Saturday, 7 May 2011

CD Review: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, by Van Halen (1991)

With a flippant album title that responds to the at-the-time raging controversy regarding warning kids about inappropriate lyrics on music albums, Van Halen's ninth studio record finds the band reunited with producer Ted Templeman and in a musical zone of energetic relaxation. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge settles into a sustained mid-tempo, quality pop-metal groove, filled with enjoyable, richly textured tunes.

The fun but mindless energy of youth is replaced by more thoughtful and certainly more elaborate anthems, and from that perspective the naturally more controlled Sammy Hagar is a good fit for the band's evolving sound, although many fans could never accept him as a replacement for David Lee Roth.

Judgement Day is the perfect example of where Van Halen found themselves 13 years into their career, a driving, catchy and ambitious tune combining Eddie's still potent guitar work with Hagar's higher-pitched and often yelping rock vocals.  Opener Poundcake sets the tone for the album, establishing the pace and  ground rules of well-written, rational melodies comfortably riding the line between hard rock and heavy metal.

In 'N' Out defines what smooth metal is all about, Eddie and brother Alex combining to create a slower-paced journey that spends a long time enjoying the open air, Eddie and Hagar taking the time to engage in a bit of a duel reminiscent of Deep Purple's Blackmore and Gillan. Man On A Mission and Right Now are more radio friendly but still excellent, with uncompromising guitar work driving the former towards a triumphant finale and the latter to a more peaceful denouement.

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge adds welcome depth to the Van Halen catalogue, demonstrating that there was more to the band than the spellbinding opening flourish.


Sammy Hagar - Vocals
Edward Van Halen - Guitars
Michael Anthony - Bass
Alex Van Halen - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Poundcake - 9
2. Judgement Day - 10
3. Spanked - 7
4. Runaround - 7
5. Pleasure Dome - 7
6. In 'N' Out - 9 *see below*
7. Man On A Mission - 9
8. The Dream Is Over - 7
9. Right Now - 9
10. 316 - n/a (short instrumental)
11. Top Of The World - 8

Average: 8.20

Produced by Andy Johns, Ted Templeman and Van Halen.
Recorded by Andy Johns. Engineered by Andy Johns, Michael Scott and Lee Herschberg.
Mixed by Ted Templeman, Andy Johns and Michael Scott.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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