Cancer Bats

The Spark That Moves

Written by: AP on 22/03/2019 14:23:51

Last year, Cancer Bats dropped a new record out of the blue in celebration of the holiest of days in a dope smoker’s calendar: 4/20. It was a welcome delivery, as the band had spent much of the time after releasing “Searching for Zero” in 2015 on paying tribute to Black Sabbath via their alter ego Bat Sabbath — though if you expected to be surprised by this latest offering, you’d be heading for a rude awakening. Indeed, “The Spark That Moves” is very much a record designed to satisfy, not challenge the Canadian band’s eagerly awaiting fanbase, and as such it offers more of the same rowdy, riff-centric, stoner hardcore that has won them so much acclaim since “Birthing the Giant” was unleashed 13 years ago. But the good news is that Cancer Bats hold themselves to a much higher standard during the record’s 35 minutes of running length, than has been the case since “Hail Destroyer” really broke them through in 2008.

In lieu of fancy schmancy intros, the ‘Bats opt for screeching feedback before kicking down the gates and sending a sludgy riff not unlike the ones found in Black Tusk’s arsenal marching right through. Cue Liam Cormier’s vitriolic growls and the opening track, “Gatekeeper”, is quickly rendered a pit-fuelling staple of concerts to come, its instant appeal bolstered by the chorus, for which Cormier bends his voice into whisky-soaked singing reminiscent of Keith Buckley. The hardcore punk genre is not exactly renowned for producing sing-songs for the ages, but Cancer Bats do whatever they can to bestow their songs with lasting value. Both “Gatekeeper” and in particular the standout “We Are Free” are prime examples, striking the perfect balance between the raging and the anthemic. When the barroom brawl is at its wildest, you can always count on Cormier to waltz in and make it festive. This is certainly the feeling one gets from “We Are Free”, in which Cormier’s voice and Scott Middleton’s riffs are rubbed with the sizzle and smoke of the deep south, and the chorus comes rolling through town like Maylene & the Sons of Disaster. It is loud and unruly and completely unforgettable:

Expectations lost on me / We run wild, we run free / Hungry dogs, loud in the wind / Light these fires, start again / Expectations lost on me / We run wild, we run free / Chase the void ’til nothing’s left / Take it all with every breath!

But while Cormier’s cowboy vocals provide hooks galore, it really is the riffage that everything revolves around throughout the album. If there is one thing all that Bat Sabbath business was good for, it is that Middleton was clearly inspired by the timelessness of Tony Iommi’s ideas on how to apply the electric guitar in heavy music. You can especially hear Iommi’s influence in the stoning groove beneath the gang shouts of “Heads held high!” in “Brightest Day”, as well as in the eerie leads and staccato melodies that shoot out of the otherwise dense chugging in “Fear Will Kill Us All”. Yet it remains merely an influence for Middleton, who has enough ideas of his own to avoid having to imitate his forebear. “Bed of Nails”, another highlight, for instance sounds like an amalgam of Evergreen Terrace and Orange Goblin, while “Rattlesnake” spits pure punk antagonism, helped along by a biting cameo from Mobina Galore vocalist Jenna Priestner. And “Can’t Sleep” in its wake is textbook Cancer Bats, switching between fist-pumping intensity and southern fried headbanging stimuli that are certain to render it a crowd-pleaser in the live setting.

Bristling with rage and animosity, full of intoxicating grooves and packing plenty of memorabilia, “The Spark That Moves” is a gripping return to top-form from one of hardcore punk’s rowdiest practitioners, one which is sure to earn the ‘Bats newfound respect and uphold their reputation as a sought after live band.


Download: Gatekeeper, We Run Free, Bed of Nails, Rattlesnake, Can’t Sleep
For the fans of: Every Time I Die, Gallows, The Ghost of a Thousand
Listen: Facebook

Release date 20.04.2018
New Damage Records

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