Cancer Bats - Dead Set on Living (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Cancer Bats

Dead Set on Living (2012)

Metal Blade Records

Dead Set on Living, Cancer Bats' fourth album, sees the band continuing where they left off with 2010's Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones. While they started out nearly 10 years ago as a convincing hybrid of metal and punk, they've been leaning further into shredding territory with each subsequent album. Dead Set on Living is unapologetically heavy, especially on guitar. They're not full on metal, at least not to the point that would cause punk or hardcore fans to abandon ship. But they are really, really heavy.

Dead Set on Living not only sees Cancer Bats more aggressive musically, but also in the darkest place they've ever been thematically. Cancer Bats have always touched on themes such as death and destruction. But although they've never focused on sunshine and lollipops, Cancer Bats' vocalist Liam Cormier has always laced his lyrics with bits about the excitement of youth's reckless potential, screaming orders to "be sweet or die." Dead Set on Living opens with "R.A.T.S." and its undeniable dark chorus "There's a special place in hell for people like you / There's a special place in hell for the shit you've done" establishes such darkness.

That the record wasn't supposed to be so dark is interesting. Cormier told Exclaim in a March 2012 cover story that "I was going to write the most positive record ever...Positive until I die." Then Cormier's best friend had a heart attack (entirely too young, caused by drug and alcohol abuse) and he found himself thinking about death in a new, very real way. It's within this context that you can frame Dead Set on Living in order to make sense of its anger, fear and anxiety, as well as its urgency and passion. But then there's the album's title. Dead Set on Living isn't exactly a sign of retreat. There's also the album closer "New World Alliance," on which Cormier screams "Hopeless now ends, new world alliance / Open your eyes, invert your mind / Reject the cast we are our own masters / Reject it all we are our own masters," signaling that the negativity that helped shape the album isn't the end. Of course, this only makes sense. One of the most appealing characteristics of Cancer Bats is that they're having a blast and they love every moment of every show. Under all the aggression there's a lot of love.