Canadian metal-edged rockers Cancer Bats had a rough time leading up to fifth album Searching for Zero. Always road dogs, the band toured exhaustively in support of their 2012 album Dead Set on Living, taking a more traditional hardcore style to the stage every night and kicking off one leg of the tour with six individual shows in a single day. Along with a deeply taxing tour schedule, several friends and people close to the band died, leaving them in personal states of grief and turmoil. The catharsis, turmoil, frustration, and pain that inspired the album drip from every second of Searching for Zero. Songs are touched with the bitterness and reluctance of a hope that's hard won and struggled for. The sludgy tones of "True Zero" scream out with Sabbath-like metal riffs and vocals high in the mix, with singer Liam Cormier pondering regret, alienation, and self-acceptance mixed with righteous anger. Even when the band embraces more formulaic metal and predictable playing, themes of loss and grieving still come through loud and clear. "Arsenic in the Year of the Snake" is built around chugging, Southern-fried riffs and hardcore screaming but still breaks down into a repeated group yelp that cries out "Too many friends died this year." As the record progresses, the band explores psyched-out stoner metal ("Beelzebub"), blasting traditional hardcore ("All Hail"), and sludgy, hypnotic grooves ("Dusted"), but regardless of style, the songs seethe with a declarative sense of loss and anguish, feeling like a true reflection of challenging times and a band of friends trying to make it to the other side, together.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas