Cancer Bats – Searching For Zero

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It’s been seven years since Cancer Bats’ hardcore punk debut Birthing The Giant came growling onto the scene with aggressive riffs and Liam Cormier’s raw vocals. The band have become an established group since then, from 2008’s more metal release Hail Destroyer, to the sludgy punk of 2010’s Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones and the doomy stoner elements of 2012’s Dead Set On Living (not to mention a Black Sabbath covers EP and tour under their alter-ego Bat Sabbath). Following extensive touring in 2013 and tragedy that struck involving the loss of a few close friends, the Toronto quartet were left overwhelmed and in need of release. The resulting album Searching For Zero is the cathartic sound of the group piecing together the reasons that they originally started.

It’s easy to argue that opener ‘Satellites’ is too safe, but when compared to the rest of the album, it’s understandable the group chose this as the opener – to ease listeners in with something more familiar. Searching For Zero is not particularly experimental – and this is actually one of its strengths – but ‘Satellites’ is perhaps too far the other way. That said, the chorus is strong (though predictable), and the mash-up of metal and hardcore is completed by some typical but effective gang vocals.

Cancer Bats - Searching For Zero album cover Broken Amp

The straight-forward approach that forms the record is clear from the outset, with songs like ‘Arsenic In The Year Of The Snake’ giving the hard-hitting blow that Cancer Bats have always specialised in. As ‘All Hail’ utilises a similarly fierce approach seven tracks in, it’s clear that the no frills sound fits the album’s hardcore bangers brilliantly. These sort of heavy emotional tracks have always been a talent of producer Ross Robinson (Slipknot, Korn, Machine Head) who brings out the expressive nature in bands brilliantly. These adrenaline-packed songs are undoubtedly the best, keeping the groove the band discovered on Hail Destroyer while also paying homage to Birthing The Giant‘s frenzied energy.

Elsewhere, parts of Searching For Zero display a gloomy yet anthemic side of Cancer Bats, with the stoner rock riffs of ‘Cursed With A Conscience’ utilising some interesting tempo shifts amidst well-written grooves and Cormier’s soaring roars. The dark mood of the track lets the group’s love of Black Sabbath shine through. This love is also shown very clearly on ‘Buds’, where the riff bobs along in a style similar to Sabbath’s ‘Children Of The Grave’.

While the more ominous tracks add depth to a complex album, the irate power shown in others complete the package to give an honest and simple insight into Cancer Bats’ unique approach to hardcore music. The buildup to Searching For Zero was tough for the quartet, and the therapeutic nature of its release has undoubtedly led to its raw and honest feel.

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