Cancer Bats Hail Destroyer

Cancer Bats Hail Destroyer
While Toronto, ON’s Cancer Bats certainly aren’t the first band to blend punk, hardcore and metal, they’re one of the few bands doing it in a manner that’s fresh and exciting. The group’s sophomore effort, Hail Destroyer, is a more concentrated collection of songs than heard on their debut, Birthing the Giant. The band are trying to craft an identity instead of randomly grasping at different genres and delivering pieces of incomplete songs in a passing effort. For the most part, it works wonderfully. Hail Destroyer pummels its way through 12 tracks that sound as though they were written with the goal of having just as much as a physical impact on the listener as an audible one. The best songs on the album, "Deathsmarch,” "Let it Pour” and "Harem of Scorpions,” carry the frantic energy of the band at their best. Others, such as "Lucifer’s Rocking Chair” and "Bastard’s Waltz,” have a noticeable amount of metal coming through care of guitarist Scotty Middleton, as well as bona fide singing attempts from Cormier. While they show the band’s improvement as songwriters, they might have a little too much metal in them to satisfy the punkers. Then again, Cancer Bats are one of the few bands that can successfully satisfy all tastes — if not on one song then on the next.

How has the band changed between Birthing the Giant and Hail Destroyer?
Vocalist Liam Cormier: I think the big thing that has changed is us knowing what we want to do as a band. We’ve developed and have the confidence of [knowing] what we want to do. Especially with this album being a lot heavier and how we come across live, it’s a bit of a truer representation of us. Not to say anything [negative] about Birthing the Giant, but whenever people see us they say we are way heavier live; I scream more, we play through more gear, Scott’s guitar is dirtier. We’re trying to ring truer to what we do. With the songwriting on Birthing, those were all the songs we had written; it had a song from the demo that was one of the first songs we had written. This was Mike, Scott and I sitting in a practice room together thinking, "this is what we do.” We’re taking everything we love about the last record and just trying to push that.

So it’s not an attempt to define your sound?
No. I think if anything we’re just as ADD as we were before, but in a lot of songs we go for a full-on vibe. Hail Destroyer is us finishing ideas more and trying to be better songwriters. With our last record, we had a lot of parts that we were just mashing together and now we are trying to make cohesive songs and finish ideas. Some of our last songs, I love them, but they are very much two songs mashed together.

What you’re describing now sounds a lot like Ween
I guess that’s rad and we get stoked on it. But also, listening to an album like The Con by Tegan and Sara, where all the songs sound different but they are just put together. Same with Queens of the Stone Age. Looking at these other bands do it gives us this confidence that we can do it and it will make sense as a Cancer Bats record and we can still explore these ideas. We’re still all over the place in what we listen to. Mike is from Winnipeg and is into stuff like Propagandhi. Scotty is into Testament and White Zombie, and I am into punk and hardcore. No one person writes a whole song, so we have to have the checks and balances. Scott would not want a song to become too punk rock and Mike and I want to make sure it’s not too metal. I might want to have a breakdown but Scott and Mike would tell me to fuck off. But at the same time, I’m saying we’re not going to have three solos.

What do you expect from yourselves with this record?
We want to raise our own personal expectations as musicians. Scott is getting way better at guitar and wants to step up his game, not only having solos but interesting ones and up high playing. Same with Mike — wanting to be a better drummer. Having the touring that we did, we are all better as musicians. I feel my voice is a lot better now. This time around there are a lot of intense vocals that I am just holding longer, and playing that night after night, as a band, I get psyched. I feel that all three of us just want to step up. Even I want to write better lyrics. There was stuff with our last album when we were doing press when they would ask what a song was about and I would be like, "Fucked if I know.” It had some meaning but there was no message. (Distort)