LIVE: Cancer Bats @ Rebellion, Manchester

By Tom Walsh

The UK is in the icy chokehold of Old Man Winter as the streets of Manchester are engulfed in a slight dusting of snow, and there’s a light drizzle in the air. The winter weather is causing chaos across the country with trains cancelled, schools closed, roads converted into ice rinks, and even causing the start time of hardcore shows to be delayed.

Cancer Bats are back after what front man Liam Cormier admits feels like around a fortnight. As he triumphantly proclaims today to be a “snow day” he then proceeds to ask “so, where is the snow?”. As Canada and the northern states of the USA battle with literal arctic temperatures, Cormier sees the UK’s cold snap as “scarf weather”.

The Canadian hardcore punks have become royalty on the scene and their regular tours to each corner of the UK ensure a party every night of the week. Cormier’s charisma, humour and storytelling combined with the absolutely thrashing songs make Cancer Bats shows highlights of the gigging calendar.

The band’s sixth album ‘The Spark That Moves’, released in 2018, only confirmed their songwriting prowess, harnessing that raw, frantic, growling sound that fans have become so accustomed to. If there was any suggestion that the cold weather might have dulled the intensity of Cancer Bats’ live show this evening, then the first chords of ‘Sleep This Away’ blows it away.

Sparking the show into life, the sludging riff from Scott Middleton’s Gibson guitar has heads banging before the pace is picked up with the enormous ‘Pneumonia Hawk’. There is another breathless rendition of newer track ‘Winterpeg’ before Cormier takes a moment to once again hypothesise about the weather.

This part hardcore punk, part comedy show brings the sort of energy that is usually reserved for watching your friend’s band in a local pub. Cormier, sporting a freshly cut mohawk, tells the tale of drummer Mike Peters currently looking after his newborn child in the sub, sub zero temperatures back in Canada.

“Mikey, he’s burning things to keep his family warm! It’s minus 40 in Winnipeg! You guys close the entire country when it goes to like one below zero! It’s just scarf weather, man,” Cormier jokes. Naturally, in the ensuing laughter a tartan scarf is chucked on stage and draped around bassist Jaye Schwarzer.

A back-to-back airing of ‘Butterscotch’ and the anthemic ‘Hail Destroyer’ turns Rebellion into a bath of sweat. Cormier’s yelping vocals ensure to crank up the volume and with the chaotic ‘Pray for Darkness’ and the arguably-better-than-the-original version of the Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’.

It comes to a crescendo with the double punch of the grooving ‘Lucifer’s Rocking Chair’ and the chugfest of ‘Gatekeeper’. The scarf is thrown back into the crowd, the adoring masses spill out in the frozen Manchester streets and Cormier proclaims the show to be one hell of a successful snow day.

The best part is that Cancer Bats will no doubt be playing in your city within the next fortnight, and the fortnight after that, and the fortnight after that.