Van Halen - Balance
Warner Bros. Records
Hard Rock
12 songs (53:07)
Release year: 1995
Van Halen, Warner Bros. Records
Reviewed by Aleksie
Archive review
And so we reach what would become the long-term-functional end of the Van Hagar-era in the realm of studio records – 1995’s Balance. I’d say the stakes were considerably high for this album as the band was coming off of this line-ups best work, F.U.C.K., and the contemporary scene of rock in general had went through a considerable system shock in between these two albums. Nevermind was already a few years old, several “alternative rock” bands had become established million sellers and many hard rockin’ staples of the 1980s had turned to modernizing their sound (read: stuffin’ that grunge or alt-rock in there via one depressing slant or another). So how would the granddaddy of all of them poodleheaded party animals react to this sonic landscape?

Fortunately, Van Halen stuck to their guns (keeping those guitar solos aplenty, for example) even if one can hear some contemporary leanings here and there. Tunes like Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do) and The Seventh Seal are considerably dark with heavy riffage considering the band's usual cheerfulness but just due to the craftsmanship and the still massive singing pipes of Sammy Hagar, that mix works really well. All in all, the success of Balance for a listener is largely dependant on how one digs the song material and for me, it’s always been a mixed bag with the majority passing the grade well.

In addition to the aforementioned tunes, the album closing Feelin’ is a real grower and the best ballad-type on a record that provides several. The party-rocking Amsterdam is definitely my favourite off of this record (while also being one of the most catchy horticultural anthems I’ve ever heard, if you catch my fire I mean drift). Just such a great feelgood-song. On that same-party-starting note, Big Fat Money falls a lot flatter and just doesn’t sink any hooks in despite a heady pace and solid performance from the whole band. The big “hit” ballad present here, Can’t Stop Loving You, is too cheesy even for me, even if I can’t get enough of the simple-yet-über-catchy guitar riff that drives the song. Not Enough plods close to said fromageyness, even if the string additions, background vocals and Eddie’s solo are utterly sweeeeet.

Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony keep a good rhythm section going throughout the album but I have to yearn for the kind of explosiveness that they put up even on F.U.C.K., not to mention their fieriest records with DLR. Yes, the style is different and more “grown-up” but man, these guys could unleash hard rock hell if they wanted to and in comparison, a lot of the beats on Balance are just subdued. Not their finest moment. It’s not bad by any means just so…plain. It doesn’t help that the production job on the album feels like it boosts the cool guitar tones and Hagar’s vocals a little too extra, even though the drums and bass are well heard in themselves. But more bass could’ve been warranted.

So all in all, Van Halen’s regular stint with Sammy Hagar went out with an alright final work. Depending on what your stance on synthesizers is (again, none to be heard on this one), Balance probably falls either near the middle of the pack or towards the end of their discography in terms of quality. Personally, I like it but compared to so many better VH-records, it just ends up among the band’s albums that I return to the least. Hagar’s singing is a definite high note once again and some of the tunes are killer, but anyone really interested about Van Halen is better served going for almost the rest of their entire discography before picking up Balance.

Killing Songs :
The Seventh Seal, Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do), Amsterdam & Feelin'
Aleksie quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by Van Halen that we have reviewed:
Van Halen - A Different Kind Of Truth reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 95 / 100
Van Halen - Best Of Volume I reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
Van Halen - Van Halen III reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 40 / 100
Van Halen - Live: Right Here, Right Now reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
Van Halen - For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 90 / 100
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