Van Halen
Van Halen III


2.5
average

Review

by Kevin Williams USER (14 Reviews)
October 10th, 2012 | 18 replies | 6,310 views


Release Date: 1998 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Numerous mistakes prevented VH3 from achieving its full potential.

It was a difficult time for Van Halen. The iconic rock band had just had a falling out with their vocalist Sammy Hagar, and had attempted to reunite with their original singer, David Lee Roth, but to no lasting avail. Thus, the brothers were in need of a vocalist yet again. Choosing a vocalist was a big decision; Van Halen had already split the fanbase in half by replacing David Lee Roth with Sammy Hagar a decade ago. The new vocalist would be the key to determining whether Van Halen would relive their glory days or crash and burn even harder than before. After much speculation, they decided on Gary Cherone, formerly of Extreme. Instead of going back to their roots, or releasing another Hagar-esque arena rock album, Cherone pushed the band toward a more experimental, progressive sound. Unfortunately, the risk did not pay off; the album was a massive flop, and is spat upon by nearly everyone, be they Van Halen fans or not.

The reasons for the albums failure are many. Perhaps the biggest reason people don’t like it is for the simple fact that it is different than anything else they’ve done. The title Van Halen III is misleading; this is surely not a sequel to Van Halen II. You’ll know as soon as you here the piano and acoustic guitar notes at the beginning of “Neworld”. Instead of the straight-forward, sexy rock songs of years past, Cherone’s songs are generally longer, more complex, and more – let’s see, how do I put this? – weird. This is not the problem with the album though. Rather than bash them, I applaud them for trying something so interesting and left-of-center. It doesn’t have the classic Van Halen touch, but their third self-titled is musically a unique, well-written album, full of surprises and interesting moments throughout. So then, you may ask, what’s the problem with it? Well, there are three problems with Van Halen III, which together, all but destroy the listening experience, and contribute to the low rating. I will explain each flaw in depth through the next three paragraphs.

Flaw #1: The lyrics. Gary Cherone is responsible for the lyrics on the album. I don’t judge songs by their lyrics, but Cherone’s work on the album didn’t really intrigue me at all. A lot of songs have lyrics that make little sense and sound cheesy and stupid. (Fire in the Hole, for example.) The lyrics of other songs, combined with the way Gary sings them, makes him sound more like a rapist than a lover; (see From Afar and Josephina). The worst however, is when he tries to sound smart by spewing out political clichés in Ballot or the Bullet. The rest of the songs aren’t bad, but Gary lacks the special charm that Van Halen’s previous vocalists had.

Flaw #2: The production. Van Halen III’s production was done in a way that was not pleasing to my ears at all. The guitars squeal and sound fuzzy and the drums are flat and weak. The mix is atrocious; everything is in the wrong place; The vocals are too high, the guitars are too low, and the bass is non-existent. The album could have sounded so much better if the production had more effort put into it.

Flaw #3: The vocals. Ouch… Gary Cherone’s voice is the factor that, well, kills the album, and the worst part of it is that it could have been easily fixed. Believe it or not, Cherone is a good singer, as testified by his performance in Extreme. In fact, he has more vocal talent than either Roth or Hagar. So why did he opt for screeching the way that he did here? Was he trying to sound like Sammy Hagar? Regardless of intention, his performance is nothing short of painful; his vocals have the potential to damage, or even kill a song. This is the case in the album’s closer, the piano ballad “How Many Say I”. Throughout all of Van Halen’s twelve-album discography, there has never been a song as hated and maligned as this one. The composition of the song is beautiful. Not typical, but beautiful. The piano playing from Eddie is very well done, and is complimented further by the strings that join midway through the song. Unfortunately, any hope for the song is killed by Gary Cherone and Eddie Van Halen, who also sings prominently on the track. Neither of them can sing, and when they harmonize, it sounds like two old men with no teeth on their death-bed, singing a lullaby to each other before they pass into the next life. The vocals, along with the poor lyrics and production, make “How Many Say I” the perfect picture of wasted potential; and the rest of the album to a lesser extent.

Fortunately, the album is partially redeemed by the songs themselves. Eddie’s guitar-playing skills are top-notch, as usual, and you can hear some pretty unique playing styles from him on this album. And although certain factors in the songs are bad, the songs themselves are for the most part, very good. Van Halen doesn’t limit themselves to 3 minute verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus songs. Most songs are over five minutes, and few stick to the laid-out formula. There are lots of different styles on here, from the reggae-tinged “One I Want”, to the sprawling, epic ballad “Year to the Day”, to the wildly experimental “Josephina”, to the straight-forward rocker “Fire in the Hole”. “Without You” is the best “rock song” on the album; it shows the best mix between “old” and “new” Van Halen. “From Afar” is another standout, with its “monster” riff (as described by other reviewers) and theatrical atmosphere. But the true opus of the record is the song “Once”. It’s one of the longer songs (7:42), but it flows so smoothly and never gets old. The piano and the unique percussion contribute to a lush Pink Floyd-ish landscape that makes the song really stand out as something special.

