Review Summary: Decent vocals and 3-4 good tracks mean this is better than its predecessor, but a dated style and other weaknesses (predominantly during the second half) weigh this down to below passable.
While they are definitely not the first band to make a bad album and then continue their career, Saliva’s 4th album ‘Survival of the Sickest’ (SOTS) was such a dated hotch-potch that I genuinely felt that their existence would come to an end. It hasn’t though and here they are with their 5th release ‘Blood Stained Love Story’. Although guitarist Chris D’Abaldo did jump off what he presumably thought was a sinking ship and is replaced here with Jonathan Montoya.
It was clear that the band could not revisit the atrocities of SOTS, so they really had 2 choices: (1) They could completely change their musical style, or (2) attempt to go back to replicate the relative success of previous albums ‘Every Six Seconds’ and ‘Back Into Your System’. Saliva chooses the safer route and opts for the latter. While resulting in a clearly improved effort over SOTS, this unfortunately has the obvious side-effect of dating their work even further than it already was.
One thing Saliva has always had an uncanny knack for is performing a successful opener. This album is no exception as the theatrical 1st single ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ kicks things off here with muffled spoken vocals giving an effective Master of Ceremonies feel before successfully combining melodic backing vocals with a hint of aggression in the chorus. Decent guitar-work is also apparent in this song, even if the riff seems to have borrowed from their own earlier rendition of the ‘Spy Hunter Theme’.
The 2nd single ‘Broken Sunday’ immediately follows and while it is pretty much a mainstream radio-rock track, it has just enough of an edge via some nice guitar-work lurking in the background. Furthermore, the chorus is especially good as it proves that Josey Scott’s vocals, which completely went awry on the previous album, have returned to form here. The lyrics? Well, Saliva has never been strong in that area and this album is no exception. But at least they try as can be seen on the occasionally poignant, if too melodramatic and predictable, ballad that is ‘Never Gonna Change’.
I suppose the other major question people will ask about this album is whether or not Saliva can resist their urge to continue performing rap-rock like tracks. My response to that is “Don’t ask silly questions”. Of course they cannot resist that urge, no matter how dated the genre may be. Predictably, it leads to some of this album’s lowlights in the form of ‘King of the Stereo’ and ‘Twister’. Both admittedly do include some moments of potential, but are ruined by a combination of awful lyrics, bad vocals and/or under-production. In fact, I am almost certain that the latter song had to have been an off-cut from the previous album.
To give credit where credit is due though, one of the album’s highlights does verge on being categorized as a variation on the rap-rock/nu-metal theme. With track 5 ‘One More Chance’ everything seems to click well as the intense spoken verses work well in combination with an effectively melodic chorus and some more decent guitar-work.
It is all a little bit of a shame actually that the second half of the album fails to live up to the first 5 tracks, as only the John 5 (ex Marilyn Manson & now Rob Zombie guitarist) assisted ‘Black Sheep’ succeeds to any great extent. For such a hard-hitting song it is impressively catchy, although it isn’t well-served by the sound-effects padding out the beginning and end. Elsewhere on the latter half of the album it is predominantly bland mid-tempo radio filler with tinges of country music. Especially noteworthy (for the wrong reason) is closer ‘Here With You’ which should win a prize for being the one thousandth song to quote American cities ad infinitum.
Unfortunately, it is that weak second half of this album which sees me give ‘Blood Stained Love Story’ the rating I have. In truth, I was very close to passing this album as I don’t mind the vocals and it is sort of a decent combination of the band’s past 3 albums… Unfortunately, that includes all of their weaknesses. There are some nice standouts that are worth listening to here, but while it does see Saliva return to form in those cases, it also highlights that their music really is dated and cannot be sustained over the course of a full-length album anymore. I am not too sure where to next for this band.
Recommended Tracks: Ladies and Gentlemen & One More Chance.