As a longtime rock/metal fan, I was a little ashamed to find out in late January that the legendary Van Halen had a new album coming out in the beginning of February. Billed as the return album of David Lee Roth, I found myself wondering why there wasn't more hype across the music scene for an album that fans have been waiting almost thirty years for. I wondered if it was because the album wasn't going to be any good, and when I heard the uninspired first single entitled "Tatoo," I pretty much wrote the album off.
But then a funny thing happened. I saw the album on sale right after release, and decided to give it a shot. I guess the band wanted to really sneak up on people with this album, because once you get past that first single, A Different Kind of Truth is a really good Van Halen record.
In fact, as soon as I got to the second song, I knew I was listening to Roth-era Van Halen. "She's the Woman" is the kind of rolling, riff-filled tune that should have been released as the first single for the album. It's also the point in the album where I realized something--Wolfgang Van Halen is an amazing bass player. Not only did I not miss Michael Anthony, but I was consistently wowed by what Wolfgang brought to each song. He's that good.
But most Van Halen fans are more concerned with how David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen sound on this album, and I'm happy to say, they sound great. David Lee Roth in particular sounds really good. He doesn't go for some of the high notes that he was known for back in his heyday, but his vocals are strong throughout. Eddie's riffs and solos have that loose feel to them taht captures the fun of the old Van Halen days, but there are not as many hooks and really memorable riffs on the album compared to put it in the same class as Van Halen, 1984, or 5150. In fact, the lack of really standout songs makes the album sometimes feel like one of Roth's less memorable solo efforts than the legendary reunion album that it should feel like. Eddie's drums are stellar as always, but there were a few songs where it felt like he was trying to compensate for the lack of great riffs with a few too many fills.
Don't get me wrong, though. A different Kind of Truth is a really good album, and there are a few songs on it that I think will be remembered as classics. The aforementioned "She's the Woman," "China Town" and "Big River" have great riffs and that rolling sonic attack sound that is classic Van Halen. And outside of the mediocre "Tatoo," there isn't a lot of clunkers on the album. I don't find myself skipping songs during a playthrough, and that's the sign of a solid album for me. Without a doubt though, the real star of A Different Kind of Truth is Wolfgang Van Halen. There are times on this record where he conjures images of Billy Sheehan on 1986's Crazy from the Heat, and it feels like the rest of the band let him loose on this record in a way that they never did with Michael Anthony.
If this is the last Van Halen record we get, it's not a bad note to go out on. Even if it isn't the epic return to form we were hoping for, A Different Kind of Truth does the legend of Van Halen justice.
4 out of 5 Welcomed Reunions