Canadian four-piece Cancer Bats have been prominent in my personal soundtrack for the past decade.
I was introduced by a friend to the newly-released ‘Hail Destroyer’, an album which would go on to become a modern classic amongst those who enjoy contemporary Hardcore with big ol’ balls to it. The rest, as they say, is history.
Cancer Bats’ trajectory stemmed from the Toronto Hardcore scene, coming to a decent measure of prominence with debut album ‘Birthing The Giant’. It fused together the raw, no bullshit attitude of Hardcore Punk with some seriously groove-laden Southern Rock riffs. It was mint. Next came the aforementioned ‘Hail Destroyer’, signalling a move towards a more Metal-influenced sound. Shouts became fully-fledged screams, guitars became exponentially thicker and before we knew it the Hardcore kids were hurtling towards a sticky, damp, doomy riff-pit that has only evolved further throughout subsequent releases.
This weekend I’ve been spinning brand new release ‘The Spark That Moves’, which was unceremoniously dumped into our ears on Friday morning (and into my own about twelve or so more times since). The first thing of note is (duh) the opening number, ‘Gatekeeper’, which gets things rolling in a manner remarkably similar to ‘R.A.T.S.’, the opener of 2014 album ‘Dead Set On Living’. ‘Dead Set’ marked Cancer Bats’ last release on long-term label Distort before moving to Metal Blade for ‘Searching For Zero’, and now self-releasing this effort through Bat Skull records.
To cut to the chase a mite here, if you’re expecting me to tell you how symphonic, progressive, ground-breaking or melodic this is, then off you may merrily fuck. This is definitively a Cancer Bats record, so much so that if someone told me it were composed of re-recorded odds and ends from previous releases, I’d honestly believe them. Take ‘Headwound’, for instance – it’s very ‘New World Alliance’ in texture albeit including some more melodic vocal lines. Melodic in a loose sense of the word, naturally. This is music to wave your arse at traffic to, in the broadest and (hopefully, you reprobate) crudest sense of visually comparative definitions.
I’d go as far as to say this is the most abrasively riff-driven record the Toronto four-piece have released, for better or worse. There’s plenty of headbangability to most of these tunes, yet in an abrasively put up or shut up “we are the motherfucking Cancer Bats” style. There are a couple of standouts that rise head and shoulders above the record as a whole, though – tracks like the more Punk Rock inspired ‘We Run Free’ which shovel a fat lump of groove into the engine. The dirty clean vocals on this one remind me a lot of brilliantly unsanitary Wigan “false-Metallers” Riggots. ‘Fear Will Kill Us All’ is another stand-out jam, bringing to mind an Ozzy-era Sabbath if they’d managed to nick off with a decent payload of Lemmy’s industrial strength speed.
I know this record is probably going to be a grower (like Liam Cormier’s lush head of hair, which he’s all but chopped off recently to my alarm) so instead of watching me wobble about on the fence trying to figure out why none of these songs sound like they quite deserve to be a single, let’s wind this up before I eat up your entire lunch break.
Drugs are bad, the Earth is fucking round (fight me) and Cancer Bats will carry on releasing Cancer Bats albums that sound, well, Cancer Bats-y. I guess we’ll have to deal with it.
The Spark The Moves is available now from the usual suspects.