Ever since the release of their 2008 hardcore punk masterpiece, “Hail Destroyer,” Cancer Bats have been doing what many in their genre have constantly struggled to do — make consistently great and evolving efforts. Who could blame them, after all — Liam Cormier (lead vocals), Scott Middleton (guitarist), Mike Peters (percussion), and Jaye R. Schwarzer (bass) have been striving to be counted among the elite, such as Converge, Refused, and Hatebreed, as they shill their unique brand of hardcore punk/metal/southern rock mixture to the masses. With the bands latest effort “Dead Set On Living,” this Canadian four-piece has once again refused to remain stagnate, taking the less volatile sound they begin with in “Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones” and then adding extra layers of depth to it.
You start to really notice how Cancer Bats have begun to shift instrumentals from sounding like bands such as Converge, to the southern-influenced acts like Mastodon and Every Time I Die, as “Dead Set On Living” begins its life with the swirly, down-tuned rock riffs, and sludgy percussion of “R.A.T.S.” and later with the effects-doused sludge metal track, “New World Alliance” The band had mentioned that they would be “steering away from the traditional hardcore record” and it shows immediately, with less and less barreling energy and fevered aggression, and more of a focus on contemplated, obtuse guitar work and varied vocal styles. Speaking of vocals, the record features the bands perfectly cast, shout-happy shrills from Liam, but “Dead Set On Living” goes one step further, cementing the southern swagger vocals mixed into songs like “Road Sick” and “Drunken Physics” to reinforce the direction each songs riffs are taking.
Cancer Bats thankfully never enter sloppy territory, as they keep even the more sludgy riffs and throaty shout/screams clear with the help of reoccurring producers Eric Ratz and Kenny Luong. I will say “Dead Set On Living” does make me reminisce about the elitist hardcore punk days of “Hail Destroyer” where I felt moshing and ripping off your shoes and shirt in a belligerent crowd was about the closest you could come to nirvana (the mythical place, not the horrid band). The same could be said for songs like the moody atmosphere and (snore-inducing) dredging riffs of “The Void,” as well the mixture of down-tuned Saliva sound, Tom Morrello fretwork, and Zack De La Rocha shouts of “Breathe Armageddon” — there are definitely areas that feel as useful as a human appendix.
Luckily the scrappy quick percussion and gnarly melodic guitars on “Dead Set On Living” out shine their sludgy, overweight counterparts — making all the difference. Liam’s vocals are sometimes hit or miss, with shouts and growls interchanging with southern grunting. The album does create moods for themes remarkably well which is a plus — where songs like “R.A.T.S.” will unleash a catchy down-tuned hook and backing shouts to accompany the songs piss-filled lyrics, “There’s a special place in hell for motherfuckers like you. There’s a special place in hell for every filthy rat.”
Is this the Cancer Bats you had enjoyed in late high-school and college? Not by a long shot. The group has experimented with swerving guitars and added more molasses to the mix, but in doing so has shown us a completely new way you can change hardcore for the better, even if it does have southern-influences ::shiver::. “Dead Set On Living” is an effort filled with piss and vinegar, continuing the lust for melodic punk of early Cancer Bats, while evolving into new habits and styles, such is easily seen by Liams newly found love for indie rock band, Fleet Foxes. New sound but same old passion. [Staff]
Score: 3.5 (out of 5)
Release Date: April 23rd, 2012
Record Label: Metal Blade Records
Genre: Hardcore Punk / Sludge Metal
RIYL: Every Time I Die, Mastodon, Gallows
2. Bricks And Mortar
3. Road Sick
4. Breathe Armageddon
5. Dead Set On Living
6. The Void
7. Old Blood
8. Drunken Physics
10. Rally The Wicked
11. New World Alliance
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