The Hang of Music: Smiling Politely

Well, what started out as a complete and total failure to manage my time has since turned into a week long holiday for me. Or for you, as a holiday from me. Whichever way you look at it, I’ve been fully enjoying my holiday time, but now, on twelfth night, the holiday period is now well and truly over.

As such, I have Cancer Bats for you, singing songs from “HAIL DESTROYER”. I sure know how to get you gifts, don’t I?

The last few weeks I’ve been doing requests and recommendations. The first week of this setlist, I talked about the Manic Street Preachers, a la Madame Mia. Last time around, it was The Coral for Princess Phoebe. This week’s, though, comes from Allmighty Alec, who first introduced the Cancer Bats to me at a Christmas party. I thought their name sounded funny, and was swayed by that. Nuff said.

So let it be known – if you want me to review a band, just talk about them around me loud enough, and I’ll get the hint.

So when I got my hands on this album, all I’d heard of them was a few snatches of their cover of Sabotage, a song which I’m not particularly familiar with anyway. To hear it, find the link on my last apology on the matter – I’ve got writing to do! So on with the show!

That wasn’t the only reason why I was tempted to give these guys a listen, either. Superficial though it may seem, I was partly sold on these albums by the album artwork. They obviously put a lot of effort into those too. The art is so nice, it makes me want to own the LP, so I can see the full huge version.

The compass on the front just looks like the alethiometer. Just sayin'...

The newer albums are better, too.

BUT onto the actual music. The vocals, first off. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard any Alexisonfire*, but if not, go and listen to “.44 Calibur Love Letter”. Or don’t, if you don’t like very harsh vocals, I guess. Cancer Bats are a bit like that. As you can tell from the songs above and below, the vocals are screaming, really, rather than singing, very much of the sort that I associate with Alexisonfire. It isn’t really my favourite kind of singing – I like to hear the notes – but it is hard to maintain and perform, and for that I have to take my hat off to the singer.

They also remind me a bit of Gallows, which is why I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that they appear on the Gallows second album, Grey Britain. That is an expert bit of collaboration, though.

“PMA ’til I’m DOA”. Hmmm… “PMA ’til I’m DOA”, what are we going to do with you? Positive Mental Attitudes really aren’t your typical fare for a metal group. Angry nihilism, sure, undaunted pessimism, OK, but not maintaining a glass-half-full approach at all costs. Yet this seems to be a theme, what with Deathsmarch’s lyrics telling the world to “give me your best shot!… you’ll never break me!”, and their forthcoming 4th album “Dead Set on Living”.

Another little space oddity is how well crafted the lyrics are. I’m going to sound incredibly patronising here, but for a metal band screaming their lyrics at the top of their lungs, they’re impressively verbose.**

On the basis of this alone, I’m not surprised that the band have managed to glean a following. It’s usually on the back of such odd little quirks that bands gain their followings. It’s how people explain their taste to others: “they’re not like other Y bands; they do X”, and for Cancer Bats, this has to be their attitude and the care they put into at least the words of the lyrics. They don’t try to be hyper verbose, but they actually have a care for using the right word in the right place. I really like that.

Sometimes, to get these images, I just type in a feeling, such as "words are good", and see what comes up.

However… I’m saddened to say this. I mean, they’ve got everything going for them; metal, lyrics, art, quirk, Canada. But sadly, I can’t say this is a great album. I really want to! But the fact of the matter is, the actual music is, and must be paramount. And my feelings about the music are ambivalent at best. It’s all very technically proficient, sure. They can play well, and they’re very tight. They’d need to be.

It just isn’t really interesting enough.

OK, Sorceress is alright. But none of it so far has had my heart leaping like it should. It just doesn’t make me want to sing, bang my head or play air guitar.

One mitigating factor, though: this is the sort of thing that might actually work a lot better in a club or live. Loud, brash and all that, you might be able to be dragged along with the spirit, and enjoy it so much more. But, just as Yahtzee refuses to review a game based on its multiplayer, as anything can be good with friends, I must review based on what’s on the album, and what’s on the album just isn’t enough.

* Is it “Alex is on fire” or “Alexis – on fire!”?

** Or maybe I just haven’t listened properly to other bands.

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Posted on January 5, 2012, in Music, The Hang of Music and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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