Live: Cancer Bats @ The Waterfront, Norwich (18/03/2013)
Brutality Will Prevail – Empress
It’s a fair long way from Canada to little old Norwich even if you don’t just fly after dark, but Cancer Bats have managed to spread their wings and make the distance. Yeah alright so they’re a regular fixture in the big city, but round these parts the only thing hardcore is the tractors. And the farmers… with their guns. Probably. Enough of the in-the-sticks clichés, it’s nightfall and the Bats are out…
Coming across as something of a deep-thinking arty metal band, Empress (6/10) are a bit of a left-field choice to open a sweaty pitting hardcore show. They’re biggest problem isn’t the music though – when their quiet-then-loud prog metal hits it’s a dark groove that peels off its clothes in the background. Tonight at least their issue is frontman Ollie Loring who seems to be off in his own world and from the first note under its sway. For a crowd that are used to its singers being ever so more animated, it’s a bit of an ‘eh’ moment. A lull descends – if we were being kind we could say it’s because everyone was entranced, but in reality probably just a bit bored.
There’s no such chance of tuning out with Brutality Will Prevail (8/10) screaming down your lughole though. Their name is almost an omen for their set tonight for it’s pretty hairy out there. Pits spring from out of the aether, the crowd surge towards vocalist Louis Gauthier (calling him the singer might be stretching it a touch too far) reaching out for him – it’s like a mini Beatle-mania for a minute. Only without the crying girls and 60s haircuts. Ok so maybe I oversold that.
It’s the first big run of shows for Louis since joining BWP at the end of 2012, and it seems the fans have taken to him so well they’ve probably ruffled the proverbial duck’s feathers. Sure the lyrics are pretty generic hardcore stuff, but that doesn’t seem to phase the diehard kids out there dancing like puppets that have had their strings cut but not yet realised. Someone is going to need a nice cool shower when they get home.
Just like in the comic though it all comes down to the Bats in the end. There’s no spangly costumes in sight here though, because Cancer Bats (8/10) are a band without pretension or gimmicks. The only thing they hang their hat on is a stand built out of solid, but slightly warped, hardcore punk. With some southern rock and sludgey twiddly hook bits. Must be a hell of a thing to carry around, but we’re so glad they do.
Cherrypicking from across all their releases to date, Cancer Bats bring home how rarely they put a toe wrong with the likes of ‘Bricks And Mortar’, ‘Scared To Death’, and ‘Breathe Armageddon’. ‘Road Sick’ doesn’t quite have the all-the-way-to-the-back momentum it should, but the slower groove of ‘Darkness Lives’ has the floor positively groaning under its weight. The guitar tone is always one you could rasp your files on, but tonight it’s a buzzsaw set to attack.
As they send the night on its way with Beastie Boys cover ‘Sabotage’, and ‘Hail Destroyer’, Cancer Bats have their usual bemused, but so appreciative, air about them. Despite their success, and how they keep packing out those tours, they still seem genuinely surprised that anyone shows up. God knows why, but the day they switch to maniacal ego will be a sad one. As if in defiance of such a thought, frontman Liam Cormier finishes the show by stepping down off the front to speak to anyone who wants to stop a minute, rather than leading the race backstage. And after tonight’s smasher-of-a-show you’d be batty not to want to shake him by the hand.
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