Rejuvenated Chaos from Cancer Bats

Toronto hardcore outfit aims to mesh the raw and the refined on new album

Nobody likes getting robbed, but Liam Cormier especially hates it.

The likely reason the Cancer Bats vocalist is so ardently against the crime is because it’s affected him and the rest of the Toronto band before. In an April 2008 interview with Eye Weekly, Cormier discussed a then-recent Canada/U.S. tour being interrupted by robbery. While the band was onstage in Victoria, B.C., someone jacked their bags.

“They left iPods, but they stole my bag of clothes,” he said. “Such a fuckin’ burn.”

Coinciding with turns like this, Cancer Bats’ upcoming record Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones includes a track about his disgust.

“It’s very personal, but everyone in the studio was like, ‘Fuck, I hate being robbed!’ ” Cormier reports. “It’s one of those things where you think it’s just you but everyone's had an experience like that.”

Relating to others through the Bats’ robust mix of Hardcore, Metal and Punk is one of Cormier’s favorite things about the band. He’s particularly proud of hearing strangers relate to “Sorceress,” an over-the-top whirlwind of vitriol from 2008’s Hail Destroyer. Directed toward “you little train wreck,” the frontman spews lines like “I swear to God you're the worst piece of trash I've met” and “Karma's gonna burn you down like a witch/ Payback’s a bitch!”

While Cormier and company come off in the song as having some serious aggression issues, the genial vocalist maintains the hostility is all just part of getting things out.

“A lot of the stuff we sing about is positive but done in a harsh way,” he says. “If you're not clear on what I am saying or sure what is happening, it sounds really brutal. A lot of our songs are about personal empowerment and people being free to do what they want.”

Cormier says the song “Sorceress” was specifically therapeutic for him.

“Maybe I’m not as pissed at (the subject) now but I still wouldn’t take back any of those things,” he says. “I love that I still sing about how shitty this one person was every night.”

Cormier vows to expand his repertoire of aching, personal tracks on Bears. Tentatively scheduled for an April 13 release, Cormier describes the curiously titled new album as “Glenn Danzig going on a camping trip with Black Flag’s Greg Ginn, a reanimated Vincent Price and the Beastie Boys.” Despite that incongruous congregation, the Bats’ vocalist emphasizes that the band’s third CD is its most cohesive work yet.

“When we finished writing the songs, it was like, ‘Let’s (play) everything, all day, every day for the next two weeks,’ ” Cormier says. “We were living and breathing these parts and making sure everything was fitting right, which I think came through in the whole record.”

Though the Bats took on more of a purified songwriting approach with Bears, Cormier says that the resulting product is weightier than Hail Destroyer.

“We went to a bigger studio to get a bigger drum sound, taking a note from older records by Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath where the idea was to record in a huge room where things could resonate,” he says. “We wanted the record to sound as live as possible. We wanted to get more full takes. It was less micro-managing and more letting the actual performance come out.”

Bears marks one big change to the group’s writing process: It’s the first record they’ve created with a bassist. (They’ve shuffled through a few before but nothing had stuck.) The inclusion of Jaye R. Schwarzer also means that the disc will be missing guest vocalists, unlike Hail Destroyer, which featured cameos by singers like Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath.

“There’s no reason to give the parts to anybody else because Jaye is able to sing this easily,” concedes Cormier.

Per the Cancer Bats’ volatile style, its latest work storms through a range of heavy sounds, but the band believes that it leans towards one side in particular. Says the vocalist: “We think that this sounds a lot more Metal. Then, when we were playing it for the people that manage us, right off the bat they were like, ‘Aw, this record sounds way more Punk.’ I was like ‘Oh, weird.’ It’s the nature of the beast … we’re all over the place. We have total Stoner songs, Punk songs and fast Death & Roll songs.”

The singer believes the band’s ability to fall into a range of categories allows them to set themselves apart. Sharing a bill with the more Alternative/Punk-leaning Billy Talent will lead to a Rock-heavy set, but if they’re playing alongside a Metal outfit like Every Time I Die they’ll adjust the set list. It’s all part of relating to as many audiences as possible.

“If you’re an older Metal fan, you may hear more Corrosion of Conformity while a younger kid is going to go, ‘This sounds like Metallica,’ (though) they were just influenced by Corrosion of Conformity,” Cormier says. “Older guys will think that we sound like Black Flag but when we play in front of Rise Against fans, they’ll hear a lot more modern Punk. … (It’s) awesome for us.”

According to the Bats, the only response that matters is that any listeners are “stoked at the end of the day.”

CANCER BATS play The Mad Hatter Jan. 29 with Anti-Flag, Aiden and Star Fucking Hipsters. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.

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