“Co-headlining tours” are just a thing booking agents set up to stop bands’ respective managers throwing a hissy fit over where their charges are in the running order, right? The most recent players of this deadly game of brinkmanship are Cancer Bats and While She Sleeps. We sent Josh Graham along to the Glasgow leg of the tour to scope out which band came out on top.
6 things we learnt while watching Cancer Bats and While She Sleeps in Glasgow:
1) Belgian blackened hardcore outfit Oathbreaker are greeted politely by a half-filled ABC, and that’s about as good as it gets for them. The smart money for a support on this tour might have been on a band that could bring the m0sh in a big way – no sign of anything like that here. Opener ‘No Rest For the Weary’ makes no bones about their sound – with furious blast beats moving to eerie, quiet sections topped off with Caro Tanghe’s shrieking vocals; those in first few rows look utterly bewildered, and some even begin to chat through quieter moments. Perhaps wary of the fact that they are an unusual fit for this bill, they do very little to engage the crowd, adding further to their enigmatic presence.
2) Hundredth are a far more pertinent choice for such a bill, but with their melodic hardcore assault immediately opening the first pit of the night. Other than the rather catchy ‘Unravel’, though, there’s not much to write home about here; they stick to the genre’s hallmarks pretty rigidly. Hundredth are a firmly adequate warm-up for what’s to come – with vocalist Chadwick Johnson diving into the melee for closer ‘Soul’, they set the tone for the rest of the night well enough.
3) Given how difficult the last uncertain twelves months have been for While She Sleeps, had Brainwashed been anything less than brilliant the band could’ve easily faded from many fans’ collective memory. But as the house lights go down and five black silhouettes stand out against a striking red backdrop, the pent-up emotion emanating from both on and off the stage shows that out of sight hasn’t meant out of mind for the Sheffield five-piece. Lurching into ‘New World Torture’, it’s clear that the band have lost none of what made them special; shit doesn’t so much hit the fan as smash it to bits.
Tracks from This Is The Six still sound utterly relentless – with a particularly bludgeoning rendition of ‘Dead Behind The Eyes’ being elevated further by a guest spot from Bleed From Within’s Scott Kennedy – but tonight it’s Brainwashed’s turn to shine. Far more melodic and layered than its predecessor, standout moments include ‘Trophies of Violence’s Slipknot-esque fury, the climax to the album’s blistering title track, and the singalongs to monolithic set-closer ‘Four Walls’. It’s not hard to imagine these songs working a treat in a much bigger venue.
4) One thing is clear when Cancer Bats bound onto the stage to to ‘Arsenic in the Year of the Snake’: some albums are made to screamed in your face, and Searching For Zero is one of them. The über-Sabbathy ‘Beezelbubb’ and the album’s first single ‘Satellites’ both bring a new level of melodicism to the band’s set, and the minute-and-a-half tribute to the late Oderus Urungus with ‘All Hail’ pushes the pit to the limit.
5)“For those of you who don’t know, WE ARE THE MOTHERFUCKING CANCER BAAAATS.” screams frontman Liam Cormier, leading band and fans further into a soiree of sludge-tinged metalcore party-starters. If there any nerves about playing their biggest headline tour yet, they don’t show: the Torontonians have absolutely no problems filling the air with tar-thick grooves, and the infectiously energetic Cormier whips the crowd up a frenzy through iron-clad belter after iron-clad belter.
6) Both bands are currently on phenomenal form and almost impossible to separate, but it’s abundantly clear that only one will continue to rise. It’s unfortunate for Cancer Bats that they were the final headliner of the night – maybe things would have been different had the two bands swapped positions – as a decent chunk of the audience vacated the venue by the time they took to the stage. Despite such a strong set, a little over half the crowd were still present by the time they finished.
While She Sleeps on the other hand carry themselves like a band who have been headlining shows this size for ages, and still pack enough energy to make you feel like you’re at a sweatbox club. It’s also pretty heartening that those here to see them react to new single ‘Our Legacy’ just as strongly as they do to older favourite ‘Crows’. It’s funny to think that just four years ago the same band were playing in a cramped cafe down the road, and it’s not hard to imagine While She Sleeps climbing even higher in another four years.
Searching For Zero by Cancer Bats is out now via Noise Church / BMG Rights. Brainwashed, the latest album from While She Sleeps, is out now on Search and Destroy / Sony.