ALBUM REVIEW: Cancer Bats – Psychic Jailbreak
Photo Credit: Sid Tang
When you hear the name Cancer Bats your mind is cast to four Canadian natives throwing themselves around on stage, playing hardcore songs with a sludgy twinge. The band have had a solid line-up since their second full-length Hail Destroyer and have seemed inseparable ever since. For that reason, it came as a shock to many when founding guitarist and towering influence on the band’s trademark sound, Scott Middleton, exited the band to pursue his producing career and be with his family.
However, always the scrappy underdog; it was inevitable that the band would bounce back from what would be a deathblow to any other group. Long-time bassist Jay Schwarzer would take over guitar duties for the writing and recording of the Bats’ seventh full-length, Psychic Jailbreak, with former The Chariot and current Fever 333 guitarist Stephen Harrison joining the band on a permanent basis after the completion of record.
Frontman Liam Cormier stated in an interview with this very website that he was fully aware that this album “had to smoke.” Any concerns that this wouldn’t be the case are quickly laid to rest with opening track Radiate, which comes out with a groove that ranks amongst the best Cancer Bats have penned to date. The song itself is dripping with attitude and swagger and the chorus is one that will be screamed back emphatically by the band’s loyal fanbase (the cornerstone of any classic Bats tune). The fun doesn’t stop there, with following track The Hoof sounding like the kind of tune you would have heard in the skatepark (the lyrics towards the end of the song support this wholeheartedly) back in the day, with its catchy riffs and infectious vocal melodies. This is what Cancer Bats do the best; they bring the fun and the heavy both in equal measure.
The foot is taken off the accelerator for album highlight Hammering On. A brooding, Black Sabbath-influenced doom-metal song that shows just how well the band can genre-hop without it ever feeling forced. Cormier admitted in our recent interview that he used to avoid singing at all costs, but has taught himself throughout the band’s lengthy career, with the guest vocals provided by Brooklyn Doran adding an ethereal, contrasting layer to the melody. This is one of the finest songs that the band have ever written, and fans who loved Beelzebub from their classic 2015 effort Searching for Zero will have a field day here.
The latter stage of the album succeeds in keeping the listener gripped, a feat that many bands suffer from nowadays with the ever-decreasing attention spans of the streaming generation. Keep On Breathing is a song that is dripping in attitude, piss and vinegar, with Cormier sounding like he is having more fun than he has in years. This is the theme throughout the entirety of Psychic Jailbreak and that is infectious, the fans will latch onto it, throwing aside any misplaced anxieties they may have had about the future of Cancer Bats with the seismic shift that the band have been forced into.
Perhaps the most complimentary fact about this release is how seamless the transition has been from the before and after of Middleton’s tenure. He may not be replaceable, but in a sense the band have found a way to sidestep this massive fact, and have instead shifted their songwriting style in such a subtle way that it still sounds like Cancer Bats, but with a new twist.
This is a band who has seen it all, ridden every wave and have continued to deliver a ridiculously high standard of output for almost two decades at this point. Some things are certain in life… You live, you die and Cancer Bats rock with the best of ‘em.
Standout Tracks: Hammering On, Rollin’ Threes, Lonely Bong
For Fans Of: Every Time I Die, Gallows, Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster
Written by: Richard Webb