Saliva's major-label genesis was as a swaggering rap-rock commodity, clicking and booming their way into the gaming consoles and frontal lobes of teenage wrestling fans nationwide. They quickly and wisely backed away from that goofy flash-in-the-pan sound, but the eventual Back into Your System had muddled post-grunge issues of its own. Saliva haven't yet found their footing with Survival of the Sickest, their third effort for Island Def Jam. But it's closer to the album they've probably always wanted to make, and that's a victory for a band working within the industry's hopelessly constrictive stylistic boundaries. Survival eagerly amplifies the after-market Southern rock of 3 Doors Down and latter-day Kid Rock while toasting heavy music heroes Monster Magnet and contributing a few power ballads along the way. At first, Saliva frontman Josey Scott wears the jilted angry guy tag. "You music business whores are all about just getting paid," he spits in "Rock & Roll Revolution," and the song's sledgehammer rhythms are refreshingly at odds with Saliva's rap-rock-coddled past. Still, Scott isn't completely discounting history's spoils, as he happily revels in twin guitars and two-girls-for-every-guy rock star debauchery on "One Night Only" and the title track. Scott and Saliva also aren't angry enough at the system to avoid glowering, melodramatic plods like "No Regrets, Vol. 2" ("Kill myself for loving you") or "Open Eyes," material comparable to post-grunge also-rans like Chevelle or even the bombast of -- say it ain't so! -- Creed. These bows to bland accessibility are disappointing, since their flip side is an angrily patriotic tirade like "Two Steps Back" -- it arrives complete with a stinging riff and a dig at the Dixie Chicks -- or massively compressed, hard-head rockers like "Carry On" and "F*** All Y'All." The gentler "Razor's Edge" proves also where Saliva could be; it's a faithful Skynyrd update highlighted by a guest shot from 3 Doors vocalist Brad Arnold. It's in these moments that Saliva make a play for loud rock validity informed with Southern pride. That said, it's too bad the rest of Survival of the Sickest panders to unimaginative industry and genre posturing.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus