Sound — 7
When you're considered one of the go-to bands to perform the WWE theme song or a Sony PlayStation commercial, that can often be a dissuading factor for rock purists. Saliva always has seemed to connect with a widespread audience and has been highly marketable, and their last album Blood Stained Love Story churned out one of the band's most popular singles to date, Ladies And Gentlemen. That particular song had all the elements of a catchy concert starter, and it's exactly that type of song that doesn't always click with critics. If you look at the last album's reviews, the critics weren't always kind. Will those same critics enjoy the 5th album on Island Records, Cinco Diablo? Probably not. But although Saliva might not have written the book on originality in rock composition, the Memphis natives do venture into some new and interesting territory this time around. In general, Cinco Diablo delivered a more well-rounded listening experience than previous Saliva albums. The first track Family Reunion, which is also the first single off the album, did leave me a little nervous, however. Although vocalist Josey Scott probably thought it would just be clever to once again start out the song with the same lyrics as Ladies And Gentlemen (which of course, are ladies and gentlemen), it does feel a bit forced. In many ways Family Reunion does seem like an attempt to draw from the success of the last album's hit single, and it probably will work to Saliva's advantage. Thankfully the band tries out a variety of musical directions throughout the album that make the first track forgivable. The genres that Saliva taps into won't necessarily shock any of you, but it's nice to hear a little more than songs that seem fit for any X-treme commercial out there. The bluesier side of the band comes out in Southern Girls and Judgment Day. Southern Girls actually sounds like a country-fried version of The Crue's Girls, Girls, Girls, which might sound like an odd combo, but it's a fascinating listen. Judgment Day is one of the best tracks on the entire album, with guitarist Wayne Swinny breaking out an emotional, gritty blues solo that would make ZZ Top proud. While there a handful of ballads or down-tempo songs on Cinco Diablo, Saliva is at its best in the ending song So Long. You can tell this was given plenty of TLC in the production process, and the time and attention weren't in vain. It has a bit of an epic feel that you don't always associate with Saliva, but it's cool to hear the band dip into a few more effects - and even some U2-like delay. In contrast, the power ballad Forever And A Day has what you would call more of a hair metal-blend of ballad. If you don't like that type of song, you'll probably be hitting the skip button. But this particular reviewer grew up in the 80's, so it was actually kind of cool to hear Saliva's take on the once popular genre.
Lyrics — 7
There is a good mix of sensitivity and manliness on Cinco Diablo, but that's pretty common for a lot of rock bands on the scene. Although the single Family Reunion does seem like it's basically Ladies And Gentlemen: Part 2, I'm sure the band had every intention of writing the track in that manner anyhow. On the whole, the album delivers everything from aggressive thoughts to feelings of love. If you don't mind a band singing about tearing you limb from limb in one track and in the next claiming they'd cross oceans to find you (for reason of the heart), then you'll be on the same page as Saliva.
Overall Impression — 7
While the bulk of material on Cinco Diablo is what you might consider your standard Saliva fare, there are still some surprises along the way. It's usually when the band tries to take things to one particular extreme that there are great results. Saliva excels at playing straightforward, earthy blues, which perhaps isn't too shocking given the fact they grew up in Memphis. Even so, it would be great if the band would tap into more of that blues on future albums. At the other end of the spectrum are the big, effects-laden tracks that work surprisingly well, although it might scare off rock purists. In any case, it's refreshing to hear Saliva take some chances - particularly when those gambles pay off.