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Cancer Bats’ Psychic Jailbreak: hardcore kingpins as reliably awesome as ever

Album review: they may be down a member, but Cancer Bats haven’t let up the pace on new album Psychic Jailbreak

Cancer Bats Psychic Jailbreak album cover
(Image: © Bat Skull/New Damage)

Since arriving on the scene in the mid-00s, Cancer Bats have never really put a foot wrong. Even their divisive 2015 album, Searching For Zero, has its fans. And even then, they followed it up with the unifying The Spark That Moves in 2018. Yes, everyone loves Cancer Bats. But longtime fans may feel a slight sense of unease when approaching Psychic Jailbreak, as guitarist Scott Middleton, the man who gave them such an unmistakable tone thus far in their entire career, has departed the ranks of the band, and Cancer Bats are now a trio.

If that sounds worrying on paper, don’t fret; roughly eight seconds into the opening track, Radiate, you will probably find enough to put any fears to rest. It’s a classic-sounding Cancer Bats opener, all sandpaper howls from vocalist Liam Cormier, careering freight- train rhythms and with a riff thicker than a rugby player’s thigh. More of the same? Yeah, Cancer Bats certainly haven’t used Scott’s departure to reinvent themselves here. But they are just so good at the very idiosyncratic style they’ve perfected that you really can’t blame them for serving up another 11 bangers. And then you get to Keep On Breathing. Featuring a riff that sounds like Thin Lizzy getting doused in whiskey before being booted down the stairs at CBGB, it’s a song that could well slip in alongside Hail Destroyer or their cover of Sabotage as an all-time Cancer Bats riot-starter. Seven albums in, that has to be considered a result, doesn’t it?

The biggest compliment you can pay to Psychic Jailbreak is that, were you not to know, you’d assume Middleton was still in the band. It sounds that much like prime Cancer Bats. Or, reliably awesome in other words.

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.