All Guts Wins Glory – The Cancer Bats Stand Tall

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

At a certain point in their careers, every band has an incredible moment of clarity in which they realize they've broken through and been accepted by a community of listeners. It's a great, exciting moment – but there's a catch: the band has broken through and become an establishment, which means they have to work even harder to impress their fans. At that point, just towing a line is no longer an option because those supporters who have been with the band “since the beginning” will hear it and start taking the group's efforts for granted (“Oh, they're great, but they've been doing that forever,” they'll say. “What's new?”), which has often been the first death knell for even the greatest names in the business [see Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath to start – there are more –ed], but has invariably proven that a band has becomes familiar to its audience.

The first moment of audience indifference, familiarity or comfort can be terrifying for any band. Shortly thereafter, some start trying to experiment and find a new angle and sound to present to their audiences [again, see Black Sabbath – beginning with Sabbath Bloody Sabbath –ed] in hopes of re-sparking the old excitement in fans. Some do flag creatively and fade from the forefront, but some bands realize that making the perfect presentation of their sound – making career defining record – is the key to success. That crossroads is exactly where The Cancer Bats found themselves after they finished touring behind their third full-length album, Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones and began preparing to record the album which would become Dead Set On Living. “I wouldn't say it was a conscious plan to do something different, I think it was just a conscious plan to make a Cancer Bats record and not try and push things too far past what we'd already established,” explains singer Liam Cormier pensively. “All of us agreed – like we sat down at one point and came to this agreement – that we all really loved being in this band; that's why Scott, Mike and I have been doing it for the last seven years – so it doesn't make any sense at this point to try and be something we're not.

“We were very conscious to not try and be wildly over-ambitious with it and make something which would bum out all our fans,” Cormier continues, laughing. “We've been fans of bands who've put out a new record which we went and bought, but discovered that they'd changed dramatically in some way for that release

“We didn't want to do the exact same thing to our fans that we, as fans, have had done to us before, so we just had some fun making the record. The rule of thumb was to just go with the vibe and ride whatever was fun at that particular moment; at one point, we wanted to have a song that would be super fun to be in the pit for, and then we wanted to have one that was just super-heavy. We started trying different things like trying to get a little more bounce in the vocals, or even just more bounce in general; the plan wasn't complicated or anything, it was just to have fun and have a fun summer writing the record.”

Such was the plan and mindset which spawned Dead Set On Living – the hands-down best album that The Cancer Bats have ever released.

Long-time fans won't be able to stop themselves from cracking a wry smile of anticipation as a cloud of billowing, caustic noise rolls in to open “R.A.T.S.” (the lead-off track on Dead Set On Living) but they'll still have to brace themselves as the song explodes and guitarist Scott Middleton and bassist Jaye R. Schwarzer blow the walls out in a moment of perfect, aggressive anthemia. Running lean but viciously with its adrenaline levels already up, teeth bared and singer Liam Cormier barking, the band bounds out with a perfect, aggressive and hypnotizing sound that is hard, but also surprisingly lithe and agile; here, the band flies around listeners in a rage which holds up even after “R.A.T.S.” gives way to “Bricks And Mortar” and “Road Sick,” and maintains the treacherous pace they've set beyond that as well.

The staggering number of great songs on the album including “R.A.T.S.,” “Bricks And Mortar,” “Road Sick,” “Old Blood” “Bastards” and “Rally The Wicked” all rank as a selection of the best songs Cancer Bats have ever written, and listeners who were only half-way on-board with Cancer Bats' mix of metal and hardcore when they heard any of the band's previous three albums will find themselves all-in and really receptive to the band's approach here as they manage to keep their energy levels peaked. When “New World America” finally does collapse out of exhaustion to close out the record, listeners will find themselves reaching to re-start the album all over again because the highs on Dead Set On Living and the way they're presented are addictive. That desire to have listeners wanting to run through the record from top to bottom was one of the plans that Cancer Bats were shooting for, according to Cormier. “The big thing that we did with Dead Set On Living was make a record that we'd be able to play from start-to-finish live,” explains the singer. “That was kind of like our biggest hope: to have an album which could work as a set list if we wanted to when we were done. That's kind of what we did when we were writing; we looked at how Cancer Bats write out a set – how we assemble a bunch of songs from all our records into something that moves along and has those exciting moments on stage – and modeled this record after how we do that; we wrote all these songs that we could play live in the same way we make a set now. That's something which is kind of exciting for us, because we basically wrote it with the road in mind; they're all one tempo and all the other things we only end up thinking about after we're on the road. This time though, we did have that thought beforehand; we are a touring band, that's what we do, so why not make a touring record? The crazy thing is that everyone who has heard it thinks it's a half hour, but it's actually forty minutes – which is a really solid set, but will give us a little bit of room to work in a couple of fan favorites too.”

That Cancer Bats had the presence of mind to look at how they wanted to present the album in a live context was wise and, in practice, Cormier is also quick to add that, as rehearsals have gone on for a long touring season which has already been booked for the band looms and the album's release day is upon them [Dead Set On Living will be released  by Distort in Canada and on Metal Blade in the U.S. on April 24 –ed], the anticipation both he and his bandmates are feeling is coming to a head and will be unleashed. “There were a few songs on this record where we were jamming and having a riot in the studio while we were recording them, and we've been doing it again now with “Rally The Wicked” and “R.A.T.S.” where we're just jamming and having fun with them now in rehearsals; I can't wait to bring “Rally The Wicked” out live,” exclaims Cormier, laughing. “I know I'm supposed to say that I think this is the best record we've ever done and I think it's awesome, but I actually mean it when I'm talking about Dead Set On Living. That isn't to say I didn't stand behind our other records – I've been cornered on that before by writers before and they'll say, 'You said that the last record record was the best you'd ever done…' [laughing] and I'll tell them it's true, but I do feel like there's a progression in what we're doing, and it's something that you could only really say with the benefit of hindsight. Like, people got really psyched about Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones and that it was really different from what we'd done before, but the consensus behind each album we've put out since we released Birthing The Giant has been, 'Yeah, I always knew about you guys, but this album is really fuckin' good!' Again, that's kind of the feedback we've been getting now, and that feels pretty good. Things have been going really, really well early for this record, even in places where we haven't done all that well historically – like in France and Germany. We've never done overly well in places like that before, but they even seem pumped in those places, months in advance of the record dropping which is pretty crazy. Getting that recognition now feels really, really good because we've been touring a lot and this is our fourth record; it would be easy to figure that people would be sort of getting used to us [laughing], but that we've been getting the response that we have and it began so long before the record's release is just awesome, and now we're going to spend the summer bringing it to people!”


Further Reading:
Ground Control – Dead Set On Living{Album] – review


Cancer Bats are currently on tour in support of Dead Set On Living. Click here for an updated list of shows.


Dead Set On Living
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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