Bands of the hardcore variety are not known for their fondness of subtlety, but more often than not it isn't really needed to get their point across. Now on their third album, Toronto's Cancer Bats serve as a fine example of this. Aggressive riffs, roaring vocals, and crushing grooves are what they do best, and on Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones, they're back with each one in fine abundance. While to anybody who isn't a fan of the band wouldn't notice much difference from the post-hardcore norm, the band has solidified their sound handsomely, and while it's not a masterpiece by any means, it's their most impressive effort to date.
There's a fairly clear step up from Cancer Bats' earlier work, but it isn't a result of progression in songwriting, or growing talent in the playing itself. What really sets Bears apart from the band's previous two albums is the consolidation of their musical approach. The hardcore-meets-metal template is still in tact, with a bit more of a sludge influenced groove and certain post-hardcore stylings, like the way that vocalist Liam Cormier is able to scream with a somewhat stronger touch of melodicism.
Guitarist Scott Middleton lays down some pummeling, yet rousing riffs, and is key in how the band encompasses its number of metallic styles. Trust No One is an early example of his ability to switch up from frantic to slow and brooding, and he sounds alternately explosive on Darkness and Drive This Stake and downright bluesy on the penultimate track Raised Right. The rhythm section keeps the intensity high as well, particularly with how surprisingly tight they sound with Middleton on Fake Gold and Dead Wrong, with all three thrashing away in a fierce conjunction.
While the style is well achieved, Cancer Bats accomplish little else here... which is for the most part fine, except that the album's length is a bit more than one would expect from a record like this. It feels like a few songs could have been dropped to keep the album's flow feeling fresh, as after the thirty-five minute mark Bears starts to run out of steam. This is nothing against the songs themselves, in fact the latter tracks are particularly good, as mentioned before. It's just that a band like this will have a bit more difficulty maintaining the listener's same level of interest from the beginning without showing much diversity in too long a period of time.
Cancer Bats definitely delivers the goods on their third full-length. Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones offers healthy doses of both aggression and groove, and while a tad overlong, makes for a fun listen. Plus there's a cover of the Beastie Boys' mid-nineties classic Sabotage, which doesn't quite measure up to the original (how could it), but is still a great addition nonetheless. While Bears is more of a fun listen than a technically accomplished effort, that isn't to call it forgettable or unremarkable. Cancer Bats do little to step outside the proverbial box or expand their sound in any way, but with as good as they are as what they do, it's hard to really mind for the most part.