The new Sleep album might be hogging all the headlines, but those who like their music on the short and fast side of things were also treated to their own surprise 4/20 release, in the form of Cancer Bats‘ sixth full-length record, The Spark That Moves—a ferocious effort that sees them harking back to their hardcore origins.
After some mild experiments with more opaque offerings on 2015’s Searching For Zero, The Spark That Moves sees Cancer Bats back to doing what they do best: delivering eleven rounds of vivid, punchy, metallic-tinged hardcore that explodes with as much life as its technicolour record sleeve. The album sounds so upbeat compared to their past output, and the production is a welcome step in the right direction as well. After working with Ross Robinson on Searching For Zero the band has this time turned to producer JP Peters, known for his work with Propagandhi, and regular collaborator Eric Ratz, who handled production duties on their three previous records. The result, thankfully, sits somewhere between the obscure, rawness of the Robinson sessions and the uncomfortable sterility of 2012’s Dead Set On Living—giving it a further edge over the band’s recent output.
This is a record that doesn’t pull its punches. “Gatekeeper” throws the listener straight into the deep end, with a catching refrain reminiscent of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster‘s “Memories of the Grove.” After a brief, relative, respite in the form of the next two tracks, the album kicks into full gear with “Space and Time”—which is perhaps where the band come closest to recapturing brooding, southern vibes of Hail Destroyer (2008) and Bears, Mayors, Scrapes and Bones (2008)—and it hardly lets up from there. Other standouts include the menacing “Headwound”, which is sure to become a live staple, and “Can’t Sleep”, which is probably the most metal-leaning track on the record. The band saves the best for last, however, in the form of barreling closer “Winterpeg”, which features a very Neil Fallon-sounding appearance from Propagandhi frontman Chris Hannah.
Really though, there isn’t much in the way of a weak moment on the record, which sees the Canadians barrelling forth, for the most part, like an untamed Every Time I Die. Although there aren’t really individual compositions that might challenge the likes of Hail Destroyer‘s prime cuts or the opening salvo of Dead Set on Living, The Spark That Moves certainly has the edge when it comes to consistency—delivering the most complete Cancer Bats experience in nearly a decade. Likewise, while the band has always reveled in straddling the spaces linking metal, hardcore, southern rock and everything in between. The Spark That Moves, however, is an album that pledges their allegiance firmly in the hardcore direction, constituting the quartet’s most straight-forward and gun-ho offering since their debut (2006).
There’s a definite D.I.Y. vibe to go along with The Spark That Moves‘s surprise release. Beyond aligning themselves with their local hardcore scene—via the connections with Propagandhi and Mobina Galor, whose vocalist Jenna Priestnershows up on “Rattlesnake”—the record is also the first ever to be released on the band’s own label, Bat Skull Records, and they’ve seen fit to release a bunch of low-key videos for each of the songs on the album, all of which look like a lot of fun to have put together. Cancer Bats have always been a band who’ve marched to their own drum, and they’re at their best when they’re being themselves (and/or Black Sabbath). The Spark That Moves is infectious in its irreverent enthusiasm and, while “spacing out” is cool and all, if it’s a full-speed adrenaline shot to the face you’re looking for, then look no further.