Cancer Bats: Shit got real dark with the last album

Cancer Bats performing live
(Image credit: Will Ireland)

After the lukewarm response to 2015’s Searching For Zero, which dialled down their metallic tone for a more old-school punk approach, Canada’s premier hardcore warriors Cancer Bats sprung a new album on us from outta nowhere blast month. We caught up with frontman Liam Cormier to find out what the story is behind The Spark That Moves, how they managed to keep it completely under wraps, and to reminisce on how much his life has changed in the decade that has passed since the release of their classic Hail Destroyer album.

So, you’ve got a new album out right now. We weren’t expecting that!

“I know man, we just thought we should do something different that wasn’t going, like, ‘Oh, hey guys, the new album is coming and here’s a pre-order bundle.’ I always get frustrated by that. I’m just like, ‘Gimme it now! I wanna hear the music!’ It’s like saying to someone, ‘Come over on this day and I’ll be cooking brownies for you.’ If you’re telling me you’re making brownies, I want the brownies now.”

And you were all doing some secret baking…

“Exactly! You’ve come round and we’ve just gone ‘Hey, by the way, we made you some brownies!’ And you get to eat them now. It was hard to be secretive, because it’s almost harder to not post stuff on social media these days than it is to let everyone know you’re in the studio. That’s just the way the world is now, but we made a point to hold back on that stuff.”

Was it hard to keep it all under wraps once you sent the album to print?

“Nah, not so much. We were lucky that all the guys at the printing press that did the vinyl were big Cancer Bats fans. So, I said I would go down and help pack the vinyl and meet the guys who worked there. It was so cool; they were just stoked to have me down there, which is very flattering, and really bought into the idea.”

How does The Spark That Moves differ from Searching For Zero?

“Well, I think it’s a reflection on where we are as a band now. On the last album, shit got real dark, but now we are in a good place again and we want the music to reflect that. The last album was going for that hardcore, floor-show punk vibe, but we have to understand that we don’t just play those sorts of venues anymore. And this record, we went to play the bangers. When we do a festival set, we just play all of the songs that we have videos for. So we were like, ‘Let’s just try and write an album full of those songs.’”

Speaking of bangers, you guys have been celebrating 10 years of Hail Destroyer

“Yeah, I know, right?! Where’s that time gone? It has been really cool; we played The Underworld in London on the Hail Destroyer cycle and sold it out, and so to come back and sell out four nights at that venue a decade later was a real, ‘Woah!’ moment. When you’re in a band you sometimes don’t realise how much progress you’ve made, but we came off the Bat Sabbath tour and it felt real good, and we announced those shows and they just sold immediately. It’s so cool.”

When you hit these milestones as a band it must make you look back and feel pretty proud of what you’ve done?

“For sure. For me, it was weird to look back at that time and think of where I was and where I am now. I was basically homeless when we recorded that record. I was living in a tent in my friend’s loft! We literally finished recording the record and then went out on tour with Gallows and just stayed on the road because it was like, ‘I don’t have anywhere else to go, I might as well keep on the road!’ And now I have a house! So that’s what that record did. It was the first time people really took notice of us, and it’s led me to the point where I actually have this house around me that I’m talking to you from right now. And it was when we got Jaye [R. Schwarzer] on bass as well, even though he didn’t play on the album, it was when we solidified that line-up that we’ve still got a decade later. Not many bands do that, so that’s very satisfying.” 

The Spark That Moves is out now and available to buy from Amazon.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.