There are no truly bad songs on the record. This probably could have been considered a classic, at least in my eyes, if the various smudges, such as Gary’s vocals, were cleaned up. They were easily fixable, and really make the listening experience more tiring that it needs to be. Still, it’s definitely worth several listens; it will grow on you. But until a re-mastered, instrumental version is released, Van Halen III is not getting anything higher than a 2.5 from me.



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user ratings (218)
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1.8
poor
other reviews of this album
gunmaster (0.5)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
menawati
Contributing Reviewer
October 10th 2012


15997 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

nothing they did ever matched their debut imo

Digging: Hominido - Estirpe Litica

kwill15
October 10th 2012


134 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I know I've done VH reviews, and no one wants to hear about this album anyway, but both reviews here were so amazingly biased, I had to have my say.

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
October 10th 2012


15997 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Omg haha yes just looked at the other review that gave this a 5 !
It's a 2.5 or 3 for sure.

kwill15
October 10th 2012


134 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I waqs thinking about giving this a 3, but I didn't.

Review feedback is appreciated.

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
October 10th 2012


15997 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

review reads quite well altho im not keen on the list of flaws approach imo it would e better to drop the list and just write the ideas into the review

pos'd anyway I enjoyed it and you deconstructed the album well

breakingthefragile
October 10th 2012


2956 Comments


Dude, I'm not seeing the 2.5 here. This album is a huge steaming pile of shit.

Digging: Cathedrals - Cathedrals EP

Lebren
October 10th 2012


47 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Album is unbelieveably bad

kwill15
October 10th 2012


134 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

this isn't really getting the attention i thought it would. i expected a page worth of comments by now

ReturnToRock
October 10th 2012


3448 Comments


Excellent review! Loved the format, the points were well backed-up and the grammar was nearly flawless. I would lose the personal touch (using the first person), but other than that, perfect!

Chortles
October 10th 2012


17956 Comments


sounds promising

TheNotrap
October 10th 2012


8067 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

My least favourite VH.


Digging: Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain

kwill15
October 10th 2012


134 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@ReturnToRock - Thanks so much for the encouragement! It means a lot.

@Chortles - Try it, but don't throw it away when you don't like it the first time. It's a grower

Jbtransit
October 16th 2012


2 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Without you is the only song on this album

lopanchein
December 29th 2012


19 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

THE ELDER blows this pile of shit out of the water

jayt851
January 4th 2013


129 Comments


I think Van halen put out their new shitty album to make this one look good because their recent album is real cheesy

Fozzie
June 7th 2013


336 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

This album sucks no question. Eddie is the one to blame for this garbage, not so much Gary as the music sucks as a whole.

The track How Many Say I, is one of the biggest piles of crap ever. Eddie happens to be on lead vocals, not Cherone.

Now people say Gary Cherone was not a good fit for the band... True if you compare him to Diamond Dave circa 1984.

Record aside... The Van Halen III tour was one of the best tours they have done. They played Roth era songs and Cherone nailed most of them. Eddie wasn't drunk off his ass and actually hit all the notes. Michael Anthony was still with the band and they sounded great.



Snooze00
October 8th 2013


236 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Im shocked at the negativety towards this album. Im no huge van halen fanboy but damn this album is really good. I really like how they have strayed away from the same formular and taken some risks. Theres some great guitar work and some of the songs are totally epic like year to the day and once. I think you should revisit it and give it a chance.

defchild
March 27th 2014


1 Comments


Great review! This represents my view of this album more than any other I've read. I recently relistened to VHIII and
couldn't believe a) how progressive it is compositionally, and b) how strained Cherone's vocals sound.

On the latter, I have no idea why he tried (or was encouraged to) sing like Hagar, but the results are mostly awful. And
his melodies aren't bad, it's really just the singing. There are moments where the harmonies come in, or where Cherone
relaxes where you can hear more of what could have been if they'd let him (or he'd let himself) sing like himself. "From
Afar" and "Once" especially.

As Fozzie said, I think most of the vocal blame for "How Many Say I" goes on Eddie. When they performed it live in
Chicago on the VHIII tour, some of the audience were laughing during that song.

Anyway, like you said, I find myself wishing for a vocal free remaster. I bet egos (and lack of commercial viability) will
prevent it, though.




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