By Trevor Morelli
CALGARY – The best surprises in life are the ones that blindside you out of nowhere. On April 20, Cancer Bats surprise dropped The Spark That Moves, their brand new, sixth ear-splitting album that was recorded, mixed and mastered in Winnipeg in complete secrecy. It’s the band’s first release on their own Bat Skull Records.
“We’re coming out with a total bang,” proclaims lead singer Liam Cormier on the line from Toronto.
“I’m going to pick up the vinyl tomorrow, actually.”
We caught up with Cormier mere days before the surprise release, a genuinely pummeling album that’s being hailed as their best in a decade. Despite being the provider of the aggressive screams that anchor Cancer Bats’ hardcore sound, Cormier is a heck of a nice guy who expresses genuine excitement about the release.
“We’re like, ‘This would be sick!’” says Cormier about the hush-hush nature of The Spark That Moves.
“For us, it’s exciting. It’s rad, and I feel like it’s something that we would want as fans. I don’t want to wait for a pre-order for like three months.”
Clocking in at just 34 minutes, The Spark That Moves packs a ton of meat into a short timeframe. Longtime guitarist Scott Middleton provides the distorted wails on highlights like “Rattlesnake,” drummer Mike Peters adds the machine-gun punk rhythms to songs like “Headwound,” while bassist Jaye Schwarzer brings deafening bass lines to stand-out track “Winterpeg.” The band is joined on the latter by Propagandhi’s own Chris Hannah.
“A lot of the songs are back to ripping punk vibes. We wanted to embrace all of those things that we love about the band,” Cormier says. Indeed, the album merges sludge, punk, hardcore, and metal into a poignant melodic blend.
“Obviously we’re trying to continue the journey and evolve, but at the same time we’re not wanting to get too far away.”
Bands with global fanbases are often tempted to use crowd-funded campaigns to finance their records, but Cancer Bats chose to avoid this. Instead, they’re thankful to those metalcore patrons, who have purchased their music and bought tickets to their shows, for the last 13 years of financial support.
“We were talking about this last year,” Cormier explains. “We were like ‘Oh, we should use a crowd-fund’ and me and Mikey were like, ‘No, we’ve already put aside all this money because we knew we were going to do this.’ So, we’ve already been funded by the crowds who have showed up to our shows.”
At present Cancer Bats are tearing up the road on a showcase the tenth anniversary tour of their breakthrough album Hail Destroyer (2008). Armed with the detuned riffs and throaty growls of favorites like “Hail Destroyer,” “Deathsmarch,” and “Smiling Politely,” the band is set to play the album in full, or at least the parts they can get away with.
“We’ve done a bunch of them already because we played Manitoba Metalfest in Winnipeg, so we did like 80 per cent of the record,” says Cormier, laughing.
“We were just like, ‘You know what? Let’s just not play “PMA (‘Til I’m DOA)” and “Zed’s Dead, Baby” and we’ll see if anybody calls us on it.’ It kind of worked out perfect because nobody called bullshit and we just had a great show.”
“We’ve never played “Zed’s Dead,” so that one’s kind of going to be interesting,” he continues. “I think it’ll be fun.”
Ah yes, the fun is just beginning for Cancer Bats, and the excitement around both The Spark That Moves and the Hail Destroyer tenth Anniversary Tour will help propel them for a long time to come.
“There are 20-year-old kids that are just finding out about our band. Just because I’m 38 doesn’t mean I want to forget what I was into when I was 22, you know? I want songs to still rip, in the way that you would play it for any aged kid and they’d be like ‘Aw, this makes me want to ride a dirt bike!’”
Cancer Bats play May 16 at Dickens (Calgary), May 17 at Bo’s Bar & Grill (Red Deer), and May 18 at the Starlite Room (Edmonton).Bo’s Bar & Grill, Cancer Bats, Dickens, Starlite Room