Review Summary: Think punk is dead? Cancer Bats prove otherwise.
To me Searching For Zero is the album the Cancer Bats should have brought out after Hail Destroyer. After the disappointing Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones and fan pleaser Dead Set On Living the band were becoming a little too predictable for my liking and I almost let this album slip me by. The Cancer Bats fifth studio outing takes Liam and co. to a much rawer and darker place.
When I heard Searching For Zero was being produced by legendary producer Ross Robinson, the man responsible for some of NU-metals biggest records from Limp Bizkit, Korn and Slipknot, as well as some of post-hardcore’s finest albums from bands such as At The Drive-In and Glassjaw, I knew the band would create something exciting and different. Ross is infamous for his unorthodox methods of pulling out the darkest emotions and fears from every member, which brings out a unique and genuine feel to every album Ross is involved in.
The Cancer Bats will be the first to tell you they aren’t afraid to show their Black Sabbath influenced doom riffs, which have been at the base of the band’s sound since the beginning, and Searching For Zero certainly brings this style to the forefront of the bands savaging sound in songs True Zero, Beelzebub, and most obviously, Buds. But what really makes this album so punishing is its production: intentionally sounding like the earliest records of the D.C hardcore/punk era of Bad Brains and Minor Threat. Searching For Zero is relentlessly raw and will definitely send the band back into the underbelly of the Metal scene. Casual listeners of the genre or fans of the more polished latter Bats records will certainly find it hard to swallow this LP.
The album comes across to me more as a message or statement from the band, an attempt to prove you don’t know them as well as you might think. The albums opening track Satellites is false hope for those expecting a continuation from Dead Set On Living, and is easily the albums most accessible track on the album, that uses the sound well known by the band with - a reoccurring theme in metal at the moment, obviously used to make live shows more fun to the fan - chanting shouts in the chorus. When I heard this song as the single I almost gave up hope for the band, but when you hear Searching For Zero in full you quickly realise this track is used to ease the listener in.
What you’ll be mostly receiving during this 30 minute long LP is raw, grimy hardcore punk. Devils Blood and All Hail are where the punk influences shine best; Liam’s vocal chants and screams over the razor-sharp fuzz guitar tones of hard punk riffs are some of the most exciting things I’ve heard from these guys since the Hail Destroyer era. The album isn’t a one trick pony either, trippy elements are hidden in Searching’s 10 tracks, and are drip fed to you during the early stages of the album, but it’s when you get to the last two tracks, Dusted and No More Bull***, where the band really go all out to sound as dirty and unpleasant as possible. Both tracks mix the punishing hardcore punk elements and the doomey slow chucking riffs the band are known for together, while Liam’s vocals cross between screaming roars and reverb covered talking, which create an unpleasant atmosphere. Both tracks push the band to completely new and exciting places for the future.
Overall, this album has reminded me why I loved the Cancer Bats. They were getting quite a name for themselves all around the world as an established hardcore/metal act and have gained a solid following. The band could have continued to create the same sort of records they have been doing, but the move these guys made with this album shows that punk is still very much alive. Make no mistake, while this does sound like a Cancer Bats album it isn’t for the faint hearted. More importantly this is an album that proves the Cancer Bats aren’t afraid to watch their empire burn to the ground so they can build it back up again. And frankly, it doesn’t get more punk than that.