Tool - Salival (2000)
If this is the first time you are reading one of my reviews, let me tell you a fun fact about myself: I am a huge Tool fan! I've given Ænima, Lateralus, 10,000 Days, and Fear Inoculum the honor of being apart of my "5 Star Albums Club", and I consider the band as one of, if not THE greatest band of all time. When I see various reviews on their discography, I often see this album not given the love that it deserves, or even skipped over entirely. Live albums in general are tough to rate, given how it is the same songs that have already been released, or better on the studio version. There are also live acoustic albums, something that MTV ran with bands such as KISS, Staind, Nirvana, and my personal favorite acoustic show, the MTV Unplugged Alice in Chains concert from 1996. It is rare that a live album accomplishes a new level of innovation that creates a different environment compared to the original, but an example of this is the S&M live album by Metallica, which featured the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. (Kiss also used a Symphony Orchestra for Kiss Symphony: Alive IV in 2003, but I feel that Metallica nailed it better). That felt very unique, and almost felt like an entirely new musical experience that showed off Metallica classics in a way that people would have never expected. Tool's live album was a bit different. At this point, the band were not the biggest fans of having their music easily accessible, and this lasted until August 2nd, 2019, where their entire discography (minus this album, for some reason (probably because of the No Quarter cover)), was made available to stream on services like Spotify and Apple Music, just in time for the grand release of the phenomenal Fear Inoculum. Out of the eight songs that are on here, six are live performances, and the last two are previously unreleased studio recordings.
But what makes this live album better than most other ones, and even the unique ones? While one song in particular (spoiler: its Third Eye) sounds relatively untouched from the 1996 studio version to the 1999 Salival version, each other song is either brand new, or has a unique difference that makes it different. It is not quite a dramatic change like Metallica's S&M, but it still has that famous "Tool sound" that progressive metalheads like myself fell in love with.
It has a refreshing sound that makes the newer versions seem a bit different than the original, but enough difference that makes the live versions seem like a legitimate way to change the style, rather than use it as a cash grab. This is an all time great live album that further shows how talented the band is.
Briefly going over the tracks:
Like I said before, Third Eye is mostly the same in comparison to the original version, which was on their 1996 album, Ænima. The original version had wonderful pacing that led to the explosive climax, as "prying open my third eye" sounded more and more aggressive as it was repeated. This version is the same way: but also has more "raw" vocals and a longer intro. In terms of this version compared to the original, whichever one is better is up to personal preference. Personally, I like the ending sequences of the Salival version better, but that is just my opinion.
Part of Me sounds way better in this version compared to the other versions, which were featured on both 72826 (1991) and Opiate (1992). It has a greater feeling of a heavy rock/ metal sound, and Maynard sounds even better at vocals here. While a very short song, it packs a punch. It kind of gives the opposite effect of a cool-down, similarly to when wrestling promoters book a slow paced match after a wild and fast paced one. While Third Eye took time to progress into the loud ending, this song took no time at all to become fast and heavy, and was like that throughout the entire 3:34 runtime.
In a song that they completely re-worked, this version of Pushit is a masterpiece: even better than the already incredible studio version that blessed the 1996 record. This version is about three minutes longer compared to the original, and sounds way more progressive. In the beginning stages, there are only vocals and guitar, then builds to the rest of the instruments. I do not want to use the word "peaceful" to describe this version, but it sounds very similar to what was later used on their 2019 album Fear Inoculum, specifically the intros to the title track, Pneuma, and basically the entirety of Culling Voices. While not lasting as long as the original version, the heavier moments pack more of a punch due to the build it takes to get there, similarly to a five star match or fight with a year long build. For close to fourteen minutes, the time flies by, and even adds some innovative things not seen on a Tool song before, like the sounds of bongo drums and parts where bass is the only thing that would be heavily prioritized for a bit. This would become a regular thing on the future albums, like Disposition/Reflection/Triad from Lateralus, Intention from 10,000 Days, and parts of Invincible from Fear Inoculum. While the original version is fantastic in itself and fits perfectly with the rest of Ænema, the uniqueness of this version makes me like it a bit better. Go out of your way to hear this song, if you have not already.
Message to Harry Manback II is the highly anticipated second part to Message to Harry Manback, an interlude from Ænema, which had the sound of an answering machine playing a message (no, really). In the sequel, it is pretty much the same, except different lyrics. There are no pianos playing in this version, but still has a "creepy" style to it. The first one served as an interlude to the 1996 album, and the second one is still an interlude on here. Nothing much more to say about this one, as it served it's purpose of cooling down the listener from Pushit.
You Lied is a cover from Peach's 1994 album, Giving Birth to a Stone. Fun fact: the bass player from Peach is actually Justin Chancellor, the current bassist of Tool! Little bit of foreshadowing? The world may never know. Anyway, the original version is awesome, and has a great rock sound. Tool's version is about two minutes longer, however it is played at a slower pace compared to the original. This is another song that builds up to the climax of heavy instruments and the chilling words "you lied" being sung. Besides Maynard's vocals, the song sounds very similar, but the band did a great job at covering it.
