Sound — 10
Van Halen has always been a band full of suprises. Their self-titled debut is widely considered to be one of the most essential rock albums of all time, and solidified Eddie Van Halen as one of the most influential guitarists of any generation. After original singer David Lee Roth left the band, VH enlisted the help of Sammy Hagar. Known for not being able to stay below 55 mph, and knowing only one way to rock, he was a suprising pick for the band. He did prove to have a vocal range that was much more versatile the Roth, however, and this spawned a string of #1 CD's. Then came Balance. The band shifted from a fun, party and love song band, to a more serious, spiritual band. The sound is darker, the lyrics are more thoughtful, and the message is clear: this CD is not typical VH. Songs like "Don't Tell Me," "Feelin" and "Aftershock" show the band can still rock with best of them. Other songs, including "Not Enough" and "Can't Stop Loving You" show the love song is still in their arsenal. This CD also shows why drummer Alex Van Halen is considered one of the best. His presence is felt throughout, and the cd even features a solo drum track, which then breaks into a wicked instrumental featuring the whole band. While not a perfect CD, due to "Big Money" and "Strung Out," which seem like filler, this CD should be considered one of their best.
Lyrics — 8
Lyrically, Sammy Hagar really stepped it up on this release. His spiritual side came through a lot stronger on this CD than previous ones. He also fit the perfect lyrics into the melody of each song. The softer songs have some of his most heartfelt and emotional lyrics, while the heavier songs show a fire not seen too often. Again, the only weak spot lyrically would be "Big Money." That song just didn't fit the mood of the CD. While in no way a revelation to the music community, this CD had some of VH's best lyrics.
Overall Impression — 10
Balance was Van Halen's return to a more aggressive sound. Possibly their best overall release with Sammy Hagar, and one of their better CD's period. While the David Lee Roth era is known as being the heavier and more spontaneous time period of the band, Balance proved that maturity did not mean playing jazz. While the style of the band changed again dramatically when Hagar left, and VH brought in Gary Cherone, this was the best VH had been since the early years. The whole band was playing as an unstoppable force, and the band was showing that they were still a force to be reckoned with. After hearing what the newer stuff sounds like, with Sammy back in the band, it sounds like the next CD will be a lot like this one, which is exciting to me, as I find this CD to be one of my favorites of VH's entire catalogue.