Toronto’s doom-punk metal heads Cancer Bats have somehow managed to find a sound so dark it could put your dog down. Welcome to the end of the world.
I’ve been following Cancer Bats now since the release of their Birthing The Giant album back in 2006, and, like a proud parent, I feel these guys have matured amazingly from being a hardcore punk/southern metal tinged sludge outfit, to a darker, angrier and more inspired heavy metal monster.
With their latest release Dead Set On Living, we are introduced to a mixture of sounds, melding all aspects of Cancer Bats previous releases together to make a steaming mess of anger, speed and impending doom. From the gradual assault of the massive album opener R.A.T.S, to the last screech of angst on closing track New World Alliance, D.S.O.L is an album packed with punches, grooves and a lot of heart.
Opening with a guitar riff and drum beat that will see the opening chaos of mosh pits, circle pits and walls-of-death at Cancer Bats shows around the world for the rest of eternity, vocalist Liam Cormier soon breaks through the barrier with a single screech of “RATS!”, and from there on in it’s a heavy descent into oblivion.
One thing to point out is that throughout the album there are a noticeable amount of opportunities for shit to hit the fan at live shows, a handful of chants and rants that, even if you haven’t heard the songs, you will be able to furiously blurt out to the drunk guy with the beard next to you.
Second track Bricks & Mortar being a prime example of this, the lyrics are in the title and as I witnessed at the bands recent performance at Slam Dunk Festival in Leeds, all it takes is one chorus and everybody in the room knows it.
Road Sick is the next track and first single released from the album, and in my opinion it’s a standout moment. Taking a more meaningful approach to lyrics (“Don’t lose hope, I’ll be back home before you even know it”, all about missing a normal life whilst on the road), and with a sound more reminiscent of their debut Birthing The Giant album, it has a much faster feel to it and carries that signature “driving at 100mph down Route 666” Cancer Bats sound that had me attracted in the first place.
There’s a big doom/stoner metal-inspired vibe going on in and around Dead Set On Living, with Sabbathesque hooks and Electric Wizard style chugs all over the place, the pace twists and turns easily from hard and fast, to slow and dirty. The Void is a track that sits within this doom-style pace comfortably, feeling like the slowest song on the album but definitely being the filthiest, it’s a welcome insight into a different style of Cancer Bats that hasn’t quite come out as far as this in previous releases.
Liam’s vocals are definitely on top-form throughout the whole album, and on second single Old Blood especially. I haven’t heard this much anger coming from one man’s vocal chords since…well…forever. I think without the angst and ferocity of the vocals here, this track would be a fairly standard Cancer Bats release. This vocal assault charges through to Drunken Physics effortlessly, which for me, is probably the best track on the album (along with the final onslaught of closing track New World Alliance). With an almost bluesy/southern metal sounding drum beat underlying the verses, and a massive chorus worthy of any impending apocalypse.
As Bastards (featuring some welcome guest vocals from none other than metal legend Dez Ferrara) and Rally The Wicked destroy everything that moves, you’re already feeling that Cancer Bats have made something very unique and special with this latest offering.
And then the blistering closing track New World Alliance arrives to close the show, and it goes out with a bang. With an almost black-metal feel to the guitar riffs, a solo to raise the dead, and a vocal style which mixes the pain and anger of the past thirty-five minutes, with some unusual melodic undertones, it makes damn sure that you acknowledge the end of a journey you won’t forget.
The band really do come together on this release, with guitarist Scott ‘Pinch Harmonic’ Middleton playing notes that you didn’t even know existed, and bassist Jaye Schwarzer providing a constant groove in amidst the onslaught of Mike Peters’ tom-heavy drum patterns and Liam Cormiers ear splitting vocal assaults.
Anyone who has heard Cancer Bats in the past will agree that the band have essentially “grown up”, and created a collection of hard and heavy tracks that highlight the past, present and possible future.