"It's hard to believe that a full decade has passed since the release of Van Halen's "Balance," one of the more underrated albums' in VH's catalogue. Although there were a lot of great bands popular in 1995--Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine--it was still refreshing to have a kick-ass new Van Halen album out. Although "Balance" was released in the days of grunge and alternative rock, it still managed to sell over two million copies.
"Balance" takes up where "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" left off, but the music is overall heavier, and has more of an edge. Gone were the synthesizers and more pop oriented songs that that were prevalent in the first two Van Hagar albums. "Balance" rocks hard like its predecessor, but it is also somewhat darker. I take the general theme of the album to be the loss of a relationship, or going through a major life-change, and then getting back in "Balance."
The band sounds very focused and tight. Bruce Fairbain did a great job of getting the best out of the band and gave the CD a tight, crisp production. It goes without saying that Eddie's playing is terrific and each song has one or two killer solos. Mike and Al provide a killer rhythm section as usual.
The album begins with the hard hitting "The Seventh Seal." It starts with an atmospheric Buddhist chant leading into the song. This is a really cool, heavy dark song with an almost hypnotic riff. "Can't Stop Lovin' You" is a balled in the vein of "Why Can't this be Love," but doesn't have the dated, cheesy keyboards. "Can't Stop Lovin' You" is about the breakup of a relationship, not the hope of one as it is in "Why Can't this be Love." I take the mid-tempo "Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do)" to basically mean that love is not enough to stop a suicide. The album lightens up a bit with the fast-paced "Amsterdam" and "Big Fat Money," two good, hard rockers. "Strung Out" is a sound-byte of Ed apparently ripping a piano apart, which leads into the majestic balled "Not Enough." "Aftershock" is an excellent rocker and has one of EVH's best solos on the disc. "Doin' Time" is a very cool drum solo that leads into the instrumental "Baluchitherium." It's catchy, infectious groove and killer solos make it a favorite of mine. "Take Me Back (Déjà vu)" remains my personal all-time favorite Van Halen song from the Sammy Hagar era. It's a beautiful, bittersweet, semi-acoustic song with the theme of wanting to return back to an earlier time in your life. The album ends with the depressing "Feelin'" a song that deals with getting though life alive, without getting burned. It's by far the most morose song VH ever wrote.
"Balance" was Van Hagar at it's best. It was also their last album. About a year and a half after it's release, Sammy Hagar and Van Halen parted ways. In hindsight, by listening to this dark CD, you can almost get the sense that although the band still sounds cohesive, this was destined to be the last Van Hagar CD."
Decent, but kind of a letdown
birddogger5150 | Roseville, MN USA | 10/10/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Balance" was an album I absolutely hated when it first came out in early 1995. Grunge/alternative was in full swing and I expected Van Halen to deliver some good dumbed-down arena rock to take me away from all the plodding, whiny, self-important tripe being put out in that era. Instead, I got Van Halen's most intellectual album to date, with a lot of moody pieces that seemed to be trying to mimic the climate of the times. Over time though I grew to like it somewhat, although I think it is still pretty low on my list of favorite VH albums. Ironically, the two songs that qualify as dumbed-down arena rock, "Big Fat Money" and "Amsterdam" are actually the weakest on the album. Musically, "Amsterdam" is an excellent (if predictable) VH song, but the lyrics - "Wam bam, oh Amsterdam, stones you like nothing else can" - pure poetry there, Hagar. And "Big Fat Money" is just plain lame on all levels. Van Halen proved they could do quasi-speed metal with "Get Up" from "5150", but this is just a sloppy mess. In press interviews for promoting this album Hagar described "Big Fat Money" as "this album's `Panama' or `Why Can't This Be Love'," but let me tell you, he was just plain WRONG. "Can't Stop Loving You", as the title suggests, is equally trite but this one works well. It's unashamedly pop, with a chime-sounding guitar tone similar to Def Leppard's later work. Keyboards are intentionally low key here, with only the organic ballad "Not Enough" getting a bit of piano treatment. "Not Enough" is hardly the best ballad VH has ever done, but it's at least a nice change from the synth-heavy stuff they had been churning out since the "1984" days. "Take Me Back" is another stripped-down ballad that works well. "Aftershock" has a verse similar to the 1970 R&B tune "Get Ready" by Rare Earth. Beyond that, it's a pretty by-the-numbers VH tune, meaning it blows away virtually everything by any other band of a similar ilk, but it's still got a been-there-done-that feel to it. "Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do)" is your basic heady-lyrics song, supposedly inspired by the suicide of Kurt Cobain. It was a decent first single, but not among Van Halen's finest work.The rest of it - "Seventh Seal", "Feelin'", and the three (?!?) instrumentals "Baluchiterum", "Doin' Time" and "Strung Out" all fill things out nicely, but overall this is a rather unspectacular VH album. Better than "OU812", "Van Halen 3", and I would probably even hold it up against "Van Halen II" (my least favorite disc from the Roth years), but it was a pretty big letdown after the wait for something new and exciting in the midst of all the dreary and depressing grunge all over the radio in 1995."
