Album Review: Cancer Bats – Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones

May 17, 2010
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Cancer Bats - Bears, Mayors, Scraps & BonesTitle: Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones
Artist: Cancer Bats
Label: Distort
Released: 13 April 2010 Canada
In one word: Menacing

Okay, so a certain editor of Music Vice happens to be a rather vocal supporter of this band, so I’d best tread carefully here.  This is the first time I’ve actually heard Cancer Bats – as opposed to “heard of”, which I indeed have, many a time – so I come to this album unsure what to expect, but at least expecting something far above the norm.  My conclusion?  I LIKE this: but I don’t LOVE it.  Yet I can understand what may lead others to praise this as one of the better “hardcore punk meets metal” type bands to come down the turnpike in recent years:  They definitely Rock, and that’s with a capital fuckin’ R, and they most definitely sound pissed-off and then some!  If you’re looking for a band that is raw, visceral, and relatively free from pretension then you could do MUCH worse than to check this out.

Personal highlight of the album:   Without a doubt, the rather excellent (if not exactly “superior”) cover of Beastie Boys classic “Sabotage”.  Maybe a Cancer Bats cover album would impress me more?  It’s not that I’m UNimpressed, just a little underwhelmed after the huge hype that I’ve heard surrounding this band for so long.  Perhaps I’m just getting a little too old to be SCREAMED at for almost an entire album?  That seems to be a recurring theme with me these days…hard an’ heavy an’ uncompromising are all good things, but whatever happened to MELODIC vocals?!  Okay, in all fairness there’s a smattering of them on this album, but they’re mighty few and far between…

To me the words “hardcore punk” will always be more synonomous with classic, highly melodic punk acts such as Dead Kennedys and Black Flag.  Fuck…I AM OLD.

© Michael Bowser, Music Vice

Editor’s view:
Okay Michael, as you mentioned, I have been a vocal advocate of the ‘Bats and they were one of the first good, heavy bands that I discovered when I arrived in Toronto from the UK.  I’m not writing this to completely piss over your review… well OK, actually I am!

You don’t listen to Cancer Bats for melodic vocals. You listen to Cancer Bats for the snarling vocals which lash out over equally menacing riffs and beats. Screaming? Sure, perhaps the longest one being the held yell of “booooooooreeeeeeed” in “Fake Gold”, but this ain’t no lame-o screamo music and its pretty easy to pick up on the vocals. The words are spat and shouted by Liam Cormier because no other kind of delivery would suit the music or work to express the lyrics which are frequently carrying a message of grievance, defiance or just being pissed-off. Of course it’s not going to appeal to everyone, but it appeals to me, and more importantly to the teenage fans who can find something legit to identify with because, heck, there aren’t many good bullshit-free heavier bands around right now and if I was 10 years younger I’m sure I would like this music even more.

Cancer Bats are a relevant, vocal minority in their profession and they provide a voice that fits the times: See “Fake Gold” and “Sleep This Away” for just a couple of examples of the band speaking out about the tired, jaded, apathy of modern living, the scene, etc. “Raised Right” makes a similar kind of commentary and carries the sense of the band having both a backbone and a level-head on their shoulders – ethics with metal? Yes, kind of. The “Sabotage” cover is a nice bonus and fans will be glad to see it’s inclusion because it was well-received when played at live shows in 2009.

And sure, this isn’t the same hardcore punk that came and died in the early 80’s, nothing ever will be, but the influence of original hardcore can be heard, while in this current musical climate the Cancer Bats have an attitude and ethic which is most definitely ‘hardcore’ compared to most of their contemporaries. This is a very solid album that should find appeal to fans of the Gallows, Trash Talk, Rise Against, Alexisonfire or the Bronx.

© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice

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2 Responses to Album Review: Cancer Bats – Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones

  1. Tyler on May 17, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    bout time! and yeh, about the hardcore thing, this is 2010 not 1980… only naturally that things would evolve after THIRTY years!!

    p.s. Michael Bowser you shout a lot, HEARING problem?

  2. Michael Bowser on May 18, 2010 at 3:51 am

    Heh, knew I was gonna cop a bit of shit over this one! Tyler: you call that “evolution”?! Then Lord preserve us all!! Let’s hope it doesn’t “evolve” any further to the point of NO MUSIC at all!! Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind this album at all, but it is definitely pushing the limits of what I would call “music”, so let’s not take it much further than this, eh? And NO, I DON’T have a HEARING PROBLEM, I just like to EMPHASISE certain KEY WORDS when I write, and me editor doesn’t seem to favour ITALICS. Maybe I read too many COMICS!!!!

    Brian: Funny, I actually have made similar arguments in past years to friends who don’t listen to ANY metal or punk music, so it’s rather odd to be on the other side of the fence! You make a good point, I must concede. I guess I’m just concerned that the whole punk/metal scene will become utterly submerged in bands which favour “brutality” over “melody”…I do believe we can have our cake AND eat it, in this regard. And while Cancer Bats aren’t 100% my cup of tea – and I’ll concede they do what they do EXTREMELY well – I do think there’s still some semblance of “music” (ie rhythm and melody) in there. I guess I just don’t want to encourage the “next wave” of “angry” bands to strip away what last few layers of musicality remain on rock ‘n’ roll’s well-picked corpse…

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