Cancer – Malignant Cells

Wednesday, 28th December 2016

The U.K. thrash incarnation of Cancer and the Australian depressive black metal entity also known as Cancer are suitably worlds apart. The U.K. thrash version predates the Australian version by nearly three decades, and they certainly are not of the same sonic mind, which in the grand scheme of things, could benefit the Aussies. Not like it matters to the band anyway, who cite the competing versions of Shining (Norwegian and Swedish) as proof that two bands can share a name and forge ahead. But, there’s also a deeper meaning.

“When we started the group around August this year, we were fully aware of the U.K. group previously established,” begins vocalist John. “We felt though that the name really encapsulates the message of our band: humanity is cancerous, people are cancerous, and the mundane lives we live have lead us to become entrapped in expectations; buy a car, buy a house, settle down, raise a family, wither away until you die. With over six billion people on the face of this malignant cell we call Earth, there are bound to be plenty of people and groups with common names. What we care more about are the six billion different stories and identities behind those names. The same applies to any band in our view, and anybody who thinks otherwise stands for what Cancer disdains.”

Cancer’s 2016 origins lay with the aforementioned John and Deadspace lead vocalist Chris Gebauer, who handles drums in Cancer. The pair’s long-standing relationship has also led to John to chip in on a handful of guest vocal appearances for Deadspace, in addition the creation of Coma Street, a post-rock/shoegaze outfit. As fate would have it, John was tapped to fill-in on guest vocals for another Australian local band in support of Inquisition, only for Inquisition to cancel the tour. After blowing off some steam at the not-very-black-metal-sounding Joe’s Juice Joint, the idea for Cancer was set in motion.

“Initially, I was skeptical Cancer would ever get off the ground given our involvement in aforementioned groups; that and my drummer hadn’t played drums live ever since he left his previous bands to concentrate on writing and vocals for Deadspace. But two days later we had already established a group and started writing. A week later we had written all the demos for the five-track EP, and a week later tracked the entire release. We never intended the writing process to occur so quickly, but given how organic our influences amalgamate it doesn’t surprise me we are able to produce this music so naturally.”

The band’s Terminal debut belies the short time in which they’ve been together, bridging the gap between the suicidal ache of Lifelover and the desperate, anguished feel of black metal’s dark underbelly. With its members tied up in other projects like Deadspace and Inquinamentum, the fact Terminal has already gained traction has appeared to come as a bit of a surprise. “We saw this more as an opportunity to create something more sinister regardless of reception. That being said, we are greatly appreciative of reception and coverage we have received locally and abroad. Playing depressive black metal will never win you any popularity contests, but we don’t have any intention for playing for those reasons. We would rather play music that people absolutely love or absolutely despise.”

We’re not treading new ground here by discussing the polarizing nature of black metal, particularly the bands who fall on the depressive and/or blackgaze side. Cancer could very well find themselves in such company, although the band’s melodic tendencies may ultimately give them leeway to explore different, more experimental avenues.

“A lot of our common ground as a band tends to revolve around black metal bands that I guess one would deem are more melodic such as Enslaved, Mesarthim, Austere, Moonsorrow and so on,” notes John. “However, we also listen to a lot of DSBM bands which is I guess is prevalent in the vocals. That being said, our lead guitarist is heavily influenced by classic rock bands like Pink Floyd, our rhythm guitarist listens to lots of Scandinavian death metal and our drummer and bassist grew up being Goth kids listening to all sorts of goth rock and goth metal groups I have never heard of. I guess compared to the rest of the band I tend to listen to mainly black metal only, whether that be melodic or atmospheric black metal or black metal that is much more discordant such as French or Canadian black metal. Throane, VI, Blut Aus Nord, Gris, Deathspell Omega are a few that come to mind.

“So yes, we are definitely appreciative of the melodic side of black metal but we don’t deliberately intend to go out and write a melodic record,” he continues. “We just write what we think sounds good and try to not over analyses what subgenre within a subgenre our music can be categorized as. That is one thing that frustrates me in this day and age of metal: people over categorizing bands, or condemning bands because they are not fast enough, evil enough, or don’t worship early Norwegian black metal enough. I see a rather bemusing irony behind people who think this way, given black metal places so much emphasis on individuality and freedom from grounds such as religion. Listen to the band as a solitary art form, and not based on labels. As Duke Ellington once said, ‘If it sounds good, it is good.’”

The forthcoming year promises to be an active one for Cancer. They’ve recently inked a deal with Throats Productions for the proper release of Terminal, which should see the album re-printed in digipack and vinyl format. While the balancing act between Deadspace and Inquinamentum threatens to be a difficult one, the goal is to make a Cancer a regular live act, which should set up a full album properly.

“We have already commenced writing our next release which we intend to release as full length sometime in 2017,” closes John. “It’s still early days but expect the music to be of a similar vein as Terminal but with some more progressive passages here and there.”

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