Cancer Bats – The Spark That Moves

How do you put to bed any doubts about your band? Come hurtling out the traps with an opener as neck-snappingly, riff-chunkingly awesome as ‘Gatekeeper’, and follow it up with a slew of hits steeped in the ultimate Black’s (Flag and Sabbath).

‘Brightest Day’ hurtles in, flailing drums, powerful, almost Wolverine Blues riffs, as Liam Cormier rasps like a furious Kory Clarke suffering a Falling Down moment having gargled battery acid. No chance for a breath to be drawn, as the Stoner groove of ‘We Run Free’ is splattered by a punk intensity and fervour. ‘Space and Time’ inspires thoughts of Avenged Sevenfold at their most snotty, and then stamps such an image into the dirt while ‘Bed Of Nails’ smashes desert rock vehemently.

Cancer Bats are back with violence in their hearts. And they are flying (pun intended). Never the biggest band going, with their honest, heart-on-sleeves live tsunami, (both their own and the always enjoyable Bat Sabbath shows) and this two-fingered salute of an album, they’re not just scrapping their way back up the pile, but winning the fight; The Spark… is characterised by an energy and a barrage of pace, as things flick like a strobe between stoner groove, to punk belligerence; from pace and howl to hook and punch.

 

The first half of the album is a relentless mix of massive songs, of big grooving stoner riffs, punk melee, and hooks – this statement, return to form, and a definitive album all in one. Ten years (almost) to the day that the seminal Hail Destroyer (Distort/Metal Blade) dropped, the Bats have managed to channel that album’s punk rock fury and wild abandon with the perfection of the rockier songwriting attempted, but not nailed, on Searching For Zero.

And as we spill into (a theoretic) Side B, there’s no let up. Every track rattles by, pissed off, yet still throwing riffs and shout-a-longs at you that claw and eat into the brain – the intent and intensity is something to be enjoyed, and there is no doubt whatsoever… These. Songs. Will. Go. Off. Live.

All of them.

‘Can’t Sleep’ is the album in a microcosm… a runaway train of angst and rage that hurtles before being hit with a hammer blow of a massive chorus riff, punctuated by Cormier yelping about being set free, and then we’re off again until things are wrapped up with a neck-destroying coda ripped from the Clutch-on-roids playbook.

And then the grand finale ‘Winterpeg’ saunters in on the back of the spirited ‘Heads Will Roll’, a nihilistic slab of pinches and stomps, that pays tribute to the bands hometown and Pantera, all while featuring a guest turn from Chris Hannah of Propagandhi as the riffing steps up the pace and power before the final crushing riffs bring to end a breathless album.

The Spark That Moves is how to do a surprise self-release. The Spark That Moves is how to prove a point. The Spark That Moves is how to answer critics. The Spark That Moves is how to make a statement. The Spark That Moves is how to stand up and fight. The Spark That Moves is exactly how to prove that Cancer Bats are a vital band in 2018. It’s a rare mix to ramp up the aggression, but still be able to harness the intangible that is “good songwriting”, but there is diversity, hooks, choruses, riffs… and above all a barely contained hurricane on this an album.

8.5/10

STEVE TOVEY