Searching for Zero, the latest full length from Canadian post-hardcore heavyweights Cancer Bats maintains their modern southern metalcore meets early hardcore sound while breathing much needed new life into the formula. On their previous records, each member’s role was clear and immovable. On Searching for Zero the drums and bass are still as heavy and fuzzy as ever, but lead vocalist Liam Cormier and guitarist Scott Middleton experiment with something of a role reversal. In the past, Liam’s vocals acted as more of a rhythm instrument than anything else. The rhythmic cadence of his screaming would make the band’s groovy moments sound that much heavier, and in their fast-paced moments he blended into the whirlwind.
On the album’s first single, True Zero, the band experiments with what can only be described as the closest they’ve ever come to a typical catchy chorus. Surprisingly, the element that makes the chorus so catchy is Liam’s voice both in the chorus and in the verses. In the chorus itself he uses a voice that is as close to clean singing we’ve ever heard from him. The chorus then seems even more melodic next to the incredible force and volume of his screaming in the verses. The melodic parts aren’t a wild transition, thankfully. This isn’t like when Alex of Atreyu decided to sing. There’s still a satisfying roughness in his voice but there’s a clear aim for melody and a dark beauty.
This frees Scott Middleton to experiment a little more and move away from his previous role as the band’s main melody maker. His riffs on the album are static-y and occasionally border on ambient, a shift cleverly hinted at in the opening moments of the album on Satellites. While these moments start to feel few and far between after multiple listens, the initial impression is refreshing.
There is still plenty of the classic Cancer Bats sound on Searching for Zero. Beezlebub is a clear, if much darker, descendant of Lucifer’s Rocking Chair from their second album Hail Destroyer. Its slow southern and Pantera-esque groove and Scott’s Zakk Wylde style guitar squeals are all over this song. Liam’s melodic approach makes a reappearance on the song and creates a melancholy atmosphere vastly different from the band’s usual limited emotional range of blinding rage or posi vibes that occasionally flirt with condescension.
The lyrical content thankfully contains much less moral superiority than usual, the only obvious exception being Cursed with a Conscience. Musically the song incorporates a lot of ambient guitar noises in the beginning but eventually shifts into a typical groove and then moves back into noisy weirdness as the song fades out. As if to make up for this experimentation the following track All Hail, is a straightforward hardcore song played mostly at a breakneck speed. There is one slower groovy section but even there Liam maintains a quick delivery that maintains a feverish tempo.
Overall, Searching for Zero is the type of album you’d hope a band like Cancer Bats would have the sense and desire to release at this point in their career. I applaud their ability to try new things while staying true to the sound that attracted their fans to them at the beginning.
Searching for Zero is available now.