So here I am…attempting a review for a hardcore punk band. Kind of. This week, I’m looking at the Toronto outfit Cancer Bats. Formed in 2004, the four-piece group have released four studio albums over their career. And to be upfront, I’ve listened to exactly one—Searching for Zero. Yes, this new one. And I gotta say, it’s a pretty interesting take on hardcore punk, and one that serves us up an overall listenable album.
No, I’ve never sat down and listened to any other Cancer Bats album, but I distinctly remember seeing them live in the winter of 2007. I remember them because it was the only band I remembered from that show. (It got weird.) And while they didn’t really impress me all that much, I didn’t hate them. They brought a lot of energy and had a decent enough sound. From that nostalgic standpoint, I’m glad these guys are still at it. The same rings true about their performance here, but with some noticeable improvements.
On a high level, this is a very sludge metal-sounding take on hardcore, which I find myself rather into. There are a number of differing tempos as you move from song to song, which keeps the overall listen fresh throughout—although I guess that’s not the most difficult thing to achieve when the whole thing is under 35 minutes. All the same, you get your angst-filled punk roots on the likes on “Arsenic in the Year of the Snake,” “Devil’s Blood,” and “All Hail.” All of these songs are fast and aggressive, and urge you to find the most expensive thing near you and smash it against the second most expensive thing near you—which I can totally get on board with. They’re quite a bit of fun.
But mixed in with these tracks, we have some more evenly-paced sludge sounds—and thank Satan for that. Because to be completely honest, I probably would have lost interest pretty quickly if they didn’t mix it up from time to time. Hardcore punk has always been something that reaches a “too much of a good thing” plateau relatively quickly for me. I think of “True Zero,” which is the second of two tracks that start this album off really well, and my mind immediately think of some solid southern sludge influences. The same goes for “Beezlebub” and the closer, “Dusted.” Both impressive in relatively similar lights. I’m actually surprised at how much I am appreciating how Cancer Bats is blending these sounds. Regardless of all that, the highlight for me was way back at the opener, “Satellites.” It’s a really catchy way to open this album, especially with…holy hell, that chorus. Let’s just say it’ll inevitably end up ringing in your head hours after listening to it the first time, whether you like it or not.
On top of all that, the whole thing is produced really well. The guitars sound crisp and crunchy, the rhythms fast and punchy, and Liam Cormier definitely has the punk-style sing/scream thing down to a science on this album. His voice really brings another element to this album; he shows an impressive range of styles which keep the album interesting start to finish, much like the musical influences. Again, it’s about half an hour long, so let’s not put too much stock in it keeping your attention, but this is worth mentioning all the same.
Hey, overall I’m happy with this thing. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a fun listen and a quick-hitter, at that. I don’t know if I’ll be going back to a ton off of Searching for Zero as the year goes on; I’m just not sure how many favors repeat listening will do for it. But there are certainly some memorable tracks on here. Cancer Bats seem to have sound a bit of a groove in their sludge metal/hardcore punk hybrid sound. They show it off well here and do a commendable job of working it to their advantage.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”