Sound: Much like their previous releases Hail Destroyer and Birthing The Giant, the Cancer Bats' latest material will not coddle the senses. There are plenty of bands that enjoy striking the balance between clean/death vocals, melody/brutality, but the Cancer Bats are purists. Yes, there are a few instances when vocalist Liam Cormier will take a breather from his harsh vocal style, but the vast majority of the time you get the feeling that the man is yelling in your face and that's a powerful sensation. Guitarist Scott Middleton, drummer Mike Peters and bassist Jaye Schwarzer rarely ease up on the tempo, which in the end makes for an exhausting (but satisfying) collection of tunes on the new CD Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones.
A fusion of punk and metal is ever-present during the 14 tracks, with raw power chords alternating frequently with pinch harmonics and hammer-ons. Much of the creativity occurs underneath the vocals during the verses, which makes for an eclectic mish-mesh of sounds to absorb. Some might think it's a bit too much at times, but for the most part the Cancer Bats do keep the arrangements fairly cohesive. You also can hear elements of classic metal bands, whether it be the Megadeth-like intro riff in Doomed To Fail or the darkly melodic approach akin to Slayer in Black Metal Bicycle.
Vocalist Cormier is still an acquired taste, but his gruff style works perfectly with the musical foundation. He certainly has more of a punk approach at times, which makes for an interesting contrast against the metal-specific sections that come along the way. One of the best examples comes within Darkness, a song that captures the heart of sludge metal through and through just without the low-end growl you might expect to hear coming from the frontman. The only time Cormier gets a bit tiring is when the music fails to deliver something fresh for awhile. This is not the case too often on the new CD, but Scared To Death and Drive This Stake do walk a fine line of brutality and being just too repetitive.
The big surprises and likely hit singles on Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones arrive at the very end. The first of these offering is also the most subdued track on the entire album, Falcon Fortress. The band often skirts the southern rock genre, and this is a prime example of their ability to fully capture the blues genre capably. The Cancer Bats also take on the Beastie Boys' classic Sabotage, with surprisingly successful results. The song has always been a bit chaotic, making it a fairly easy transition for Cormier and the boys. The song wasn't necessarily lacking in guitar gain or anything of that nature, so just imagine everything in the original arrangement being taken up a few extra notches. // 8
Lyrics: From the titles alone, you will sense that the quartet is injecting a dose of doom into their lyrical content. There aren't any songs that will necessarily blow your mind in terms of the construction, but the horror element is still entertaining. Whether singing about living as a member of the zombie world in We Are The Undead (The brightest outlook; The darkest souls; Bound together; So no one falls; Time can't change us) or adding a bit more emotion into the similar themes like Scared To Death (These words I speak; I'm being so sincere; Electrified; Straight from the heart), the Cancer Bats do have consistency on their side. // 7
Overall Impression: Although the Cancer Bats' latest CD can at times be exhausting because so much is happening, whether tempo-wise or within the musical layers, it's still a worthwhile listen. When the band gets it right, it delivers some of the best rock material out on the scene. Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones doesn't quite reach perfection due to a few songs being a bit too repetitive in nature, but it's pretty difficult to hit a home run every single time when you're churning out as many tracks as the Cancer Bats did on this CD. In the end, the band did deliver enough solid, memorable content to keep both punk and metal fans pleased. // 8