Reinventing Van Halen proved to be a tricky task, so Eddie Van Halen proceeded to reunite the band…a move so obvious it should have come as no surprise that it was easier said than done. Sammy Hagar was brought in for a 2004 hits album and an accompanying tour, a project that collapsed in acrimony so noxious that founding bassist Michael Anthony left with the Red Rocker. Eddie brought in his son Wolfgang as Anthony's replacement and began a prolonged courtship of David Lee Roth that first led to a tour, and then to this, A Different Kind of Truth, the band's first album in 14 years and their first with Roth in twice that long. That's a long time, but the roots of A Different Kind of Truth stretch back even further, with several songs originating from demo tapes Van Halen made before their debut, and the rest consciously written in that style. No synths are to be found anywhere on the record, they've been swept aside along with Michael Anthony's bedrock eighth-note thump and Sammy Hagar's radio-ready pop polish, stripping Van Halen down to their core: a duel for attention between David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen. Where Sammy enabled Eddie's ambitions, Diamond Dave unleashes the guitarist's id, taunting him to play faster, harder, tougher, then fighting for space between unwieldy riffs. Certainly, there are hooks here, even some with pop propulsion, but the unexpected signature of A Different Kind of Truth is its heaviness, its 13 songs of loud, unrelenting rock. The only time it comes up for air is on "Stay Frosty," with its acoustic intro deliberately evoking memories of “Ice Cream Man.” Of course, the entirety of this comeback is designed to revive the spirit of the first five or six Van Halen records, and building the album upon those old demos turns out to be a savvy move, as they not only saved promising songs, but re-oriented the band, pushing them toward their essence. It’s akin to the Rolling Stones digging up unfinished songs and completing them for an expanded reissue of Some Girls but in reverse: instead of trying to fit into the past, Van Halen are using their history to revive their present and they succeed surprisingly well on A Different Kind of Truth.
A Different Kind of Truth Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine