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Album Review: Cancer Bats - Dead Set On Living

Canada’s Cancer Bats follow-up 2010’s slightly underwhelming "Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones" with their new album, "Dead Set On Living". The album is the fourth opus from the doom punk quartet and sees the band lean more towards the stoner metal sound than previous efforts. Long-time fans shouldn’t panic though as there are still plenty of riffs, rage and energy throughout the album.

"R.A.T.S" is the perfect opener for "Dead Set On Living". It has all the speed and energy you would expect from the mindset of the opening-track, as well as the bile and spite that the band have built their sound on. Scott Middleton’s guitars make their mark all across this track, as they do throughout the album, shredding backwards and forwards and providing memorable riffs a-plenty. There’s a semi-poetic element to way vocalist Liam Cornier sneers about the special place in hell reserved for the rats of the title. The tempo and energy of the first track continue into the second as "Bricks and Mortar" takes hold. Despite the raw energy of Cornier’s vocals and the visceral nature of the guitars, there is a clear chorus to the track that will have the listener hollering along instantly.

The opening five tracks of "Dead Set On Living" are incredible. Whether it’s the anthemic "Roadsick", the doom-laden "Breathe Armageddon" or the title-track; there is little to fault about the quintet. Some of the urgency and pace is lost across the next two tracks, "The Void" and "Old Blood" as these songs lean more towards the stoner spectrum. The songs aren’t bad as such, but they do suffer from feeling a bit flat after the intensity of the opening bloc. "Drunken Physics" recovers some of the lost momentum, and provides the album with some of its most noteworthy riffs. The bass work of Jaye R Schwarzer combines brilliantly with Middleton’s riffery on "Bastards" and the guest vocals of Dez Fafara are a nice touch. It’s on closing track "New World Alliance" where the band’s new direction really makes inroads. It almost sounds like a black metal track with its chugging and squealing guitars, crashing drums, and choked vocals.

Cancer Bats' biggest nemesis will always be themselves. The bar they set with sophomore album "Hail Destroyer" was remarkably high, and as a result their third album suffered. Though "Dead Set On Living" doesn’t quite match "Hail Destroyer", it’s not far off. There are enough high points on this album to eclipse its predecessor and the band's move into a new territory seems to of freshened them up. For those yet to be initiated into the world of Cancer Bats this is a great place to start.


"Dead Set On Living" by Cancer Bats is available now on Distort Records.

Dan Issitt.

Alter The Press!