In recent years, Canadian hardcore bunch Cancer Bats have spent their time moonlighting as a Black Sabbath tribute act. But while the excellently-named Bat Sabbath might’ve occupied festival slots and news headlines, Cancer Bats were hard at work, not hibernating – today, they’ve surprised fans with the self-released ‘The Spark That Moves’, their first record in three years.
Opening with a screech of twisted feedback, calling to mind New York post-hardcore icons Glassjaw, ‘Gatekeeper’ is a gnarled introduction. They sound re-energised, likely due to their newfound independence, each track delivered with a blistering pace. There’s technicality, too – while previously Cancer Bats relied on the hypnotic, repetitive sonics of stoner metal to make an impact, here they’re piling on the riffs, twisting and turning like a runaway rollercoaster.
That post-hardcore influence returns on ‘Bed Of Nails’, frontman Liam Cormier’s bleached out barks allowing a little more emotion into the mix, while their time imitating their heavy metal forebears can be felt through the guitarist Scott Middleton’s towering offerings on ‘Brightest Day’ and ‘Fear Will Kill Us All’. The Cancer Bats of 2018 are a more refined prospect – where before they dealt almost solely in snarling, southern-rock influenced hardcore, now they’re wide-eyed in their search for inspiration. ‘We Run Free’ is a circle-pit-baiting, festival-ready alt-rock anthem, delivered with a heftier punch than its catchy chorus might suggest, while album highlight ‘Space and Time’ is a squealing, warts ‘n’ all heavy metal riff-fest. “Always moving forward, eyes wide open / don’t look back, won’t waste my time,” declares Cormier on ‘Brightest Day’ – a mantra for Cancer Bats’ newly rejuvenated state.
Closing with the frost-bitten ‘Winterpeg’, and another deathly rumble of feedback, ‘The Spark That Moves’ is Cancer Bats’ most essential release in a decade. The Canadian punks’ shock return proves they needn’t hang out in the shadows of heritage acts like Sabbath – they’re easily building a legacy all of their own.