Having exploded out of the subconscious of Toronto’s hardcore punk scene in 2008 and become the darlings of critics everywhere with only their second album, Hail Destroyer, Cancer Bats are back with their highly anticipated fourth album, Dead Set on Living.
The band seemed to stumble a little while attempting to scale the lofty heights of HD with 2010’s Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones. Where HD saw vocalist Liam Cormier foaming at the mouth and seething with a sense of riotous injustice, BMSB saw him taking a turn down doom and gloom avenue. To say listening to the album left you feeling mildly depressed would be a severe understatement.
Enter DSOL and fans will be psyched to know that Cancer Bats are back to their best. The tracks immediately leap out at you because of the unmistakable similarities to HD, as embodied by album opener “R.A.T.S.”
If there’s one thing you can be certain of with the band, it’s of their forte in writing curb-stomping, skull-crushingly intense album openers. You can almost feel Cormier’s saliva landing on your face as he proclaims with unnerving confidence: “There’s a special place in hell for people like you / There’s a place in hell for all the shit that you’ve done / There’s a place in hell for every filthy rat.” Guitarist Scott Middleton keeps the album fresh with some rugged riffs that dart between groovy and sludgy. The line between a signature sound and laziness to innovate is a slim one however, and the familiarity of the fretwork on songs like “Bricks & Mortar” and “Old Blood” can cut a little too close.
The album’s production values are expectedly solid, given that this is the third time the band has worked with production affiliates Eric Ratz and Kenny Luong. It is chock full of meandering riffs, all-out death by snares and Cormier’s bitter declarations and threats. This is all fine and good, until you get the feeling that the songs on DSOL are a little more downbeat in contrast to the rebellious anthems they used to slam out.
What were once battle cries spurring listeners not to take shit from anyone have aged into more cynical and hedonistically bitter curses. Listeners could’ve sworn Cormier’s chants matched that of a gallant officer leading his men into battle on Hail Destroyer but on Dead Set on Living, one gets the sense he’s the sole survivor of a hellish ambush, telling bitter tales of revenge and rage yet dishing out none.