Since surprise releasing The Spark That Moves last March, it feels like Cancer Bats have been playing in the UK every other week. With a run of shows in celebration of their classic Hail Destroyer album in London followed by a co-headline tour with Anti-Flag at the end of the year, there has been plenty of opportunity to catch the Canadians, who have been at the forefront of hardcore in the 21st century. Yet it feels like they still haven’t given much of the material from The Spark That Moves a proper live airing. Now, with a huge run of UK shows hitting every place imaginable, would seem like the perfect chance to start including more of those songs in the setlist, but yet again, Cancer Bats instead seem to have headed in the complete opposite direction…
First off though, Underside kick off the show and grab the attention of the sadly sparse early crowd as they are joined by a dancer garbed in a unique outfit which seems to be partly inspired by their native Nepalese culture with a heavy metal twist. Although the band don’t have quite as much originality in their sound, they definitely have a knack for writing some really cool metalcore songs. It really feels like they grow into their set as it progresses and have most of the crowd headbangng in approval by the time they finish.
Scottish quintet Bleed From Within are absolutely determined to get the Sugarmill moving. In the end it isn’t their frequent pleas for more energy and circle pits that gets the room spinning, but the sheer strength of songs from latest album, Era. Tracks such as ‘Crown of Misery’ and ‘Alive’ have such powerful riffs and breakdowns that it is impossible to not be drawn in. The energy poured out by vocalist Scott Kennedy is infectious, as he points in recognition and acknowledgement of anyone who even shows a hint of singing along and hardly stops smiling for the entirety of their time on stage. The band do a great job of making sure that everyone is nicely warmed up on a cold January evening before tonight’s headliners.
Cancer Bats step onstage accompanied by a wall of feedback and bringing all the chaos one would expect from them by now. What is definitely unexpected though is their setlist choice for tonight and much of the tour – only four songs from The Spark That Moves make an appearance in the 18 song collection. More than anything this highlights just how consistent Cancer Bats output has been, and although it would have been nice to hear songs like ‘Bed of Nails’ and ‘We Run Free’, you can’t really complain when you are served with ‘Bricks and Mortar’ and a very rare airing of ‘Butterscotch’ instead. Liam Cormier has a fantastic stage presence as always and the look of ‘Oh shit is about to go down’ on his face as the band begin their iconic cover of Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ is always a highlight. The set ends with the timeless stomp and groove of ‘St Lucifer’s Rocking Chair’ and a rather surprising closer in ‘Gatekeeper’, hinting that there is at least some belief in that latest album, providing hope that maybe some more tracks from last year’s record will creep into the set over time.
When a band are so routinely brilliant it is hard to find new things to say about them. It is slightly disappointing that Cancer Bats latest album seems to have been forgotten about almost as quickly as it arrived, but the strength of their back catalogue means no matter what is in the set, a good time is guaranteed.