Oldschool Sunday: CANCER

Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway

British death metal band CANCER first formed in 1988. Over the course of their career, they have released five studio albums and broke up on at least two occasions.

Currently, the band has been active since 2013, and just announced news relating to a new label home and upcoming album release, but more on that in a minute. When CANCER first came into existence all those years ago, the band’s membership was comprised of drummer Carl Stokes, guitarist / vocalist John Walker, and bassist Ian Buchanan.

The trio quickly got together a two-track demo recording entitled ‘No Fuckin’ Cover’, which has some interesting trivia connected to it. The demo was produced by current AC/DC rhythm guitarist Stevie Young, the nephew of Angus and Malcolm who replaced the latter in his uncles’ band in recent years. Also, it was engineered by “Big” Mick Hughes, at times a live sound engineer for Metallica, and with its recording, CANCER began to gig.

Soon CANCER was sharing stages with such acts as Bolt Thrower, GBH, Cerebral Fix, and others by the time they recorded ‘Demo #2′ in 1989. That was followed shortly after by the bootleg live album ‘Bloodbath In The Acid’, recorded at Wrexham Memorial Hall and pressed on the Headache Records label. However, ‘No Fuckin’ Cover’ had secured CANCER a deal with Vinyl Solution and in winter 1989, the band recorded their début album, ‘To The Gory End’.

That record, now an iconic milestone in global death metal, was mixed by the legendary producer Scott Burns at the world-famous Morrisound Studios. It also featured Obituary’s John Tardy contributing background vocals on select tracks. Soon, CANCER was touring with Obituary and Deicide.

In early 1991, CANCER had begun pre-production on a sophomore recording and soon flew to Morrisound where they went into the studio with Burns. For their second effort, the band enlisted the skills of guitarist James Murphy (Death, Agent Steel, Disincarnate, Testament) and for background vocal contributions on this round, Deicide’s Glen Benton was recruited. In May of that year, CANCER issued their now-classic second assault,  “Death Shall Rise“, for Restless Records.

The album was banned in Germany at the time by the State Body for Censorship, on grounds the album was likely to be dangerous to youth, feeling the cover art would incite youth to violence. It has since gone on to place at #27 in Terrorizer Magazine’s Top 40 Death Metal Albums and helped propel CANCER to headliner status at the time in the U.K. The band toured there that year, supported by Unleashed and Desecrator, before returning to the U.S. for an appearance at the 1991 Milwaukee Metal Festival.

James Murphy had remained in CANCER throughout this period, eventually exiting before the end of ’91 to focus on Disincarnate, his replacement being guitarist Barry Savage. The band continued touring in the USA, Mexico, Israel, and Europe. Then, in 1992, they recorded their third album, “The Sins Of Mankind“, in the U.K. with Simon Efemey. In this period, during a headline tour of their homeland, drummer Carl Stokes was involved in a motorcycle accident. This led to the band enlisting help from Nick Barker (Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Brujeria) to fulfill live obligations.

1994 saw CANCER leave Vinyl Solution and sign with the major label subsidiary of Warner Brothers, East West Records, one of the first death metal bands to join a major label. With Simon Efemey once again at the helm, the band recorded their fourth studio album, the 1995 outing, “Black Faith“. The album garnered decidedly mixed reviews, some comparing it to the “sell-out” period of Metallica and others, “a poor man’s Heartwork” (Carcass album). Following a short EU tour supported by Meshuggah, CANCER called it a day in 1996, citing a lack of faith in the music industry altogether.

CANCER would remain in remission until 2003 when original members Stokes and Walker reactivated the band, now joined by bassist Adam Richardson and guitarist Rob Engvikson. The reunion would be short-lived, lasting only three years, but CANCER did issue two releases for Copro Records during this time, 2004’s “Corporation$” EP and 2005’s “Spirit In Flames“. The latter featured guitarist Dave Leitch in Engvikson’s stead.

In 2013, CANCER announced their official reformation with the core trio of founders, Stokes, Walker and Buchanan, to promote the band’s first three studio albums being re-released that year by Cyclone Empire Records. The reunion included several festival appearances (see video clip below) where CANCER played material only from those first three releases. With 2015 came the news that CANCER was working on new material for a forthcoming release and now, here we are in the year 2018.

This past week, U.K. death metal legends CANCER announced they have signed with Peaceville Records and are readying a new studio album for release in late 2018. Tentatively entitled ‘Shadow Gripped‘, it purportedly will feature 12 songs of brutal, old school death metal in the vein of classic CANCER savagery. ‘Shadow Gripped’ was recorded at Foel Studios in Wales with Simon Efemy (Paradise Lost, Napalm Death, Amorphis) handling production and mixing duties alongside the band.

CANCER offers the following:

We are delighted to have signed a recording deal with such an esteemed label as Peaceville. We have full confidence that they understand this metal and CANCER as a band. Together we want to deliver an album that celebrates our 30-year existence and the old school death metal sound that we played a part in creating back in 1988 when the band was conceived. So rejoice and hoist the bunting fashioned from flaps of skin, and fill your balloons with the last gasp of a dying man! We are back from the dead. CFC.

They add: “The recording has gone really well. We have captured the raw essence of what the band actually sounds like. Death metal that will bite your balls off, spit them out, and leave you shouting for more!

So, there you go, readers… I hope you have enjoyed the CANCER story and I for one am very excited that a new chapter for the band is underway. Until then, keep SPREADING THE DISEASE!

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