There’s always this questioning that emerges after a band releases several, successful records. After many themes covered, so many grounds explored, how are they going to surpass their previous efforts? Will they come back with something fresh and interesting? Yet, Cancer Bats are back, stronger than ever with a number five, 3 years after the dark ‘Dead Set On Living’ and ten years of existence.
It all starts with the lively Satellites, which serves as a rallying call, fueled by an awakening chorus and engaging group vocals.
Power and unity are the hallmarks of Cancer Bats‘ call here. If the band’s previous records tended to be more agressive or darker, ‘Searching For Zero’ appears as the most melodic effort from the Canadians. Don’t get this wrong; the aggressive punk trademark is still here, only Cancer Bats display a softer and in-depth side, lyric wise, but also in the way it is performed, with many more laid-back, swinging moments for instance. Let’s not forget that the past couple of years have been emotionally challenging for the band, which must have fatally influenced the making of this album. Music is purgatory after all. Cancer Bats worked with producer Ross Robinson on this one who’s also known for bringing out the most delicate side of the likes of Korn and Slipknot.
Devil’s Blood will take you straight to the ‘Birthing The Giant’ days, that made Cancer Bats known for their restless hooks and infectious choruses, just as Arsenic In The Year Of The Snake, where raging drums and resentful vocals will echo one to another, celebrating the lives of the lost and loved ones. If this album is a therapy to its writers, you won’t hear them helplessly mourn in any way, because the music itself if full of life and positivity. In fact, one of the most vigorous tracks on this record is All Hail, which is dedicated to the late Dave Broke of Gwar. True Zero emphasizes this rallying aspect, particularly thanks to the lines “Need to remind myself who I really am” that must speak to many listeners. It gets angry, it rumbles and it makes you want to run faster and faster at the pace of the music, before smashing everything around you as the chorus drops, yelled with passion and full involvement. The ferocious and messy punk hardcore is definitely present, although balanced by the presence of more tempered moments, as in the song Beelzebub, where the tempo is slower, while we’re vocally closer to 1980s heavy metal. These influences are also perceptible in Buds and it has nothing surprising in the end, giving the band’s appreciation for Black Sabbath. Cursed With A Conscience is another standout on this record as it showcases a groovier face of Cancer Bats, but most of all it arouses head bangs.
‘Searching For Zero’ is raw and gritty rather than perfectly polished. But most of all, it’s alive. Has it something to do with the way it was recorded? Potentially. The recording pattern didn’t match exactly the way they worked their records before. In fact, vocalist Liam Cormier explains that they worked this album as a song a day, rather than track everything then adding the vocals. Cancer Bats make a point of making their recordings sound the way it would sound if they were playing it live, which is a successful gambit.
I will always remember Cancer Bats as the very first “heavy” band I have seen live, back when I didn’t really understand what they were doing, let alone what the people genuinely killing each other in the pit were doing. It’s funny to now think of ‘Searching For Zero’ as a 100% live-performance material because all of the songs contain elements that suit perfectly with the stage, whether it’s the gang vocals that appeal to sing alongs, or the chaotic guitars that can only set the crowd on fire or even the laid-back tracks that could be used as a musical pause in the middle of a war. No More Bullshit is the perfect conclusion to this album, first because of the way it sounds, thanks to the solemn group singings and secondly because it has this funnel effect, making you realize it displays the whole Cancer Bats essence since day one, as a smooth reminder that these guys didn’t lose their ways in the process.
‘Searching For Zero’ might be the most melodic Cancer Bats record, yet its strength makes it the most accomplished. Cancer Bats seem to have found their zero and confirm their position as one of the greatest hardcore bands of their generation.
Cancer Bats – ‘Searching For Zero’
Released : March 9th, 2015