Cancer Bats celebrate 10 years of Hail Destroyer at Lee’s Palace

The Toronto metalcore band celebrated their breakthrough album while still looking forward. It helps that they dropped a surprise new one the same day.


THE CANCER BATS at Lee’s Palace, Friday, April 20. Rating: NNNN


The 10th anniversary album cycle is, by now, old hat. A record is reissued, played live in its entirety and, if we’re lucky, some insight into its creation is brought to light. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Yet Cancer Bats, whose second album Hail Destroyer was on the receiving end of this particular deep dive into nostalgia for the first of two nights at Lee’s Palace, managed to acknowledge the occasion without succumbing to inevitable fan service. Yes, the album was played front to back. But it was also prefaced by The Spark That Moves, the band’s sixth full-length, which surprise dropped the same day. So the night was looking to the future as much as it was to the past.

Singer Liam Cormier hit the stage with his arms raised, tongue out, striking a triumphant pose for the sold out crowd. The band – Cormier, guitarist Scott Middleton, bass player Jaye Schwarzer and drummer Mike Peters – whipped through a few nuggets from their catalogue before diving into the dozen tracks that make up Hail Destroyer. “It changed our lives and we hope it changed yours,” said Cormier, noting the great distances fans had travelled – Chicago, Ohio, Sudbury – to see the show.

The opening title track sent an already frenetic crowd in front of the stage into overdrive. That’s when the stage diving really kicked into high gear, and it wouldn’t stop throughout the night. But it was Deathsmarch with its rallying cry chorus of “Hey world, you’ll never break me” that got the other two-tiers of fans screaming along.

None of the singers who guested on the original record (Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath, Gallows/Alexisonfire’s Wade McNeil, Billy Tallent’s Ben Kowalewicz) made an appearance, but Cormier did haul one fan out of the crowd to sing Sorceress with him (dude killed) after acknowledging that this was the man’s 48th Cancer Bats gig. “I haven’t even been to 48 Cancer Bat shows!” joked the singer.

While their absence did nothing to dull the performance (and all three of those vocalists lead busy lives with their own bands) their presence would have been a nice hat tip to the unprecedented mainstream success Cancer Bats have achieved (international acclaim, Juno nominations, MuchMusic video rotation) while playing their own uncompromising form of metalcore. That success was sparked largely by this album.

“We were just four assholes happy to be on tour,” said Cormier before finishing off their main set with album closer Zed’s Dead, Baby. “A lot of people got behind that idea.”

They returned to acknowledge the new record. Opener Gatekeeper and Space And Time fit right in with the material they’d been playing all night befitting of the band’s continued creative forward momentum. Nevertheless the group’s cover of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage and night capper Bricks and Mortar were the encore highlights leaving both band and crowd exhausted.

music@nowtoronto.com | @IanGormely

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