Persevere and it reveals itself as a selection of dark, enjoyably violent treats.
Ben Patashnik 2010-04-01
Cancer Bats might be used to turning tiny venues into roiling pits of punk rock hell, but with Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones they’re aiming not just to consolidate the considerable success of their last album, Hail Destroyer, but better it. And, comedic-but-still-effective cover version aside (their brutal version of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage is both chucklesome and deliciously headbangable), rather than dialling up the melodies they used to weave among the noise, this third album is violently heavy.
There’s something pleasingly lo-fi about the likes of Doomed to Fail and Trust No One – guitars are set to bludgeon with the odd harmonic squeal here and there, with little relief apart from the few moments when the Bats take a split-second breather before ploughing another grinding furrow. Opener Sleep This Away, too, is relentless in its heaviness, edging towards the sludgy end of hardcore: it must have been tempting to put out a whole album full of Hail Destroyer-lite cast-offs and the sheer anti-social nastiness of much of Bears… might put off the casuals, but more than anything this sounds like a hugely fun record.
The spiralling Snake Mountain and frantic Fake Gold provide subtle variations on a crushingly heavy theme, held together by vocalist Liam Cormier’s snarl. He’s not the best screamer in the world of hardcore, but his voice has a huge amount of character – it turns their version of Sabotage from a mildly diverting curio into something far more fun – because he simply doesn’t operate on anything less than full capacity. And on Black Metal Bicycle he just sounds menacing in a way few vocalists manage, while he makes the wrenching Raised Right come over like a bleak confessional from someone who’s done some very bad things indeed. It’s all extremely stirring stuff.
Bears… is nasty, noisy and feels very, very angry. Sabotage will be the entry point for many, but it’s a treacherous one: while the crackling energy of the cover is evident in spades throughout, Cancer Bats’ tendency to veer towards the metallic might shock those unaccustomed to having a sweaty Torontonian screaming blue murder in their faces. But persevere and it reveals itself as a selection of dark, enjoyably violent treats.