[4 May 2010]
When Liam Cormier and Scott Middleton formed Cancer Bats in 2004, they sought to bring together the styles of some of their favorite music acts, such as Refused, Black Flag, Led Zeppelin, and Down. Considering the sonic disparity among those four artists, this was no easy feat. However, both of their early albums, Birthing the Giant and Hail Destroyer, were met with high praise from fans and critics, with the latter being nominated for Album of the Year at the 2008 Kerrang awards. The band has also developed a strong reputation for energetic, engaging live shows, which has allowed them to take part in the Taste of Chaos Tour, UK’s Download Festival, and two separate Reading and Leeds Festivals, not to mention all of their more standard touring. On the band’s third album, Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones, the Canadian quartet trot out more of their Southern-influenced punk with similarly enjoyable results.
The best way to describe this album would be to say that it is deceptive in its timing. With the consistent driving pace and high-energy atmosphere of the faster songs, it’s difficult to believe that some of those songs are longer than three minutes. The slower songs, meanwhile, stretch their riffs and solos to the point where they seem to last twice as long as they actually are. The tone of this album is based mostly in punk, but the sludgy Southern rock elements and old-school hardcore vibe prevent it from sounding like just another Sex Pistols rip-off. In fact, the hardcore influence on Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones creates more similarity with Bad Brains than any other band, while the Southern parts have a lot in common with the early work of Fu Manchu.
Cormier is the reason that this album succeeds as much as it does. His vocals are dead-on consistent for the entire album, delivered with the same intensity and aggression from one song to the next, no matter the changes in musical style. While his style may not be terribly diverse, Cormier is definitely one of the most passionate vocalists in punk and hardcore, and that passion shines through his lyrics and vocal performance. Even when performing others’ work, such as the band’s cover of the Beastie Boys classic “Sabotage”, Cormier puts everything he has into his vocals. His dedication is a rare quality in today’s music scene, and it enhances the music throughout the album.
Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones is an impressive album from Cancer Bats, having the most potential of their three albums to attract new fans with its genre variety and dynamic compositions. The shortness of the songs and the album overall also increases its replay value, such that listeners want to go back and discover the subtle nuances of the songs. Fans of Every Time I Die, the Showdown, the Bled, Gallows, Rise Against, and Madball will find lots to like in this album, as well as fans of the band’s older work. Cancer Bats is one band that proves just how good diversity can be in songwriting.