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It's been nearly three decades since the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth made an actual album together. During that time, they've split up, played with other partners, traded barbs, come together and broke up again, traded more barbs, and what have you.
In 2007, however, the VH landscape changed dramatically: Roth rejoined - for a real tour, not just a quickie track for a "best-of" collection - and founding member Michael Anthony was jettisoned in favor of Eddie's son, Wolfgang. All looked set for what might be some new music...and then it didn't. After a successful (and trouble-free) run of arena dates, the Van Halen camp went silent.
Early last year, though, word came out that Van Halen were recording an album, which sent naysayers and even an ex-band member (Sammy Hagar) into brickbat-mode: They'll never finish it. They're just recording old songs, they can't write new stuff...and on and on.
Well, that sound you hear, the one rising up to meet Eddie's chainsaw guitar, is of Van Halen - three guys in their late 50s (Ed, David and Alex) and a 21-year-old upstart (Wolf) - having the last laugh. A big reason for their glee might steam from the fact that what they've done here is unprecedented, actually, using demos of old, unused songs for the basis of a good portion of the new material, reinventing and re-imagining themselves in the process.
It's a genius move, of course ("Hey, we can't write young, so let's take songs from when were young!"), and it makes you wonder why other acts haven't done it before. What's remarkable, though, is that rather than sounding like three AARP subscribers strolling down memory lane with "the kid," the Van Halen of 2012 come off as age-proof, confident monsters, chewing up the scenery with the top down and flipping the bird to anyone who's got a problem with that.
Oh, and get this: there's not one wimpy "power ballad" to be found. You can place this album right alongside Women And Children First and not feel as though you've just committed audio sacrilege.
A Different Kind Of Truth will be released on 7 February. On the following pages, we deliver the track-by-track verdict.