
    I cant wait to pick this album up, love everything I have heard so far from it. So glad DLR is back I can't stand the Hagar era =VH=.
    HARTATTACK69 wrote: I liked it but I think they where to eager to release something to quick.
    Probably wanna put stuff out before the drama starts back up and they break up. I'm guessing they'll be done before 2013, but would like to see otherwise.
    God People are so close minded about this album! Just give it a chance and quit comparing it to past records! Your standards are too high! This album is GREAT In my opinion! and Tattoo is a GREAT song! Suck it Sammy Hagar and Chickenshit!
    Burnt Ice
    Dried thin and stretched out vocals Mr.Roth. Eddie's playing is great though.
    Van Halen is one of my all-time favorite bands. I like Michael Anthony, miss him in the band, but don't cry over it daily. I think Wolf has really grown in his playing and stage presence since the last tour. I really got into VH during the Hagar days, but after he left, really got into listening to the older stuff with Roth more. Definately prefer Roth. I have a hard time believing anyone else in those categories would think this album sucks. It is killer. I could give a rats ass if it is old, never recorded material in most cases. It's recorded now, and the album kicks ass. I have to laugh at some of the newspaper reviews too, because everyone of them that I have read, really good or really bad, seem to be written by someone never knowing Van Halen existed with Roth. They are all looking for VH to be more of the pop style with Hagar, than hard rock style of Roth. I don't think VH did a great job marketing the songs either. Tattoo isn't horrible, but compared to some of the heavier tracks like China Town, Outta Space, Bullethead, etc, it wasn't the best song to fully release first. Even the 30 second previews didn't do a lot of songs justice. Based on the previews, I thought Honeybabysweetiedoll was going to be an instrumental. My take on the album: Tattoo - An OK song. I actually think it has some of the better thought out lyrics of the tracks. I prefer the heavier songs, and as a first song when released, I was a bit disappointed overall. She's the Woman - Even though Mikey said this was a song before he was even in the band, it really sounds like it would fit in on Fair Warning. A killer bass line from Wolf and drums from Al. Vocals are ok, a bit too much of Dave's shtickish voice in parts. You and Your Blues - More of a pop song type of chorus. Not a really strong song for me. China Town - Killer intro, killer solo, fast and shredding song. Lyrics aren't too bad either. Blood and Fire - Sounds like a left over from Diver Down, similar to Little Guitars. More of a pop style song, but it works for this song. Bullethead - This sounds like what it is: hard and fast straight from the club days. As Is - Big drums and heavy guitar, modified "Two Burritos and a Rootbeer float" through the verse. Honeybabysweetiedoll - The Trouble with Never - This is the weakest song on the album in my opinion. Roth's voice is just all over the place with the shtick. It's more pop than rock. The music is ok, but not enough to overcome Roth's singing on this one. Outta Space - Another killer, fast and heavy track. Al's got some nice beats in this one. Probably one of Roth's better songs vocally because he's singing and not talking through the song. Stay Frosty - Pretty much as other's have described...a song very similar in style to Ice Cream Man that starts with just Roth on accoustic and and rest a band kicks in a minute into the song. The song grows on ya after awhile. Big River - One of the better songs overall, because Roth's vocals are tight and can keep up with the strength of the music. Beats Workin' - This sounds like a song from another band. Grooving verse, into a more pop type chorus. Musically, the band blew it out of the water. Roth is obviously the weak link in songs. Some songs he has it, some songs he's ok, and some songs are just too much shtick. But, there are enough fast, heavy, rocking songs to overcome the sometimes suspect singing/lyrics of Roth.
    PatVanHalen5150 wrote: Tattoo is the only bad track on the album. The rest are awesome in their own way. This is arguably the heaviest album they've ever done. It definitely sounds like Wolf influenced Ed go the heavy route (half the album is in drop D or lower). "As Is" is without a doubt the heaviest track they've ever done. Outta Space, China Town & Bullethead have opening riffs that just make you wanna stand up and kick some ass. Stay Frosty is basically Ice Cream Man 2012, only heavier. The track that surprised me the most was Honeybabysweetiedoll. It's the only track on the album where Ed's using a Sustainer & he puts it to awesome use (not like the 2004 tour where he'd just flick it on for noise.)
    This is my Exact Opinion on A Different Kind of Truth. I thought the only songs that disappointed me were "Stay Frosty" and "Tattoo".
    w77yyz wrote: Tattoo was so awful, I don't think I can bring myself to listen to the other tracks.
    tattoo was the only bad song, listen to the other ones jackass!
    "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." This is an album of new material. None of it has been officially released.
    I think it has the old Van Halen vibe to it. I'm a fan of Van Halen in both of it's major forms, but have a tendency to lean towards the Roth era, just for that snappy, upbeat, good time rock n roll sound. To me, this is the territory this album walks on. It's not epic, but I'll definitely fire it up when I'm doing housework, or on a drive.
    scott john
    What's wrong with Poundcake? I thought F.U.C.K. was the second best Van Hagar album. There are some monster riffs on that recording. If you don't like Sammy, that's fine, but Ed was excellent on that album.
    Vic Magnetic wrote: People need to think that "Tattoo" is a pretty good rock/groove song with great tongue in cheek lyrics....If you still feel that it's a bad VH song then go listen to "Poundcake" and just tell me what the hell is that s#!t??
    w77yyz wrote: Tattoo was so awful, I don't think I can bring myself to listen to the other tracks.
    you'd be surprised how amazing the rest of the album is. tattoo is shit. the rest of the songs sound like you would expect a DLR Van Halen album to sound. so happy with this album. it's definitely the best thing VH has put out since 1984. tattoo doesn't even belong on this album.
    All I can say is, WOW! This is the Van Halen I have been waiting for since I can't remember when. Eddie Van Halen, much like Gordon Gecko, is back with a vengenance! You can definetley tell the difference between a Sammy/Van Halen album and a Dave/Van Halen album. First off, Eddie tears the roof off this entire album. Probably the heaviest Van Halen album to date. Not quite up there with the classic Halen albums but more than respectable. Second, no keyboards I believe. I may be wrong. It reminds me when Rush came back together after the unfortunate deaths of Neil Peart's daughter and wife. They went hard and heavy just like Van Halen did on this album. They went back to their roots and gave us a Halen album we can just thrash to and say Rock and Roll is back! Classic rock returns. This is how its suppose to be done! Newbies of today, take note! Van Halen is back!!!!!
    I don't really understand what people expect when an old band releases new albums. If they sound too much like their old albums, they're accused of not evolving, and if they're too different, they're accused of selling out, or whatever. Having said that, this is like the perfect balance between both camps. Some of the songs are old demos from the band's golden years with DLR that have been tweaked to sound more modern. As far as lyrics go, did you really expect DLR to sing diatribes on the socioeconomic status of the world, or whatever? Please, the guy almost always comes up with nonsense; it's all about his delivery, which I gotta say is pretty good considering his age. I gotta say that I love this album already. It's the album that could have followed 1984 if DLR had stayed in the band. It really is that good. I haven't heard EVH solo and riff like this since those early albums. Seriously, the man is almost going on 60 and he makes most of us sound like chumps. Welcome back guys.
    at least they tried. to all the people who are defending this album ask yourself this one question will you be listening to this 30 years from now? thats the question i asked myself and the answer i got depressed me a little because it was a resounding NO! it just doesn't hold up the way the early stuff does. and those albums will be spinning long after im gone. if you don't agree thats fine everyone is entitled to their opinion. but listen to your favorite track on this album then pick any track off os VHI VHII women and children first fair warning diver down or even 1984 which was my least favorite of all VH releases including the sammy years. but hot for teacher will be playing for many years to come.. i picked atomic punk and i realized a different kind of truth alright.... goodbye van halen thanks for the great stuff you gave the fans but thats the way i want to remember this band not for a song like stay frosty.... and i suspect the majority of the fans out there feel the same way. most of the ones i talk to are not impressed with this new effort. but again at least they tried to give the fans what they wante and for that i say thank you....
    not buying it but i am sure it is at LEAST an average rock cd and we should expect great work from Eddie. As far as Hagar vs Roth they are both going to show some regression but when listening to Hagar bash them it is apparent jealousy. just saying.
    That was a great review. More informative than I was expecting from the typical UG album review. Bravo!
    I guess people are no longer allowed to have an opinion, as soon as someone even utters a word of this album not being good everyone downvotes it.