Cancer Bats + Brutality Will Prevail + Empress @ The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes – Sunday 17th March


Review by Brady Deeprose


Cancer Bats brought their Dead Set On Living tour across the UK, all guns blazing, for their first headline shows here for two years. Tonight, this hardcore-fuelled metal assault drops into The Craufurd Arms, a 200 capacity, for all intents and purposes, pub just outside of Milton Keynes. The show sold out in three days and so the anticipation coming up to the day itself was huge.

Up first are Reading prog-heads Empress, with their loud yet calculated take on modern progressive rock/metal. The band aren’t as raw as their touring buddies but this doesn’t stop them giving the show their all with a polished performance. Singles ‘Perplexed Again’ and ‘Left In Awe’ hit hardest with some fans determinately head banging their way through a short, sharp 30-minute set. Notable was the band’s musicianship, with some extremely well written intricate tracks that, sadly, seemed to be a bit much for some of the venue’s regular ‘hardcore kids’.

More to the locals’ taste were the energetic Brutality Will Prevail, taking to the stage to a near full room. Their generic yet well executed hardcore barrage was lapped up by the crowd, much to the delight of vocalist Ajay Jones, who was doing everything in his power to keep the band’s fans beating the crap out of each other. While they’re not to my taste, it’s easy to see why BWP are making a name for themselves in the HxC scene with a really tight and self-assured performance and songs that go off like ‘The Path’. I also feel it worth noting that at their merch stand, you could purchase their latest release on cassette: Oldschool!

Cancer Bats Tour PosterThe main event of the evening was clearly Cancer Bats due to the sheer volume of people that filled the Arms’ back room as 9.30 came around. Walking on-stage to the roar of a few hundred sweaty fans was exactly what Cancer Bats were born to do. As they launch into ‘Pneumonia Hawk’ from Birthing The Giant, it’s as if the crowd can’t believe that the band have bothered with such a small venue. After barrelling through ‘Bricks And Mortar’, their latest single from D.S.O.L., and ‘Sleep This Away’ from 2010’s Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones, the Canadian hardcore mob break for vocalist Liam Cormier to address the masses.

“Milton Keynes! Why the hell have we never been here before? This could be the Cancer Bats capital of the UK!” After that, the crowd was in the palm of their hands, with people getting up to stage-dive for almost every track. Energetic to the very last, the set was a long one but the songs themselves were actually quite short on the whole. Blocks of three tracks with speaking in the intervals was the order of the night with Liam showing genuine appreciation for the fans that turned out. Mike Peters’ skin-bashing abilities were brought to the fore in the eclectic single ‘Road Sick’ and when combined with Jaye R. Schwarzer’s thunderous distorted basslines, tracks like ‘Drunken Physics’ were deployed flawlessly.

‘Sabotage’, the bands acclaimed Beastie Boys cover, really got the crowd moving and singing along and this was only exacerbated by the band’s breakthrough single ‘Hail Destroyer’ from the album of the same name. Choosing to finish on a track from the band’s latest album was a potential risk but definitely not something I’d have queried as the set closer ‘Rats’ was brought to life by Scott Middleton’s impressive display of fret-busting action.

Diving straight into the crowd after the set in an attempt to get as many hi-fives as he could, Liam Cormier’s is a gleaming example to many of the ego-ridden front men of modern metal with his attitude both on and offstage being spot on. He seemed to genuinely care about everyone he met and took the time out of his day to be at the merch stand before and after the gig to greet fans.

A band on top form with excellent support playing to an appreciative sold-out crowd: If only all gigs could follow in tonight’s footsteps!

Setlist: Pneumonia Hawk, Pray For Darkness, Bricks & Mortar, Sleep This Away, Lucifer’s Rocking Chair, Road Sick, Trust No-One, Breathe Armageddon, Shillelagh, Old Blood, Smiling Politely, Darkness Lives, Sorceress, Deathsmarch, Scared To Death, Sonic Mind Assault, Drunken Physics, Sabotage, Hail Destroyer, R.A.T.S.