Cancer Bats Dickens Pub, Calgary AB, May 16
Published May 17, 2018A nearly soldout crowd crammed into Dickens Pub to see one of Canada's most beloved heavy bands celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their second full-length Hail Destroyer. Birthing the Giant might have been their debut, but its 2008 followup is what really gained the band a dedicated following.
They didn't immediately kick the set off with their anniversary record. Instead they started with Birthing the Giant's "Pneumonia Hawk" and played some others like "Arsenic in the Year of the Snake" and "R.A.T.S." before guitarist Scott Middleton began strumming the opening riff to "Hail Destroyer," one of the record's more beloved songs. That really opened up the pit, as vocalist Liam Cormier screamed "Children of nothing, this is our song!" It's the type of track that appeals to fans of both punk, hardcore, metal and sludge. Cancer Bats take all those genres and combine them so flawlessly to make their music enjoyable even for people that might not blast super heavy tunes on a regular basis.
As usual there wasn't a lot of banter aside from Cormier expressing gratitude for people sticking around. Cormier has cut his hair, but Middleton, bassist Jaye R. Schwarzer and drummer Mike Peters haven't changed much at all.
Other highlights included "Deathsmarch," a song about keeping your head up and being positive, truly held together by Peters' rapid-fire drumming. "Lucifer's Rocking Chair" remains a fan favourite, and "Zed's Dead, Baby" proved that even if super heavy and dark music, the lyrics are actually quite uplifting and positive as Cormier ended by screaming "And I know that one day will be brighter and I know that one day will be fine."
The quartet suddenly released a new record called The Spark That Moves last month, and played the album's first track "Gatekeeper" to keep the proceedings from getting too ridiculously nostalgic. They also tossed in their fan favourite cover of "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys and tied it all up neatly at the end with "Bricks and Mortar" from 2012's Dead Set on Living.