I can’t think of a band with a more apt name than Cancer. There may be times where Cancer will take hold again and relapses happen but thankfully (as with the band Cancer) motivation, determination, the will to live and strength will prevail. Cancer releases their first album in thirteen years and I must admit, I did not care much for their more recent output. Having reached massive heights with the James Murphy era Death Shall Rise album in 1991, I was delighted to hear that the band had reformed once again and releasing a new album but this time with the three original members: John Walker, Carl Stokes and Ian Buchanan for the first time since 1995.
As much as I went into this with an open mind, I could not resist wanting to review the album as I am a long time fan of the band, so I just had to hide behind the couch and press play on the death deck and hope for the best. Almost immediately did I peak my head up from behind my couch as Cancer were playing what they should have been playing after Sins of Mankind and that, ladies and gentlemen, is good old fashioned death metal.
“Down the Steps” starts off lightly enough but then the down-tuned guitars and John’s growls make me smile from ear to ear. Cancer were never going to win anything on the technicality stakes and just write songs for each and every one of us to bang our heads to and this opener was one of those. Cancer for the first time in their history has released a lyric video for the next song “Garotte” which is as brutal a song as you will get. John’s vocals went as low as they could go and his vocals were always a stand out point in Cancer for me and he doesn’t let the team down. Carl with his Motörhead style drumming and backed by the ever reliable Ian on bass, this is certainly one of the highlights of the album.
“Ball Cutter” is next where again the song as at the fast end of the spectrum for Cancer. There is a hint of Bolt Thrower and Benediction in there too and Cancer always knew how to have a catchy chorus. What was an added bonus on this song was having a guest solo from Jonas Renske of Katatonia, who added that extra touch of class. This is once again a very tasty slab of old school death metal played at its best. “Organ Snatcher” could easily have been a song off Death Shall Rise and certainly got this head wind milling. If you know how the song “Burning Casket” went back in the day, then this is not too dissimilar. Of course, it’s nothing original but if it gets you moshing your ass off then it’s a sure-fire winner.
“The Infocidal” starts off slowly but very quickly livens up the pace. These guys are angry on this record and it’s most welcome return to form with possibly the best song on the album. Time changes, building up the tempo and growl along parts are the order of the day with this one and it sure will be played live. John has really matured into a fluid guitarist and his solos are impressive. “Half Man, Half Beast” starts off with some choirs but then everything goes much deeper when the guitars kick in and
John probably sounding the lowest that he can go due to the slow to mid-paced speed of the song, he has had to sink to the depths of his lungs with this one. There are elements of Benediction and Obituary which is an obvious winner in any death metaller’s books. “Crimes so Vile” felt like it was an instrumental track with the length of time before vocals came in, which showcases how tight the band are. When John does come in with his vocals, it is accompanied by a riff that I feel is the best of the album and I could not tell you hard I moshed. Old school mid-paced death metal with a Cancer like chorus and John once again showing that he has upped the ante when it comes to writing a decent guitar solo. “Thou Shall Kill” got my air drumsticks out in unison with Carl and along with the riffs; this could very well be the best song on the album for me. It is not a cover of a Malevolent Creation song of the same name, but it is an equally as crushing one with its dense chugging riffs and thundering bass lines from Ian, this is hands down showing that Cancer are back. This will certainly be a crowd-pleaser when played live.
Title track “Shadow Gripped” is next and is a song which will grow on you. While for me it is nowhere near the best song of the album, it is still worthy of a listen. Closing track “Disposer” distances itself from the rest of the album with its more clear vocals and slightly industrial feel before John reassures that Cancer know that they have to play death metal and returns with his growls. The song only really made it for me towards the end where we really hear Ian for the first time clearly and was cool to hear him play.
This album pleased me so much as one of my boyhood favourite bands have came back and returned to form. This is the album they should have released after Death Shall Rise and I encourage each hardened death and extreme metal fan to give Cancer a chance once again. They have shown that they have matured into a forceful act once again and I hope that I can see them live as I did in May 1991. UK death metal is having a good time of late again showing the Scandinavians that the UK is still able to churn out quality death metal. What is even more pleasing is that Cancer is releasing this record through legendary UK label Peaceville, which is another major plus point for me. This record will hopefully show them that death metal is what they should have been playing all this time as the plaudits for this album will continue to fly in.
We wanted a death metal album from Cancer and what we got was a death metal album from Cancer. Welcome back, boys, and see you on the road!
Shadow Gripped is out November 2nd