Cancer Bats – ‘The Spark That Moves’

By Tom Walsh

Cancer Bats have never done things by the book. Whether it is playing five shows in one day in London venues to drawing out a pentagram, creating a Black Sabbath tribute band and supporting themselves, or touring the world collecting charity money in a wellington boot, they’re always looking to surprise.

It makes dropping a new album completely out of the blue almost seem normal. This is what months spent holed up in a studio in Winnipeg during a harsh winter can do. As the wind and snow howled along Gertie Street, the hardcore punks were ready to drop another bomb on their waiting public.

They became tired of waiting, tired of keeping everything under wraps and tired of compromise. ‘The Spark That Moves’, their sixth studio album, is Cancer Bats unfiltered. Released from the shackles of a record label and free to do things on their terms, it has lit a fire under the hardcore punks to unleash a new beast.

Under the watchful gaze of Propaghandi’s JP Peters, long-time producer Eric Ratz and on their own label Bat Skull, ‘The Spark That Moves’ brings together their finest elements to create a ferocious assault of a record. The three-year gap from ‘Searching for Zero’ has given the band renewed impetus and regains the snarl that characterised their earlier work.

Opening on the thunderous ‘Gatekeeper’, Cancer Bats set their stall out early. The trademarks are there to behold – the sludgy, squealing riffs of Scott Middleton, the driving bass of Jaye Schwarzer, the thumping beats of Mike Peters and, naturally, the yelping growl of charismatic front man Liam Cormier. There’s barely a moment to breathe before the thrashing hardcore punk double header of ‘Brightest Day’ and ‘We Run Free’.

There is a level of intensity in ‘The Spark That Moves’ that had been missing from more recent efforts and it is pushed to the very limit. ‘Bed Of Nails’ balances the feeling of damnation with messages of positivity as Cormier screams “before I die I’ll live forever” in a chaotic three minutes. There is a moment of reflection of the world’s current plight on the call-to-arms of ‘Fear Will Kill Us All’ which feels even more poignant.

However, anyone familiar with Cancer Bats will know the party atmosphere they bring to every show and both ‘Can’t Sleep’ and ‘Heads Will Roll’ already feel like anthems-in-the-waiting which will lay siege to stages across the world. There is even time for a guest appearance from punk rock royalty as Chris Hannah from Propagandhi joins them on doom-bringing closer ‘Winterpeg’.

Cancer Bats are never a band that are going to sit on their hands and be told when and how they should release their next record. They are ready to go, so why wait? ‘The Spark That Moves’ reflects this attitude. Bold, brutal, confrontational and downright fun. It is the very essence of Cancer Bats. After all, what’s the fun in playing by the book?

TOM WALSH

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