Cancer Bats: Straddling the divide

Whether “experimental” or “radio-friendly,” the Cancer Bats’ latest album, Searching for Zero, defies easy description. “Some (critics) are like, ‘This is your craziest album’ ... some are saying, ‘This is your most radio friendly, accessible one.’ It’s definitely coming from a broad perspective,” said the band’s singer Liam Cormier, with a chuckle.

Whether “experimental” or “radio-friendly,” the Cancer Bats’ latest album, Searching for Zero, defies easy description.

“Some (critics) are like, ‘This is your craziest album’ … some are saying, ‘This is your most radio friendly, accessible one.’ It’s definitely coming from a broad perspective,” said the band’s singer Liam Cormier, with a chuckle.

For the musicians who perform on Sunday at the International Beer Haus in Red Deer, Zero actually isn’t a huge stretch from their previous material.

“It’s always been a progression with this band,” said Cormier. “We started being a punky hardcore band … then we added some sludge and doom influences…” until Cancer Bats comfortably straddle the divide between punk and heavy metal.

For the first time on Searching for Zero, Ross Robinson (Korn) was brought on board as producer. Cormier believes the experimentation some people are hearing comes from his influence.

It can particularly be heard on the song Devil’s Blood. Listeners will hear the instruments drop off, one by one. Only the snare drum continues the beat until the music amps up into what one critic called a “scream-along main refrain … unlike anything Cancer Bats have put to tape in their decade as a band.”

Cormier admitted the song is dynamic and different. Robinson’s suggestion the band “push things further” with the instrumentation, while reminiscent of Queen of the Stone Age, shows a new side of Cancer Bats. He added, “It definitely tips the boat a bit.”

But band members have always enjoyed broadening their scope while trying to staying true to the expectations of supportive fans. “It’s still us, playing songs we’re stoked from,” Cormier insisted.

He feels Zero may also be different from previous Cancer Bats albums because musicians were able to pursue other interests before the recording process began. For the first time in eight years of touring, band members took a three-month break.

Cormier bought a house in Toronto with his girlfriend and began to renovate it. Guitarist Scott Middleton went to Spain to learn how to make his own guitar. Drummer Mike Peters moved back to his native Winnipeg, bought a property and got married. Bassist Jaye Schwarzer started his own wood-working workshop.

“We took three months off, with no band and no writing,” said Cormier. And he believes this was needed to get group members re-energized and excited about going back into the studio.

“It was a celebration. We wanted to get back to playing music and doing shows. Everyone was happy to be doing this for the right reasons.”

Cormier feels darker lyrics on the songs Arsenic in the Year of the Snake and All Hail, influenced by the deaths of three friends of the band from various ailments, are balanced out by a sense of elation on other tunes.

“We’re so lucky we are able to do this,” said Cormier about the group’s Western Canadian tour.

“I’m so excited to play these shows, now that I’ve had some time for ‘real life’ as well.”

Tickets are $30 from Ticketfly. For more information, call 403-986-5008.

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