Three years since the release of their last full-length, Dead Set On Living, Toronto hardcore lifer’s Cancer Bats have returned sounding as visceral and vital as ever on Searching for Zero. A bone-crushing blend of hardcore and metal styles held together by a confronting yet uplifting lyrical narrative Searching For Zero is the sound of a band first deconstructing and then rebuilding themselves, emerging from the process a rejuvenated entity.
Recorded with Ross Robinson (Korn, At The Drive In, Slipknot), Searching For Zero sees Cancer Bats inject several new elements to their trademark sound, with cleaner vocal tones and melodic guitar work providing added depth to the mosh-inciting madness.
With the album just released, vocalist Liam Cormier chatted with Music Feeds about all things Searching For Zero, providing insight into the collective psyche of Cancer Bats, touching on the bands legacy, their future intentions and on how finding their own personal zero during the writing process resulted in their most authentic and acerbic record yet.
Watch: Cancer Bats – True Zero
1. Searching For Zero seems to be quite a different beast to your previous work. For those who haven’t heard it, how would you describe the album?
Liam Cormier: This new album sounds a lot different from previous CB albums for sure. The production is way more raw than it’s ever been. We recorded as much of the album live as we could and it translates into sounding like the wildest, sweaty, basement show you’ve ever been to. Song wise we’ve also tried to really push ourselves into new territories and styles. There’s still the classic mix of punk, hardcore, thrash and stoner metal but everything just pushed that much further from where we left off with DSOL.
2. Searching For Zero features more clean, or cleaner, vocal tones. Was this something you actively looked to change up or did it evolve naturally?
LC: I don’t know if I would say clean haha but it is me being more melodic in a lot of places. Whilst touring Cancer Bats, Axe Wound and Bat Sabbath [Cormier’s other projects], I really learned how I could push my voice in a lot of different ways. So from that intense year of touring, when it came time to start writing, I had all of these new ideas of where I could go vocally. Everyone was really stoked while we were jamming so I just tried to push it more and more.
3. Searching For Zero also stands out as your heaviest, most technically proficient record to date. How did you manage to capture such a brutal sound?
LC: I’d say for as much as we want to experiment with new ideas, at the core we love being in a heavy band and playing songs that make us want to go off and bang our heads. So even when we’re writing a song like Beelzebub that has such a different feel, we still think about playing it live and how we want it to crush along side all of the other bangers we have.
I think it’s that current that runs through all our songs and keeps things sounding like a Bats album. I will also say that a huge credit goes to Ross Robinson, who understands the importance of crushing songs. His whole goal was to record an album that would stand up just as heavy as the live show and he knows all the tricks in the world to pull off that. He’s seriously the master of all vibes!
Watch: Cancer Bats – Satellites
4. How much influence did Ross Robinson have on the overall sound of the record? How did you know he was the right fit?
LC: Haha, I guess I already started answering that in the last question. I got to speak on the phone with Ross to see if he was even interested in working with us, and in that conversation he said to me “I’m not interested in making heavy albums for the sake of making something heavy, I don’t want to record Roots: Part 2, I want to push you guys to record the best record you can and to have it be just as heavy with emotion as it is with sounds.”
I got off the phone and went back into band practice and was like “Ross is our dude, he totally gets it and this is going to be amazing.” I just knew from that quick conversation that we had already written the heaviest songs emotionally that we ever had and here was a producer already calling that out as the most important element of the recording, it just instantly made sense. Then once we were all together and hanging out in his house on the beach we were all bros right off the bat, we knew it was all going to work out. I’m so glad we made this album with Ross, there’s no way we could have worked with anyone else and had the same result.
5. Thematically, the album appears to be focused on finding your own personal zero and building a better, more honest and true representation of yourself from that low base. Is that a reflection on Cancer Bats at this moment in time?
LC: I couldn’t have put it better myself! Coming off of so many heavy things that took place in the touring of DSOL, this album for me was a real way to deal with all of those things and to even move forward from it. Also a huge part was even just being a band for 10 years and what that meant moving forward, where none of us wanted to just put out another record just because its our job and that’s what were obligated to do. So it was really important for us moving forward to make sure that we were doing something for those right reasons, because we had something to contribute, say and then wanting to share that with everyone.
6. Tell us about Bat Sabbath. Was there a bleed of influences between Bat Sabbath and Cancer Bats?
LC: I totally attribute a lot of the vibe on this album coming from learning as many Sabbath songs as we have. Not even necessarily in riffs but almost more so in song structure and arrangements, where Sabbath never followed formal verse/chorus type rules but still wrote super solid songs with amazing parts. I think there’s so much to be learned from dissecting all your favourite songs and seeing how they work and what makes them awesome.
Listen: Bat Sabbath – War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
7. You’ve been going for over 10 years now, which is no mean feat in punk and hardcore terms. Is this something you consider often? Can you explain your longevity and relative success?
LC: Yeah it’s crazy to think that we’ve been going for this long. To be honest we’ve just looked up and realized it haha! We’ve just been touring so long and working hard that it was never the plan to be a band for X amount of time, it was more that we just wanted to tour and have a blast. When we first started touring we didn’t have places to live or anything holding us back so it was pretty much just diving straight in and living in a van for years, and then at that point we were just caught up in the momentum of everything and that carried us until 2013.
8. Canadian bands seem to be particularly adept at surviving, with yourselves, Comeback Kid, Propagandhi and Fucked Up, among others, managing to establish and maintain careers in a very competitive scene. What is it about Canadian punk bands that differentiates you from other scenes?
LC: I’m not sure what it is about us Canadians and hanging around so long! I know with all the bands you’ve mentioned they’ve managed to progress and keep things interesting all these years, where people want to hear what’s next from them. I feel like we see that and try to follow the same approach. But I think that’s no different than looking at Converge, ETID, Dillinger or Mastodon and seeing what they’ve done. In that sense I think we’re just all heshers of the universe trying to keep ripping as long as possible!
9. You’re notorious for inspiring total chaos in a live setting. Is it getting difficult to maintain that energy?
LC: It’s easy to want to go crazy every night when everyone is so fired up for the show. I think if everyone was just standing around it would be a lot harder, but we’re lucky to have the gnarliest people show up every night, so it just goes off and takes care of itself. There’s no way you can help but get caught up in all of it. I think people know that we’ll be going off so they can get wasted and let it all hang out, which I looooove.
10. Cancer Bats have always had a strong relationship with Australian fans. When will we see you touring down under in support of Searching For Zero?
LC: We’re trying to sort that out now! We love it down in Australia and can’t wait to come and rip as soon as we can! We’ve met so many amazing people and had some of our favourite shows of all time down in Australia, so trust me when I say that it’s been top of my list sorting this out and getting down as soon as possible. Hopefully we’ll have some news soon about all those shows! Keep checking social media every 16hrs for updates!
Cancer Bats’ latest LP ‘Searching For Zero’ is out now via New Damage.
Watch: Cancer Bats Interview @ Soundwave 2013