Sound — 6
Saliva have never really strayed too far from their original formula - instead opting to make it their own which they did successfully for a number of years. "Blood Stained Love Story" saw a slightly softer side and whilst the album gained mixed reviews, it was commercially a successful album mainly down to the lead single "Ladies & Gentlemen" which was used for countless sporting promos and adverts.
And that's where things took a slightly more precarious path. "Cinco Diablo" promised a return to their harder side and whilst it was a heavier album, it felt flat and predictable with no real flair or originality.
Then came "Under Your Skin" - an album which was just plain confused and I think part of this was down to the production style of Howard Benson, who although is an acclaimed producer, was not a good fit for Saliva. There were hints of promise, but ultimately the wind had gone from the sails and it felt like Josey Scott, then lead vocalist, had run out of meaningful things to say.
It came then as no surprised when he decided to leave the band he had helped form back in the '90s and move away from the music scene. Music aside, he lived the drugs, sex and rock and roll lifestyle for many years and was ready for some clean family living - you can't blame him for that.
Just when it looked like Saliva had come to a natural end, in comes saviour Bobby Amaru - a then friend of the band and Saliva were given a new lease of live. Their first releases with the new frontman came in the form of "In It to Win It" and "Rise Up" (essentially the same album with different names released a year apart... no I never really understood the need for a different name either).
The album wasn't terrible - but it never felt like a cohesive set of songs. It was a bit muddled and a bit disjointed and for that reason is the first Saliva album I didn't like, so much so that "1000 Eyes" and "Lost" are the only songs I kept.
So in 2016 after another line-up change, what does "Love, Lies & Therapy" have to offer? Well, unsurprisingly more of the same however this time the album feels more connected and the songs seem to complement each other far better than their previous attempt.
But there is a fundamental problem and unfortunately that problem is Bobby Amaru. Now don't get me wrong, Amaru has a powerful rock voice - but over the course of an album his voice begins to grind like nails on a chalk board. There is very little variation in his singing style - it's either soft or hard with nothing in between. I suspect he is or was a smoker, as at times his voice sounds laboured and strained. If you combine that with the fact his voice is not particularly melodic, you end up with a very one dimensional vocal performance which leaves your ears feeling fatigued.
As for the rest of the band - there is very little in the way of revolution here or even evolution. It's sort of what we've come to expect from Saliva now - the music is always solid, but it's never very adventurous. The production is OK, but it won't blow you away and at times you just get the feeling the band has missed a trick at reinvigorating itself here.
But all is not lost - there is one song on the album which stands tall and that is "Hand in Hand" - a song where this 20 year old band shows its fundamental quality. It harks back to the early days of songs like "Separated Self."
What's interesting is that if Josey was at the helm of these songs, would I enjoy them more? The simple fact is - yes, I would. He had a distinctive voice that made Saliva stand out from the crowed and this is something they no longer have with Amaru, whose voice is far more generic.
Lyrics — 5
Lyrics have been a struggle for this band since "Back Into Your System" and I was hoping a new lead vocalist would turn the tide. It hasn't.
Understand, the lyrics are far better than the latter Josey Scott days, but there are a lot of clichéd and predictable lyrics on this album which prevent me from enjoying most of it (at some points I actually cringed they were that bad). They're all fairly humdrum and perhaps worst of all - they don't really make any emotional connection. They're not clever, they're not particularly articulate, they're not profound in any way and if there's a message I can't find it.
There is not a single line I've heard that is worthy of a quote and it saddens me greatly - as this is one area I was really hoping would improve.
Overall Impression — 6
So I'm guessing by now you think I hate this album? You're wrong - I actually think this album is the most complete set of Saliva songs since "Back Into Your System," genuinely as rock albums go it's pretty solid.
The problem is that after 20 years, I fear they have become a little irrelevant in the music scene and in all honestly it pains me to say that. I loved this band, I grew up with this band and I will always want them to succeed. The problem is, where bands like Shinedown have evolved and changed with the times, Saliva have failed to keep up. There were flashes on "Under Your Skin" of the band evolving, but it just never succeeded.
Having signed to Universal and with new fresh blood I was expecting this album to blow me away - but it fell so far short, more so than any previous Saliva album has.
What this album did do however was make me go and listen to their back catalogue - and what struck me is just how timeless "Back Into Your System" sounds 14 years after release. What also struck me is how much better the quality of the song writing was on that album - from composition, vocal performance, production - it was Saliva at their very best and even now it continues to overshadow their new music.
I wanted to like this album - more than that, I wanted to love it, but the simple fact is it didn't win me over even as a long-term fan of the band. It made me search out for songs like "Storm," "Weight of the World," "Always" and even "Open Eyes."
If I was to describe the album in one word it would simply be unremarkable.