Cancer Bats have been an ever-growing blip on the radar of heavy music fans since their self-titled debut EP in 2005. The visceral Canadians were hungry and more than ready to unleash their blend of hardcore punk and heavy metal on an unsuspecting world. While hardcore has remained the focus of the band for the past three albums, new ‘un Dead Set On Living is the band’s first real foray into the horn-throwing realm of metal.
Opening on the scream-along ‘R.A.T.S.’, it’s a fist-pumping metal crusher that expands into a devious riff roarer. Enigmatic frontman Liam Cormier spits and snarls his way through the menacing lyrics – “There’s a special place in Hell for people like you!” – that sends the behemoth monstering on like Toyko is underfoot.
The momentum keeps rolling with the throat-wrenching ‘Bricks And Mortar’ that gallops ever onward into a fistful of screams, chugging riffs and a tasty breakdown. Cormier’s lyrics are designed with the live setting in mind and are resolutely anthemic throughout the LP. The ode to a nuclear holocaust ‘Breathe Armageddon’ showcases the Bats‘ love of metal with the ominous Sabbath riffs and Dave Mustaine-inspired vocals.
Cancer Bats have been flirting with the idea of metal since their debut album Birthing The Giant, but Dead Set On Living delivers a huge slice of pounding metallic chaos for the full 11 tracks. The band’s adoration for metal is no secret, though, as they moonlight as the Black Sabbath tribute act Bat Sabbath at various shows across the world – most notably last year’s Sonisphere festival. Ozzy and co. can be heard in the doomy, bass heavy ‘The Void’ that’s an evil mid-album opus based around the abyss that is the ocean floor.
The album (as you could have guessed by the title) investigates themes of life, death and mortality. Title-track ‘D.S.O.L’ deals with being told you only have a year left to live if you intend to continue your lifestyle, so you choose to live out your final days to the max – a very punk outlook on life. Single ‘Old Blood’ and ‘Road Sick’ include ideas of seizing life and using your full potential to do exactly what you want. A necessary message that fans will no doubt heed in these stringent times.
Pit opener ‘Drunken Physics’ pays homage to the Stephen Hawking book ‘A Brief History Of Time’ and the eleven dimension theory. The carnage that ensues swells and engulfs your ears in a huge foot stomper that kicks serious amounts of arse with the hard-hitting riffage and catchy lyrics. This almighty rage is passed down to the anger-fuelled ‘Bastards’ and the Pantera-laden ‘Rally The Wicked’.
Ending on the dystopian ‘New World Alliance’, it’s a culmination of all the hardcore and heavy influences from the previous 35 minutes. At times it’s ominous and deathy but has an underlying Southern-metal groove that has become so synonymous with Cancer Bats over the years. As the album rings out on the dull buzz of an unplugged amp, it’s just a matter of time before the Ontario noise-bringers plug themselves back in and deliver another dose of hardcore hellraising.