For fans of punk and metal it’s been just about impossible to avoid hearing, or at least hearing about, Cancer Bats over the course of the last ten years.
Since the band’s first album, Birthing The Giant, hit shelves they’ve gone from strength to strength thanks to their infectious mix of hardcore punk and Pantera-like grooving riffs.
Now on to their fifth album, Searching For Zero, it seems as though Cancer Bats are aiming to build on their strengths, a move that’s reinforced by their decision to bring in Ross Robinson as the record’s producer.
Best known for his work with Korn, Sepultura, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot, Amen and just about every other band that featured on the cover of Kerrang! magazine in the late ‘90s. Robinson has generally been one for immediacy, capturing a band’s sound in the most straightforward way possible without pulling any punches.
With Searching For Zero all of the attitude that Cancer Bats are known for is still there, but there’s something more here too. Influenced by the band’s mutual love for Black Sabbath, the album sees a shift towards a more complex sound.
You might not expect a Cancer Bats record to feature heavy echo/delay on Liam Cormier’s trademark vocals, but here it is, especially on ‘Beelzebub’, which brings the tempo down to the floor for the sort of heavy rhythm that Tony Iommi is famed for.
You might think that this means Searching For Zero is a departure from the hardcore sound that the band are known for, but that’s present in spades too. Found just after the album’s halfway point, ‘All Hail’ feels like it could just as easily find its way onto a Municipal Waste record, squeezing breakneck thrash guitar and machine gun vocals into less than a minute and a half of aural assault.
There are excellent moments all over Cancer Bats’ latest record, especially on ‘Buds’, which will make you realise what a great match NWOBHM-style gallop riffs are for the band’s trademark sound.
Unfortunately, it feels as though, at times, the production just doesn’t quite mesh with what the band is all about, sorry Mr. Robinson. Throughout the album there is echo, reverb and delay poured over the vocals and it feels unnecessary, especially with a vocalist this strong.
There are other times that random sounds seem like they’re just dropped into tracks for no reason, such as the beginning of ‘Dusted’ which features what was presumably an outtake (or should that be intake) of the bass and drums that appear in the song’s bridge, complete with an out of place modulation effect, before dropping away for the song to actually start.
For fans of Cancer Bats, Searching For Zero is an excellent addition to their discography, and the band have always been great at giving their fans what they want without restricting their creativity. The riffs are here, as are the vocals, the hard-hitting drum work from Mike Peters and all the general groove and swagger that make them such fun to listen to. Sadly, they just haven’t been captured in the right way.
If you get a chance, see Cancer Bats live, in their natural habitat. With a UK tour scheduled for this April it could be the perfect opportunity to hear these songs at their raw, honest best.