Oxford’s Academy 2 is a gloomy place at the best of times, but on this dark, damp Monday evening the atmosphere was positively soul-destroying. The little black room, populated by sparse, staring crowd, reeked of unwashed bodies and stale beer. SSS and The Plight, our two brave UK hardcore support acts, garnered no more than appreciative nods by all except one over-enthusiastic punk, despite their obvious ability. The crowd – if you could really call it that – looked ever more empty and despondent as they waited for the main act.
But then Cancer Bats burst, shadowy and snarling, onto the stage, and the room exploded. A thrashing, yelling, kicking and screaming group of fans detonated the area in front of the stage, transforming the atmosphere into something potent, dangerous, and – most importantly – fun.
Frontman Liam Cornier leaped around the stage like a heady combination of Iggy Pop and Puck, his drawling, infectious screech whipping the crowd into a relentless frenzy, whilst guitarist Scott Middleton stoked their fire with his chugging, monstrous riffs. The set seemed to gather more energy as it powered forth, like a runaway train, with the apocalyptically heavy ‘Sorceress’ leading wonderfully into their groovy, crawling breakthrough hit ‘Lucifer’s Rocking Chair’.
As the last chords echoed around the room, Cornier propelled himself into the deeply appreciative crowd to embrace and clench fists together. A short, sharp encore provided one last blast before they trudged, tired and happy, down the stairs back into reality. Cancer Bats must be one of the most exciting live punk acts playing today. Their next album should take them into the punk stratosphere.