kingofrock379 | New York | 04/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Despite what people will say about Sammy Hagar in Van Halen the truth of the matter is that they put out great albums. I'm not going to say that I'm a bigger Dave fan or a bigger Sammy fan, the truth of the matter is that I'm a Van Halen fan, meaning Eddie, Alex, Mike, Dave, Sammy, or Gary. I honestly love all Van Halen there isn't one song I can say I don't like. But out of the Sammy Hagar era of the band next to 5150 Balance is the best album. First off the production on this album is a lot better than the two previous albums (For Unlwaful Carnal Knowledge and OU812). The band also sounds tighter on this album, Eddie's guitar sound is a lot better than it's been in years, Alex's drums are more solid, Mike sounds great, bass playing and his signature background vocals, and Sammy Hagar's voice is still excellent. It's just a shame that this was their last album together. For the most part the songs on Balance are straight forward hard rock. The album kicks off with The Seventh Seal, this is a great rockin track with excellent lyrics. The sugar coated semi ballad first single, Can't Stop Lovin You is next, don't let my description throw you off, it's a great song. Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do) is next, again don't let the title throw you off, this is one of Van Halen's heaviest song to date. The party rock song Amsterdam is next, once again this is another great song, the band sounds awesome. Big Fat Money is another joke song, but it's awesome, great guitar parts. Of course what would a Van Halen album be without instrumentals, there are three on Balance, Strung Out, Doin' Time, and Baluchitherium. They are all pretty good, Strung Out features Eddie playing with the strings on a piano, Strung Out is a great song with an awesome drum solo, and Baluchitherium has more of a song structure than the other ones, the band sounds great. They also have a really great ballad on this album, Not Enough is one of their best ballads ever, this ranks up there with When It's Love and Love Walks In. This song is followed by a great rocker called Aftershock, Eddie's guitar is amazing and the power in Alex's drums can't be matched by anyone. Take Me Back (deja vu) is another ballad, while Not Enough was piano based this track is based on acoustic guitar. The album ends with Feelin' this song can't really be considered a ballad but it isn't a rocker either. I can't say enough about this track, the lyrics are great, very meaningful, Sammy's voice is great, and Eddie's best solo on the album is on this song. Balance is an essential album for a Van Halen fan, it's just a shame that we never got to hear a followup to it, but either way I'm excited to hear their next album."
Van Halen's Heady Album.
Kyle Anderson | Denver, CO, USA | 03/31/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think that this is a pretty good album. Yes it is a little spotty but still came together nicely. Coming out in 1995, this album seemed somewhat influenced by grunge. The guitars were toned down and the sound was very thick on a lot of the heavier songs. One thing that I need to give VH credit for on this is thinking outside the box on a lot of tracks. Having lyrically taken on some of the issues that grunge bands were talking about. Dysfunctionalism, and drugs, and the ills of the world. This was the only album where VH got serious and still sounded good. VH was serious on VHIII, but that album sucked. There were a few tracks I can relate to. I have been through a painful point in my life in the last year or so so songs like "Feelin'" and "Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do)" sound particularly relatable now. Not to mention that they are great songs. "Not Enough" was a nice ballad that sounded more from the heart than many love songs do. "The Seventh Seal" was an awesome starter to the album. "Can't Stop Lovin You" was pop, but a decent song nonetheless. "Take Me Back (Deja Vu)" was an interesting Zeppelinesque song that seemed to be built on layers of Acoustic and Electric guitars. "Aftershock" was a great rocker about being irritated with love. "Amsterdam" was a great fun track and "Balunchitherium" was a very nicely done instrumental. My only real issues were "Big Fat Money" Sucked and "Strung out" and "Doin' Time" were both filler material. Other than that, it was great. If you want a good set of rockin' tunes with some more serious relatable songs, as well as songs that are a little of both, then this is the Balance (No Pun intended) between the two. On another note, I am glad to hear that VH is back together with Sammy. I would have been really happy if it were Dave too. But after 8 years since Sammy's departure and the botched Diamond Dave Reunion, and the terrible Van Halen III album that followed, and the subsequent departure of Gary Cherone and the long silence that followed, I think that all VH fans are hungry to hear from their heroes again. I hope I can afford to see them when they come through Denver."
Harrison Marcano | Salem, Oregon | 03/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an example of REAL musicians writing excellent pop songs. Songs like "Take Me Back(Deja Vu)", "Amsterdam", "Can't Stop Loving You", "Not Enough" and last but not least "Feelin" are written with such talent that you can hardly stop listening to it. The istrumentals are fun as well. The "Seventh Seal" is not my favorite but it is still a good Sammy-era song. It was an excellent last(?) album for the Red Rocker. Hopefully, the band can come to it's senses and get back with one of the best rock singers of all time. Nobody can match his vocal skills."