When it was recently announced that Cancer Bats where releasing an acoustic record, the main feeling from the scene was more intrigue than shock. After all, given the surprises we’ve collectively endured this year, it’s safe to say we’ve all become perfectly accustomed to events most unprecedented indeed. But still, You’ll Never Break Us: Separation Sessions Vol. 1 is still highly unanticipated in it’s contents. Whilst the notion of the acoustic Cancer Bats may conjure images of the band removing the bone snapping density from their sound to expose the inherent fun that lies beneath, the bulk of this record is far more wistful and contemplative than expected. Instead of rowdy acoustic punk ragers best suited for campfire lit nights of debauchery, what we have here is a record for those quiet moments of reflection that come with the wispy dawn.
This isn’t to say that Cancer Bats have cleansed the filth, sweat and grime from their sound. This EP still very much resonates the same level of energy that’s synonymous with their sound and ethos, albeit in a new focused fashion. ‘Deathsmarch To A New Acoustic Beat’ and the folk dusted ambience of ‘Road Sick Sick So Stay Home’ see’s vocalist Liam Cormier substituting his larynx shredding bellows for seasonal autumnal crooning all whilst Scott Middleton and Jaye Schwarzer replace their sweat coated guitars for more rustic instruments of folk ambience. It’s a far more pastoral version of the band, one that would be difficult to visualise in more typical circumstances, but one that allows one to appreciate the messages that formed the tracks without being lashed by punk fury. It’s hard not to find optimism for the future within the folk fervour of the acoustic version of ‘Road Sick’, something that may have been impossible within the original version of the track.
Understandably, ‘Black Metal Bicycle My Blues Riffs Away’ see’s the band once again dipping their toes back into musical malevolence with nocturnal acoustic fretwork, but the double damage of ‘Darkness Lite’ and ‘Bed Of Nails Dreams Of Tambourines’ see’s the band inject their acoustic sound with the energy that made their work so fatally alluring originally. The marching riff of the former track combined with the-gangs-all-here group vocals alongside the haste and urgency of the latter makes these ideal tracks to croon around a cedar scented campfire with close friends in seclusion.
However, what truly alleviates these tracks and places them above the conventional expectations of acoustic re-workings is the additional layers of instrumentation and the fluid percussion of Mike Peters. Withheld, yet furiously tight drumming and wonderfully implanted organ-like keys animate the re-imagined version of ‘Bed Of Nails’ and truly makes it irresistible lovable in the fashion it channels the fervent energy of the source material in a new oak scented fashion. In relation, the aforementioned ‘Darkness Lite’ see’s the group replace the breakdown of the original track with borderline rurally pagan distortion and shoegaze. It’s a truly surprising moment, but one that’s extremely welcome in the way it mirrors the majesty and mystery of the frozen north that the group call home.
As the moonlit howls of ‘Lucifers Slightly Less Rocking Chair’ fade into the ice and as the distortion of 'Bastards Waltz Recorded Live From TV' seep into the evergreens, it would be a fallacy to suggest that the group have only created this as a way to remain relevant during the pandemic. Given the dedication to overhauling their sound whilst retaining their wild asthenic, it evidentiality appears that Cancer Bats have been earning to create a release of this complexion for years now. Focused, driven and animated in the way it conjures wicked folk ambience, this release see’s the band transplant their energetic haste for revelry into a whole new genre. If their first stray into acoustic territories is this good, Vol. 2 of the Separation Sessions can’t come soon enough.
You'll Never Break Us: Separation Sessions Vol. 1 is released
December 18th via Bat Skull Records / New Damage Records.
All proceeds from sales will go towards Water First NGO
to help bring purified water to indigenous Canadian communities.