Album Review: Saliva - "Rise Up"

Throughout the history of rock and metal, there have been a number of groups who have replaced their lead singer for various reasons. It's no easy task. A band can replace a drummer with very little fanfare. They can replace a bassist and even a guitarist and generally continue on without fans blinking an eye. But replacing your front man, your lead singer, that's a tricky one. It has certainly been done before with varying degrees of success; Alice In Chains, Exodus and Anthrax did it. AC/DC and Van Halen have done it and continued or built upon previous successes. So has Iron Maiden. Now it's time to see if Saliva can do it.

You've heard of Saliva, haven't you? They were nominated for a Grammy back in 2002. If you've ever heard the ubiquitous tune "Click, Click, Boom" then you've heard Saliva. You may even have heard the chart topping "Ladies And Gentlemen". Now, Saliva has a new album on a new label with a new singer and I think everything is going to work out just fine.

The new album is called "Rise Up" and it's Saliva's 9th studio album. It features the vocals of Bobby Amaru who has replaced previous singer Josey Scott. Joining Amaru is guitarist Wayne Swinny, bassist Dave Novotny and Paul Crosby on drums. Also of note, the album is on the Rum Bum Records label which was founded by Luis Bacardi That helps explain why the band apparently gets free rum.

Saliva has a history of writing anthemic hard rock songs that have mass appeal and the trend continues on "Rise Up". The songs on this album are catchy as hell. They're hook laden, toe-tappin', power rockers. Many of the tracks on "Rise Up" could be used as background for the X-games highlight reel.

So much so that the cynical side of me wonders if the band writes some songs specifically to be used in sport settings. The title and opening track "Rise Up" is a good example. It's an overcoming adversity, ain't nothin' gonna hold me back, type of tune. The theme continues with the cuts "In It To Win It" and "Army" as in "you and what army?". But the record is not all "jock-rock".

I think the feel-good hit of the Summer will be "Redneck Freakshow". Talk about a contagious song. "Redneck Freakshow" is a rock and roll anthem that will appeal to current and wanna-be rednecks, alike. It's got a killer hook, gang vocals and the syncopation makes it sound like a redneck march. I can just picture throngs of fans chanting along to this one.

There's a cohesiveness to the songs on "Rise Up". Saliva is not reinventing the wheel here. They've got their sound, they know what they like and the folks at Rum Bum seem to be ok with them doing their thing.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the comparison between Bobby Amaru and Josey Scott. His work on "Rise Up" proves that Amaru has the chops and his singing style actually adds a bit more depth to the songs. It's different to be sure but it's definitely not worse. The true test will be the way he performs Josey's songs live. My feeling is he will have no problem at all.

"Rise Up" is a hard rocking record but it does have a few softer numbers thrown in. Softer is probably not the right word to describe the tracks "Lost" and "Closer". They're still heavy on the guitars but they're a bit more introspective lyrically. Neither is my favorite song but I think they have tremendous commercial potential because they've just got that "power ballad" feel. They'll appeal to that side of all of us that has been down but knows we'll come out stronger on the other side.

To be honest, I think based on Saliva's previous commercial success, I initially wanted to not like this record. I don't know why I do that. It's a character flaw, I guess. The more successful something is the less likely I am to check it out. And nobody wants to feel like they're jumping on a bandwagon. I don't think I'm alone here.

I realize now my presupposition was wrong. The reason Saliva has been successful is because they're good. The music is fun and easy to listen to with just enough of an edge to keep it interesting. They've got their style, they seem to enjoy doing what they do and they've stuck with it.

Saliva was faced with a potentially troublesome situation in choosing to replace their lead singer instead of just packing it in. New singer Amaru himself sees "Rise Up" as a brand new chapter in the Saliva story and I tend to agree. He boldly declares, "Taking over the world, man. That's what we're doing". They've got the potential. If Rum Bum Records can promote this album correctly then I think Saliva may end up doing just that.

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