A general viewpoint of rock music in this day and age is that the most celebrated bands are those that sound the most real. While there has been a considerable rise of bands that have been mixing riffs with synthesizers and gone on to achieve major success, it's still the Foo Fighters that are winning big at the Grammys. It's Mastodon's The Hunter that topped the best album of the year list in Kerrang! and on my own happy little blog. It's because some of the best bands play with a sense of real purity, even if that means riffs have to come off sounding rough and rustic. And with any kind of digital trickery out the way, the only other way to give this style any extra substance is the addition of pure unrefined emotion. And with their frenzied hardcore assault sounding rougher than the post-show throats of most death metal singers, Toronto's Cancer Bats have been celebrated to no end for their perfect execution of such a musical performance.
Their fourth album Dead Set On Living with it's original promise to have a more uplifting vibe than their previous records being turned upside down due to the near death experience of a friend of the band manages to be their roughest sounding album to date. And it's a perfect sound to highlight the overall theme of the album that celebrates the values of life with a wide emotional spectrum. While the group have been happy to let themselves fall into a world of hallucination fueled darkness, this album sees them creating a major atmosphere of darkness then searching for a way to the light across the set of twelve songs on offer.
As a result the kind of tone and emotional impact of each song differs. And while an injection of wild positive rock and roll velocity is injected into tracks like Old Blood and Bricks & Mortar, darkness lives (To quote Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones) on the battered hardcore opener R.A.T.S and the chill inducing doom metal structure found on The Void. The band even manage to achieve the unthinkable and evoke a sense of melancholy and sympathy through playing roughened hardcore riffs on Road Sick and New World Alliance with their tones of hope and desperation.
Needless to say, the performance of these songs are breathtaking. The unrefined growls of frontman Liam Cormier match the rest of the album in his roughness with a voice that ranges from spoken vocals with a pinch of bitterness to joyous screaming when covering happier ground. There's also a musical progression as well and on a much greater extent for this album, stoner grooves are unleashed at full force giving an extra pulse to the likes of Breathe Armageddon and Drunken Physics. So I fell in love with the album pretty instantly for that. The stoner groove is probably the best thing invented... ever.
So, rougher and more lovable, it's clear that Cancer Bats have made a storming return on this album. Dead Set On Living is pretty much the exact kind of album that defines the type of rock music so it so widely celebrated. Their time has come to join forces with the bigger ranks in Mastodon and the Foo Fighters. Albums like these are the reason rock music is at it's best when substance is put over style.
Cancer Bats' Dead Set On Living is out now via Distort. The band will partake in the Pentagram Tour of London on 21st of April, play at Hit the Deck Festival on 22nd April in Nottingham, play at the Slam Dunk Festival across the UK in May, play at Download Festival at Donnington Park, Derby on 8th June and play at Reading and Leeds Festival on 24th-25th August.