Cancer Bats‘ rise to total dominance over the Canadian punk scene has been a more-or-less smooth ride. The only thing close to a misstep was 2015’s Searching for Zero, which saw the Bats experiment with a slower, sludgier sound. This is part of the reason that The Spark That Moves is such a delight. It shows Cancer Bats returning to their party-hardcore roots, while holding onto the best moments of their sludge phase: tighter riffing and an unpolished DIY aesthetic.
Simply put, any album that can boast tracks like “Brightest Day” and “Headwound” deserves the title of instant classic. This isn’t combative or violent music. Instead, it’s like Cancer Bats have finally succeeded in achieving every punk’s dream: transferring the energy of a live venue into their recordings.
Liam Cormier’s vocals have improved greatly, especially on “Bed Of Nails” (a song that sounds like something Billy Talent might have written if they listened to more Black Flag). But the real credit here goes to guitarist Scott Middleton. The stout six-string master has long been one of the unsung heroes of Canadian punk music, but on The Spark That Moves he really gets a chance to show what he can do. Cancer Bats love of Black Sabbath is well documented and it shines through in the riffs of “Winterpeg” and “Gatekeeper”.
There’s almost nothing bad to say about this album. Cancer Bats keep the Canadian underground vibe going with a cameo from Mobina Galore frontwoman Jenna Priestner on “Rattlesnake,” itself another example of the type of hook the Bats have always excelled at. The only tiny criticism could be of the decision to add a few piano notes to the beginning of “Fear Will Kill Us.” It’s an interesting idea, but ultimately one that teases rather then develops. It wouldn’t have changed anything to take it out, but it’s a tiny blip in an otherwise flawless punk album. Each and every song had great moments. It’s rare to find an album that can be listened to all the way through in the micro-attention-span world of 2018, but here we are.
The Spark That Moves isn’t just the best album of Cancer Bats career so far. It might be one of the best Canadian hardcore album ever released. More consistent then Hail Destroyer and catchier then Dead Set On Living, it’s a masterpiece. Run, don’t walk, to this one.
Written by Max Morin
*edited by Kate Erickson