Review Summary: Disappointingly bad, this is a poorly produced combination of uninspired music and at times terrible vocals which only fuels the fire of the naysayers who suggest that Saliva are derivative, dated & posturing wannabees.
Looking at the album rating and review summary above, you would think that I was one of the masses that despised Saliva. Yet, despite the fact that there are indeed many people who cannot stomach the band and anyone even remotely similar to them, I am not one of them. If proof is required, I direct you to my reviews of their previous two albums which I rated 3.5 and 3. It is just that their 4th album ‘Survival of the Sickest’ is oh so bad!
On this release, Saliva attempt to return to the mixture of song structures and styles that was present on their best album to date ‘Every Six Seconds’ and combine it with some mainstream rock which the band decently veered towards on follow-up ‘Back Into Your System’. In theory, the idea is logical. In practice, it bombs due to the quality in practically every aspect of the performance diminishing. The music is uninspired, the production by Paul Ebersold is at times awful and I’m unsure what lead vocalist Josey Scott was thinking on half of these tracks.
In fact, it seems as if Scott spent too much time listening to Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott before recording this album as he sounds uncannily like him at times. There are 2 problems with that: (1) Scott is not Elliott, and (2) Def Leppard was about 15 years past their prime when this album was released. And that pretty much tells you another thing about this album in that it is very dated.
Opener ‘Rock & Roll Revolution’ is a perfect example of the derivative raw-throated Elliott impersonation and all it ends up doing is making the run-of-the-mill radio rock backing vocals sound good. It is not an awful song and actually ends up being one of the better ones on the album, but it is only decent due to the lead vocals and the fact that the guitar-work (both riff and solo) is at the forefront, yet rather simple and arguably bland. The title track and lead single three tracks later is similar, but could have been so much more had it not been dragged down by the vocals and production.
Track 2 ‘Bait & Switch’ may sum the album up best. It begins with potential (despite the unnecessary Elliott-like “huh”) and then just drops away to a poorly produced rabble. Two separate lines of lyrics here sum it all up really: “What in the hell am I trying to prove” is later followed up with the gem “All of this could get cheesy”. You bet you’re a$$ it got cheesy guys and we’re only 2 tracks in! Saliva has never been great lyrically and this album proves no exception either. At times indulgent, at times plain ridiculous, some of the lyrics are truly cringe-worthy and verging on headache-inducing. Even when they try to actually write an aggressively directional song such as the wannabee Metallica piece ‘F**k All Y’All’, it simply comes off as awful.
If I was to look for something verging on a highlight here it would be track 6 ‘Two Steps Back’ which has an up-tempo chorus and some impressive musicianship that lifts it above the mediocrity elsewhere, despite still not being all that memorable. The melodramatic ‘No Regrets (Volume 2)’ which comes before it is also pretty good as it builds decently with strings assisting well towards the end.
Elsewhere, songs such as ‘One Night Only’, ‘Open Eyes’, ‘I Want You’ and ‘Carry On’ may use the same blueprint that made for past semi-successes, but are unimaginative and don’t make anything of it due to either lack of melody in the vocals, complexity in the music and/or production skills. 3 Doors Down vocalist Brad Arnold doesn’t help on the country wannabee 2nd single ‘Razors Edge’, while the potentially good closer ‘No Hard Feelings’ is practically ruined due to Scott this time wanting to be James Hetfield & Snoop Dogg all at once!
Saliva is capable of producing good rock music with enough variation to make them sufficiently individual. They proved that with their 2 previous albums as well as with individual tracks that were performed for motion pictures and World Wrestling Entertainment. If they want to continue their career, they need to channel those capabilities into their 5th album next time around as ‘Survival of the Sickest’ sees virtually every aspect of their sound diminish. The result simply fuels the fire of what the naysayers have been suggesting all along; Saliva are derivative, dated & posturing wannabees.
Recommended Tracks: Two Steps Back and Rock & Roll Revolution.