Sunday Old School: Cancer
With the recent announcement that British death metal band Cancer has decided to reform for a second time, it seemed that the timing was right to grant the request of some of our readers and devote an edition of Sunday Old School to these well loved, if perhaps overlooked Midlands metallers. Cancer was formed, as a number of ideas in Britain are, one night in a local pub, in this case one in Ironbridge, in the county of Shropshire by drummer Carl Stokes, bass player Ian Buchanan and guitarist/vocalist John Walker. They very quickly got to work on material and soon found themselves at the Pits recording studio in Birmingham, where they recorded their first demo, "No Fuckin’ Cover," which was produced by Stevie Young, the nephew of iconic AC/DC guitarist, Angus Young. They played their first gig shortly afterwards in the same city and soon earned a good live reputation which garnered them support slots with such acts as Bolt Thrower and punk legends, G.B.H.
After a second demo and a bootleg live album recorded in Wrexham, Wales entitled, "Bloodbath in the Acid," the group signed a deal with Vinyl Solution, who were impressed with "No Fuckin’ Cover." They returned to Wales, this time to the small Monmouthshire town of Usk, to record their first full length studio album, "To The Gory End," which they finished in only four days before it was sent to the famous Morrisound Studios in Florida to be mixed by Scott Burns, who brought in Obituary vocalist, John Tardy to add backing vocals to the song, "Die, Die." The record was released in the spring of 1990 and Cancer soon found themselves touring with Obituary, as well as their Florida comrades, Deicide.
They would return to Florida later in the year to record their sophomore album, "Death Shall Rise," which was produced by Scott Burns and featured another guest appearance from a prominent American death metal vocalist, this time coming from Deicide frontman Glen Benton, who performed backing vocals on the fan favourite, "Hung, Drawn and Quartered." They were also joined by Obituary and former Death guitarist James Murphy on what was supposed to be a permanent basis, though he left the band at the end of the year. The album itself was very well received by the death metal community and still holds a strong standing, as evidenced by it’s position in Terrorizer magazines list of the top 40 death metal albums of all time. It also generated some controversy thanks to the front cover, which was deemed violent enough to have the record banned in Germany. They promoted the album with a UK tour which saw them joined on the road by Unleashed and Desecrator, before heading to the United States to team up with Obituary and Deicide once again.
Following more shows in America, as well as performing in Mexico, Israel and further into Europe, they began work on their third album, their first with new guitarist Barry Savage. This time they returned to Wrexham and worked alongside producer Simon Efemey, who had previously worked with Paradise Lost on their third album, "Shades of God." Their effort resulted in the record, "The Sins of Mankind," which was also received very warmly, though it arguably didn’t quite reach the standards that "Death Shall Rise" set. They embarked on a European tour where they were joined by Birmingham outfit, Cerebral Fix, before Carl Stokes was involved in a motorcycle accident, which led Cancer to future former Cradle of Filth drummer Nick Barker to temporarily fill in behind the kit.
Soon afterwards, they became one of the first death metal bands to sign to East West Records, a major label which had also released albums from the likes of Sick of it All and paired up with Simon Efemey once more to record their fourth album, "Black Faith." The record was met with a very hostile reception, with many in the metal press likening it unfavourably to the Carcass album, "Heartwork." A short tour with Meshuggah followed to support the album, but upon returning, Cancer announced that they had decided to split up, citing record company politics. They did return in 2003 however, releasing an EP entitled, "Corporation$" and a full length, "Spirit in Flames" before calling it a day once more. As previously mentioned however, the band have now returned once again and were this week confirmed to appear at next year’s edition of the Maryland Deathfest, where they will be performing material only from their first three albums. Where the band goes from here remains to be seen, but one thing’s for certain, it’s great to see one of Britain’s best contributions to death metal hitting the stage once again.
Cancer - "Blood Bath"
Cancer - "Hung, Drawn and Quartered"
Cancer - "Cloak of Darkness"
Cancer - "Black Faith"
Cancer - "Hell House"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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