Gig review: Cancer Bats

cancer bats

The Garage – 25/1/16

By Fraser Bryce


Never underestimate what a band can do. I say this, because, when I went to the While She Sleeps/Cancer Bats co-headline tour last year, I expected literally nothing from Cancer Bats, except them playing ‘Sabotage’ and me dancing around like a lunatic. However, following a slightly ropey set from Sleeps, Cancer Bats proceeded to plaster the back wall with my brains with what I now regard as one of the best gigs I have ever seen. So, naturally, I had to see them again.

One thing that was clear upon entering the venue is that last year’s ‘Searching For Zero’ album has reduced Cancer Bat’s popularity, with the shift to a full-blown punk sound proving too much for some fans. Thankfully, I loved the album, so the band could literally do no wrong. After missing the start of ‘True Zero’ – I’ll go for a piss before they come on, I said. It’ll be fine, I said. – I return to find that the disappointingly thin crowd has padded out a little, although the venue is still far from sold out. Ah well, it’s their loss, because when Cancer Bats get going, it’s like being in a hurricane. The brutal bounce of ‘Bricks and Mortar’ gives way into a furious run through of ‘Sorceress’ and ‘Pneumonia Hawk’. After one of very few pauses for frontman Liam Cormier to address the crowd, the band tear their way through the next four of five songs, including the speed punk of ‘Pray For Darkness’ and the more melodic ‘R.A.T.S.’

Thankfully, the new songs go down just as well as the older material tonight, with ‘Arsenic In The Year of the Snake’ inciting mass hysteria, before a genius early appearance from ‘Hail Destroyer’ kicks the band, and crowd into overdrive. ‘French Immersion’ represents one of just two songs from their debut, with the band choosing to divide focus between their latest offering and the metal-tinged hardcore of the last three albums. Why anyone complained about ‘Searching For Zero’ is beyond me, because songs like ‘All Hail’ – which is perfect if you want one and a half minutes of pure vitriol pumped into your ears – and the Black Sabbath like riffing of ‘Buds’ slot perfectly alongside songs like ‘Smiling Politely’ and ‘Scared To Death’.

Like any band worth their salt, Cancer Bats have amassed several bona fide anthems over their career, and with songs as good as ‘Road Sick’ and ‘Lucifer’s Rocking Chair’ – which is as good as the title suggests – it is a wonder the band aren’t playing bigger venues. The trippy ‘Beelzebub’ provides a welcome moment of (relative) calm, before the last run of ‘Drunken Physics’, their frankly brilliant cover of the Beastie Boy’s ‘Sabotage’ and punk-fuelled mayhem of ‘Satellites’ cap off the night in incredible style.

So, was this Cancer Bats gig as good as the last? No, definitely not. However, that’s not to detract anything from the evening, because, by any other bands standards, this was a world-beating show, but, by Cancer Bats standards, it was only “awesome”, instead of “holy fucking shit what did I just watch? And where’s my face?” One thing is certain though, and that is the fact that Cancer Bats are one of the greatest bands to surface in the last ten or so years, and if you want to let off some steam with songs fuelled by rage, look no further.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);