Cancer Bats were one of the first hardcore bands I ever got into, and their first four albums I consider some of the best hardcore albums of the twenty first century- and possibly all time. Last year they released The Spark That Moves, an album rightfully lauded as a return to form after the unfairly maligned, stylistic departure of Searching For Zero. Quite frankly Cancer Bats could be a terrible live band and still have a spot as one of the greatest hardcore bands of all time.
But before Cancer Bats, Nepalese metal mob Underside are opening the show. Musically they cover a lot of ground: death, groove, thrash and metalcore come through in their sound; sadly, the intricacies that make their debut- Satan In Your Stereo- so interesting don’t really come across to the audience and instead we’re just battered with decent- but not spectacular riffs. The energy of the band is high but not anything remarkable, though there is a bit of a disjoint between how much the band is giving and how little the audience seems to be engaging. On a couple of songs someone dressed as- what I assume is- some sort of Nepalese demon dancing around on stage which really adds something visually. Hopefully when they play Download later this year they’ll have a better sound, and the crowd will give them more energy.
Next up were Bleed From Within, who were received with a huge amount of excitement when they arrived on the stage. Launching into a set of punishing metalcore songs, largely drawn from last years Era, they are in full control of the crowd, causing a wall of death the second song in. The new songs are massive anthems that break up the more brutal older tracks and cause a huge amount of crowd participation. The crowd is fully engaged here, head banging and moshing throughout the whole set. Having vocals that are purely screamed makes it even more impressive at the size of the hooks casually being thrown out by the band. Drummer, Ali Richardson, is on fantastic form, combining incredibly technical parts with neck snapping grooves, it’s a tour deforce that shouldn’t go unrecognised. Sure, some of the stage patter is a tad generic, but that doesn’t detract too much. It’s a set that wouldn’t be disappointing from a headliner.
Most other bands would be scared to follow set like that. Cancer bats look like they couldn’t care less, they know they’re about to tear Rescue Rooms a new one. Bounding onto stage and launching into some of the best hardcore songs ever written is impressive, even more so when the band are this full of energy and they don’t let up to the last note of the last song. The sound is a bit ropey for the first few songs, until frontman Liam Cormier flips his monitor to face the crowd at a request from a fan. Even still Cormier’s distinctive, high screams sometimes get lost in the massive low end- but frankly, it barely matters, the crowd know every word to every song. The set is a perfect mix of songs from across their career, though slightly heavier on tracks from The Spark… than any other album, and that just demonstrates how good material from Searching… is as it doesn’t sound out of place at all, as well as showing how well the new tracks stand up to the classics. But ultimately it’s still the classic stuff that’s the highlight. Hail Destroyer’s “children of nothing this is our song”, break and R.A.T.S “there’s a special place in hell for motherfuckers like you” final chorus are shouted back with jubilation. The energy hits a peak as during their cover of The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage (incidentally one of the best rock/metal covers of a non-rock song) when Underside’s drummer- Nishant Hagjer- takes over duties on the kit half way through, in true punk rock style. It’s a move that met with huge enthusiasm from the audience and went off without a hitch. Lucifer’s Rocking chair has a riff so massive I’m sure many necks we’re sprained banging along. Even the more generic bits of stage banter, like asking people to express support for Underside (“they came all the way from fucking Nepal! Do you know how far away that is? You guys won’t even drive to fucking Leeds!) and Bleed From Within (“they’ve do all the things you like most about metal and hardcore. If only there was a name for that, but there isn’t”), are elevated by Cormier’s humour and naturally likeable demeanour. If musical quality was the only thing that mattered in the industry Cancer Bats would be headlining arenas by now.