Since the release of last year’s Dead Set On Living, Cancer Bats have a cool confidence about them. By far the band’s best record to date, Dead Set On Living was full of well written songs; the craft honed from examining the song-writing of Black Sabbath when the band was learning covers for their Bat Sabbath shows. Such attention to how Iommi structured his immaculate riffs and the interplay between Ward and Butler really filtered through; albeit, in the context of a catchy metallic hardcore record. Add this greater understanding of song-writing to their 365-days-a-year touring habit and what you are left with is a tighter Cancer Bats armed to the hilt with awesome songs.
The band has always made a point of playing Ireland when touring Europe; in fact, tonight is the band’s third time to play the basement room of Dublin’s Academy. But the odd thing is, Cancer Bats Irish fan-base does not include your straight-up, leather-jacketed metal-heads. Maybe it’s the band’s name; maybe they are turned of because of the band’s existing Irish fans—a mix of faux-punks, hardcore kids, and hipsters. It could also be because of the grey area that exists for bands that span the punk, hardcore, and metal divide; never owning one scene. Whatever the reason, the metal-heads of Ireland are missing out on a band whose heavy riffs, if given a half the chance, would surely endear themselves.
Openers Hoax have no problems endearing themselves to the crowd tonight. The London based five-piece are entertaining to watch, and their brand of post-hardcore—think Glassjaw, letlive.—really makes an impression. There are plenty of quirky intricacies to the music that recalls the likes of Adebisi Shank, and in bearded frontman Adam Carroll, they have a vocalist who can actually sing as well as entertain the crowd. Tonight is a warm up to the band’s first appearance at Download Festival; if they play like this, these guys have the potential to make quite a bit of noise in the post-hardcore scene.
With the bright hooks and knotted melodies out of the way, Belfast’s Gacy’s Threads tear through a set full of no nonsense hardcore. There is little in the way of variation besides the odd injection of d-beat speed, but the band’s intensity more than makes up for it. Vocalist Aaron Vance prowls the stage like a pitbull and judging by how he humbly thanks the crowd for listening, his bark appears much worse than his bite. The band’s set is the equivalent of banging your head against a brick wall and even though the crowd remains surprisingly static, the cheers at the end say enough.
There are plenty of cheers at the ready once the siren call and opening drum beat of “R.A.T.S” signals the arrival of Cancer Bats onto the small stage. The Ontario, Canada natives are in rowdy form tonight and it doesn’t take long for the excitement to seep into the crowd. Screaming while arched over the barrier and flanked by guitarist Scott Middleton and bassist Jaye R. Schwarzer with drummer Mike Peters dropping his heavy handed beats from the rear, frontman Liam Cormier is a whirlwind of lank hair and positive vibes. He screams, “This wasn’t the life that I planned,” into the faces of the front row during “Road Sick”, and by the smile stretched across his face at the end of each song and his friendly banter with the crowd, Cormier seems content with his lot.
The songs from Dead Set On Living really are another class and receive the best reaction tonight. But the band refuse to forget their roots and dedicate one of their earlier songs, “Shillelagh”, to their Irish fans who respond by whipping up a circle pit around a load bearing pillar. Middleton’s pole-axing riffs stand as Cancer Bats’ own pillar of sound and his driving force is no more apparent than when you see the band live. The guitarist is not much of a showman and is the most reserved out of the bunch, content to head bang at the back while effortlessly unleashing riff after glorious riff; “Sorceress”, for example, containing more squeals than an abattoir. His playing on “Bricks and Mortar”, “Old Blood”, and the Corrosion of Conformity homage, “Lucifer’s Rocking Chair”, sets the place in motion; especially during the latter, as the crowd come close to suffering a mass contusion as they pogo up and down inches away from the low ceiling. “Deathsmarch” is a rally call in a live setting with its defiant refrains of “Hey world, you’ll never break me,” shouted back at the sweat-drenched Cormier with gusto by the crowd. And it wouldn’t be a Cancer Bats show without the ubiquitous Beastie Boys cover, “Sabotage”, which goes down as well as expected only to be outdone by a furious rendition of “Hail Destroyer”. With tonight’s show a definitive success, the open road beckons again for this pack of metal lifers, and it’s safe to say they will be welcomed back to The Academy’s basement with open arms for a fourth show down the line.