Merkaba is basically an instrumental track that has some speaking moments throughout. It has also been played in various concerts around the time of the Ænema, like at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 23rd, 1996. As an instrumental, it is great. This song almost seems to be ahead of its time, as it would probably fit really well on the Lateralus album. There are parts of the song where I see drum fills or riffs that could have been reused on future Tool songs, like Triad (2001), Descending (2019), Chocolate Chip Trip (2019), and the outro of this song sounds a bit similar to the intro from the title track of Lateralus. Danny Carey shines on this song, as his drum fills make it seem like he has more than two arms and legs. While I was not expecting a song like this, it was a very welcome surprise.
Tool's cover of No Quarter by Led Zeppelin is an all time classic. The band found a way to turn a famous song and basically make it one of their own, and that is exactly what a cover is supposed to do. There is actually a very fascinating story about this song: According to some sources, the track was originally made in around 1995 for a Led Zepplin tribute album. In 1997, after the song was released, Howard Stern, famous radio talk show host on Sirius XM, wanted the cover to be on his movie that was coming out that year, Private Parts. He loved the original Zeppelin song, and since Tool was becoming huge, he felt that using the cover was a perfect opportunity The band's record label at the time, Zoo Entertainment, allowed Howard to use the song without the band members knowing. Once the band members found out, they were not thrilled. Before the band eventually pulled out of the agreement because the record label did not have the rights to share the music without permission, Howard was promoting the soundtrack, which included that song, all over his radio broadcasts. Once he got the news that the track will not be used, and that the band actually did not want their music being featured, Howard took it very personally. To this day, he holds a grudge about the event that took place over twenty years ago, and still seems angry at the band, mainly Maynard James Keenan, over the issue. In terms of the song itself, it is simply incredible. In my opinion, this destroys the original version of the song, and is probably the best version of the song out there. While the MSG 1973 performance is an all time classic, this might even be better than that, however people that are not fans of the "Tool sound" would most likely disagree. In the beginning, the vocals sound like they were under a megaphone, similarly to how live performances of Eulogy are performed. For Tool, it worked great. From seven minutes on, it could seriously rival most songs out there, because it is so fantastic. This is the climax, which has an explosive verse, along with the chorus being sung one last time. The drumming on this one is especially great, as Danny Carey is one of the greatest to ever pick up a pair of sticks. The last minute or so has this great instrumental intro that highlights all of the instruments, and sounds like a grand jam. Overall, while I do not know if this is the greatest cover *ever*, but this is worth going out of your way to see.
LAMC is a very tough song to describe. The instrumentals have a resemblance to Die Eier von Satan, an interlude off of Ænema . LAMC stands for Los Angeles Municipal Court, and the words in the song is an automated system that describes many buttons to press in order to get to various extensions. If you hate something like this when talking on the phone, then this would be an absolute nightmare. It relates to the people who have gotten outrageous traffic tickets, calling about it, and how the automated system can get VERY tedious. There is a point where numbers dial to reach somewhere, but the system does not understand, tells the caller to call back during normal hours, and hangs up. Once the caller talks again, the entire process starts back up, but quickly fades away.From start to finish, this was just *creepy*. While not a six star classic, this needs to be heard in order to fully grasp what I am talking about. Only Tool would be able to get away with this, and create some sort of memorable listening experience with a concept like this. If you like something strange, then this is an absolute home run. With four minutes left in the song, people can wonder what is next. It would actually be a hidden track at the end, called Maynard's Dick . This concept is not uncommon, as Staind had Excess Baggage be played long after Spleen finished, from the album Dysfunction. Another example is when Kid Rock put a remixed version of I Am The Bullgod after Black Chick, White Guy, from the album Devil Without a Cause. I have heard mixed feelings about this hidden track, but I think that it is actually quite good for what it is. It is a half acoustic/rock song that has Maynard describing his genitalia in the third person. It is extremely wacky, but if you know not to take it too seriously, you should get a positive listening experience out of it. I actually thought that this was a great closing track to the album. It perfectly describes the type of "fun" songs that Tool was putting out around this time. In a way, I can consider this song as an end of an era for the band. For example, in 2112 by Rush, the B-Side of that record served as a "farewell" to the shorter, less progressive side of the band that was seen on their first few albums. In future releases, they would either get more complex with their songs, or use synthesizers, like their albums from the 1980s. For Tool, this would be the last time where they would dedicate a song on such topics, as Lateralus was much more progressive, and some would say a more mature record. For some, 1996-2000 can be considered as the best era of the band due to their wild creativity and incredible live shows. No matter what era of Tool you pick, you will find something outstanding.
Long story short: What makes this "live album" better than most of the other ones out there? It adds a sense of uniqueness to the songs. It provides a new sound to our favorite Tool songs of that era, and also provides some great covers and a truly... different closing/hidden track. Some might say that this was the peak of the band, but I do not know if I would go far, as every album they made are on a scale from great to perfect; they have not made a bad album. As for some live albums out there, Salival does not ruin any of the original songs; it either sounds kind of similar (Third Eye)) or makes me like it over the original (Part of Me, Pushit). This is not just a great live album, but it is a fantastic record in its own right. This is an all time classic that should not only be listened to be every Tool fan, but for any fan of the progressive metal genre. Trust me, it is more than worth it.
Long Live Tool!