Cancer Bats are one of those rare bands where you would be hard pushed to find anyone with a bad word to say about them. Ever popular on festival lineups, critics favourites, radio jingle voice-overs…Cancer Bats are very much a people’s band. However no matter how friendly a band is, to remain relevant they still need to evolve, and on fifth album Searching For Zero this was the challenge the band faced. So how did they fair?

Opening track ‘Satellites’ has been doing the rounds for several weeks now as the lead single off the album and offers an immediate hint that the band have been far more willing to experiment than on previous releases, most noticeably in Liam Cormier’s vocal delivery with his guttural roar replaced with a more visceral scream adding more range. ‘Arsenic in the Year Of the Snake’ three tracks in is the first time a real echo of the typical Cancer Bats sound is truly heard.

The influence of Black Sabbath doesn’t stop at Cancer Bats’ side project Bat Sabbath either, ‘Beelzebub’ and ‘Cursed With a Conscience’ represent both the progression in the bands sound that had only been hinted at previously in ‘Lucifer’s Rocking Chair’ from Hail Destroyer, and their clear appreciation of Volume IV era Sabbath. Scott Middleton’s piledriver riffs truly shine amongst Liam Cormier’s swaggering drawl.

‘All Hail’ and ‘Buds’ meanwhile give bassist Jaye Schwarzer and drummer Mike Peters a share of the limelight mid way through the album, as the comforting presence of Cancer Bats’ hardcore punk roots return to contrast the doom-laden sludge of the previous two tracks.

Searching For Zero was always going to be a tricky album for Cancer Bats; a backdrop of personal tragedies adding a narrative that the band had never experienced before. Taking longer to write the record than any of the previous records, the scope of Searching For Zero and the risks taken when you consider how steady the band were before is remarkable, ultimately making for one of, if not their most accomplished record to date, and one that will stand the band in good stead for pulling in the crowds at this summer’s festivals.

[rating:4]