Thinking back to prior times the Canadian southern-rock-punk contortionists have graced the capital city of fair England, it is remarkably difficult to establish whether they ever truly went away. As their world-renowned work ethic sees the quartet almost continuously on the road, it is one thing to admire and respect their dedication to their art – yet it is another to decipher whether there is any need to see the undoubtedly tight set once again. If a band is consistently on tour, is there really any point in being at every show?
Fortunately, and largely unsurprisingly, the answer for the brimming hordes at the lavish Koko is “yes”. If anything, tonight’s performance indicates that not only are Cancer Bats an impressive force to watch, but they also appeal to a significantly diverse audience. As Empress, Brutality Will Prevail and Turbowolf appeal to their factions within the crowd, Liam Cormier and co. evidently succeed in pulling everyone together into a unified audience.
Not necessarily an easy feat when considering the divergence between Empress’ staggeringly ominous tones and BWP’s bare boned hardcore – the former combining frontman Ollie Loring’s Thrice-esque vocals with earth-shuddering instrumentation that deafens and enthralls in equal measures. Although their stage-presence leaves little to shout about, their refreshingly atypical music does most of the talking.
Brutality Will Prevail, dealing with the recent departure of vocalist Ajay Jones, show that former Breaking Point frontman Louis Gauthier holds suitable thunderous vocal chords. As the screams whip a small proportion of the crowd into a bewildering display of flailing limbs, those established fans of BWP find plenty to enjoy. Outside the inner-circle, some may find less to relate to as the band’s ferocity is rendered somewhat pedestrian by the performances on either side.
Flamboyance and eccentricity merge with musical expertise and vocal talent with Turbowolf centre stage. Donning an eye-melting shirt Chris Georgiadis treats the venue to an almost perfect vocal performance while retaining his frontman antics taken directly from the 1970s. Standout tracks ‘A Rose For The Crows’ and ‘Read + Write’ assimilate the various instruments on stage – including the trademark synths – into something truly spectacular.
Pulling this all together – from the thundering reverb to the unembellished hardcore – is taken in their stride as Cancer Bats appeal to the room with domineeringly heavy punk-rock. Cormier is visibly humbled by the impressive array of onlookers crammed onto every level of the former theatre, treating the crowds to a setlist with moments from their entire back catalogue. As each track is delivered faultlessly it is easy to infer the effects of a regular touring cycle; both the band and audience completely enraptured by a performance they have most likely seen or delivered before.
Abdicating their encore in favour of momentum, the closing trio of ‘Sabotage’, ‘Hail Destroyer’ and ‘Dead Set On Living’ favourite ‘R.A.T.S.’ sees the crowd explode with rigorous applause and almost incessant chanting. Cancer Bats may be on our shores more regularly than their counterparts, but tonight that does not make their performance any less cataclysmic.