ALBUM REVIEW: Cancer Bats – ‘Psychic Jailbreak’

A number of faces overlaid with each other and covered by a psychedelic filter.

What is there to really say about a new Cancer Bats album? It’s going to be good, because they always are, and everyone knows it seeing as they’ve been one of punk and hardcore’s most consistent forerunners since day dot. It says a lot when the departure of founding guitarist Scott Middleton prior to this album hasn’t set off too many collars being tugged; it’s a shame given how much he’s done within the band, but there’s also an awareness of how deeply within their own rhythm Cancer Bats are at this point. Coming off the somewhat mixed reception to 2015’s Searching For Zero thatwas an uncharacteristic blip, The Spark That Moves dispelled any nascent worries of a band losing their edge, and Psychic Jailbreak finds that particular train once again speeding forth in expectedly excellent fashion. ‘Expectedly’ is the operative word there, as Psychic Jailbreak’s enhancement-over-innovation approach is undoubtedly the best template for Cancer Bats to adhere to at this stage. When Radiate revs into action with its towering metal grooves, it hits a sweet spot of familiarity that just works so well here. It’s the same with rock ‘n’ roll swagger affixed to surging punk on Lonely Bong and Keep On Breathin’, or the belly-dragging sludge of Crocodiles; the refinements are incremental but noticeable where Cancer Bats execute them with such a fire. More so than most, there’s an excitability to Cancer Bats at their best, and a wheelieing lust for life that Liam Cormier’s drawl delivers with unbridled charm. You don’t get a refrain like “My life was saved by the skateboard” on The Hoof without a wry grin sewn through every fibre, or a sense of unbridled perpetual momentum that without it sounding like the band are having the most fun in the world.

Of course, an ever-present bite and attitude always helps move that forward. It’s probably the most punk thing about Cancer Bats in truth, interwoven among a much heavier canvas that’s still supremely energetic. Jay Schwarzer’s bass tone especially founds a skull-shaking presence on the title track; meanwhile there’s a dirt and cruor to the guitars that galvanises them immensely, heavy and throttling but still paying their dues to a classic rock source. Like with most Cancer Bats albums, Psychic Jailbreak has a latent accessibility that proceeds to tip it over the edge into greatness, where the speed and heft come so thick and fast, and the rate in which its swings connect is just so gratifying to listen to. Indeed, that’s a feature that’s been drilled down into from this band for years, but it’s the fact they’re still so effortlessly finding ways to leverage it that stands out. It certainly helps that Cormier is such a charismatic frontman—and that you can practically see how he’ll be bouncing off the walls with these songs in a live environment—but on the whole, Psychic Jailbreak simply clicks so resoundingly. Highlights are scarce because near enough everything could fit that bill, such is the consistency and tightness with which Cancer Bats have come to define themselves with. Hardcore rarely sounds more alive than when Cancer Bats do it, free from gimmickry or overworked concessions to fitting in a scene, and just instead being exactly the band that they want to be. It’s gotten them this far and they’re still putting out excellent work off the back of it, so why fix what isn’t broken? After all, it’s Cancer Bats—you know them, you probably love them, and they’re still firing on all cylinders at every turn.


For fans of: Every Time I Die, Alexisonfire, The Bronx

‘Psychic Jailbreak’ by Cancer Bats is released on 15th April on Bat Skull Records / New Damage Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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