Storm Isha has well and truly hit Merthyr this evening, and I find myself highly grateful that the Redhouse has opened its doors early to let us early arrivals in to hide. Though absolutely soaked from a mere 3-minute walk from my car to the venue, I’m looking forward to seeing what treasures Merthyr holds tonight, considering I’m going in blind. Tonight, Canadian whiskey metal punks Cancer Bats are on a UK Tour as Bat Sabbath, their alter-egos.
Cancer Bats as Bat Sabbath – Acid Throne
Redhouse, Merthyr Tydfil – 21 January 2024
Words and Photography: Georgia Brittain
It seems a little quiet in the Redhouse tonight for a show that was a mere 15 tickets short of being sold out. Maybe from the weather warnings and growing storms outside? Those who decided not to make it are going to miss out on our headliners.
Now, I like a couple of songs of Cancer Bats, and until this morning, while checking setlists, I had no idea what the Bat Sabbath persona was all about. It turns out it’s a tribute to the legendary Black Sabbath, and even that got me thinking: Aren’t cover bands usually disliked amongst our local music scenes? How did these guys manage a near sell-out tonight?
Well, they open with Children Of The Grave, and I soon realised the hype. Rather than try to act like Black Sabbath, Cancer Bats put their own style into each song. Frontman Liam Cormier doesn’t make an attempt to act like Ozzy. He sings it just as he would do so. The entire band brought high energy, and I found myself enjoying the show a lot more than I thought. I was even going to head off early to make my way home in our 90mph weather warnings, but I decided I was staying to the end instead.
“If you don’t want to be involved in the mosh pit, get your asses to the sides,” warns Liam. The crowd turns into a mix of running to the side and heading to the middle. It’s one of the most aggressive “small” pits I’ve seen, and it doesn’t calm down all night.
My personal favourite song of the night is their cover of Fairies Wear Boots, as the verse quietens down to work pretty well. It’s a shame the drunks around me are talking and shouting over it, but those who are paying attention are quietly singing along.
Where you can see the true originality of the band keeping to their own tone is Liam screaming “All right now” before the band kicks back in at full volume. I find myself jumping along at this point.
We get to “Black Sabbath”, and we have a little more silence from the drunks to appreciate this one. The mosh pit even calms itself down a little to appreciate what Bill Bailey once described as “the devil’s note”.
Finally, we end with War Pigs, or at least we think so. Liam Cormier comes back to the stage in just a hoodie and gives appreciation for the drummer who has covered for the band on this tour. He says he doesn’t know any other Sabbath songs, but he does know ONE Cancer Bats song, so they’re going to play that for us now: Pneumonia Hawk.
Now, if I thought the mosh pit was aggressive earlier, it absolutely erupts at this. It’s a nice little surprise, and the band appreciates the crowd so much that at the end of the show, they jump down to the barrier to high-five and hug members of the crowd at the front.
Ultimately, it was an absolutely incredible night, and once again, I feel sorry for those who didn’t come due to the weather warnings. As I drive back at a measly 40mph due to the wind swerving me all over the damn place, I find myself queuing up Black Sabbath songs on my Spotify, having found another sense of appreciation for a band I grew up with, all thanks to Bat Sabbath.
Bat Sabbath Setlist
Children of the Grave
Symptom of the Universe
Into the Void
Fairies Wear Boots
First up tonight are Acid Throne, and they are exactly what you would expect from such a band name: doom, deep riffs and vocals you can’t understand but nod along like you do anyway.
Admittedly, for the genre they are, they feel a little out of place tonight amongst the Bat Sabbath backdrop. There are only three members in this band, and I find myself impressed by what they’re bringing to us. It takes me a little time away from focusing on my camera to realise there isn’t even a bassist. They’ve just got some super deep tunings going on.
While the crowd is nodding along, there isn’t much movement for these openers, and with one member announcing, “You’re not here for us. You’re here for Bat Sabbath”, it makes me a little sad for these guys.
I don’t think they’re on the right lineup for the show tonight, but you’ve got to appreciate them getting on stage and showing us what they’ve got anyway. There isn’t much stage movement either, but from a little Facebook searching, it looks like they’re still an up-and-coming band.
I’m sure with a more doom/Death Metal focus show, we would be able to see what these guys are really made of.