Showbread - Cancer
Record Label: Come&Live!
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Showbread is an… odd duck, to say the least. Sometimes I wonder if frontman Josh Dies looks at remarks about the band’s latest release, laughing maniacally at the collective raise of eyebrows and onset of mass confusion that ripples through the band’s fanbase. They are, in a lot of ways, the M.Night Shyamalan of music. Each album brings a new twist to their established sound. Some are masterful and a welcome surprise, like their innovative two-album novel-connected epic, Anorexia/Nervosa and others try a bit too hard to be different and garner less than stellar results, like 2010’s Who Can Know It? With Showbread’s new release Cancer, the big question is, is this a The Sixth Sense, or Lady in the Water?
You can’t discuss Cancer without mentioning its predecessor, Who Can Know It? Showbread was a trail-blazer back in 2010, who, after parting ways with long-time label Tooth and Nail Records, partnered with indie label Come&Live! pioneering a then largely untested plan of attack: a major band supporting their next major album release entirely by donations, and released completely free for anyone to download. Many believed it couldn’t be done, but Showbread proved the naysayers wrong by succeeding and releasing the album exactly as they promised.
Though the road to the album’s creation was inspirational, the finished product was much less game-changing. Abandoning much of the hyperactive energy of previous albums, WCKI? Was a slow and plodding album, taking much more inspiration from traditional Church hymns and worship songs, and much less from bands like Refused and Nine Inch Nails, bands who had influenced previous albums, like No Sir, Nihilism Isn’t Practical and Anorexia/Nervosa. The final product lacked punch and contrast, each song flowing into each other with little differentiating them from one another. Called by some a “grower” album, it was an album that didn’t have much of a final payoff, despite the 12 minute rock-ballad closer, “The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things,” leaving many long-time fans with an uncured Showbread itch.
Which now brings us to Cancer. Like Anorexia/Nervosa before it, Showbread has opted for an album with a deeply-integrated narrative. Chronicled in the booklet included with each download, the story will be further bolstered bya feature-length movie that will be released sometime in 2013, further connecting and expanding the world that Cancer introduces.
But enough about the details surrounding the album; now it’s time to get to what people care about: The music. I am happy to say, for those who found WCKI? To be a bit too slow-moving, this album will be a welcome relief. While much of WCKI’s? influence can still be greatly felt in the overall album being primarily major in key, and slower ballads, much of Showbread’s previous work has also found itself back into most songs. Though many may become worried when the opening track “I’m Afraid That I’m Me” begins with a slow, happy-sounding piano, all worries will be cast aside when Josh Dies’ trademark shriek pierces the track 18 seconds in. The Showbread many knew and loved is back.
Cancer adds many more sounds to its inspirations this time around. The aforementioned opener, “I’m Afraid That I’m Me” has an almost Dropkick Murphys-sounding section, and the album overall has a much more punk atmosphere about it. But the real instant classic that old-school ‘Bread fans will fall in love with is track two, “Sex With Strangers.” The track from an audio standpoint could have come straight from earlier release The Fear of God, and touches on deep subjects such as infidelity and Theological debates pertaining to Calvinism versus Arminianism.
In case the previous track description was not an indicator, this is not the same Showbread you remember that sang about classic horror movies back in the day. The band has matured intensely, and now that frontman Josh Dies has no label filtering his message, he can freely speak his mind about serious topics like the earlier mentioned infidelity and discussions of free will, in addition to the support of Christian Anarchy in the track “Anarchy,” and his deeply held belief in pacifism, illustrated in “Escape From Planet Cancer.” This is not a fun album. This is not a feel-good album. But this is an important and controversial album that should not be missed.
Though musically, it begins to fall into WCKI’s? Sameness a bit in the middle, Cancer remains a solid album throughout, holding your attention, though you may not be able to recall a particular song specifically after track 3. However, this is a minor nitpick when it comes to how strong the album is as a whole, and, while by no means perfect, is a powerful listen, especially when you cease looking at Cancer as just an album, and more for the multi-media epic that it actually is meant to be. Instrumentally, each song’s composition is solid, though it is Dies’ lyrics that most will pay attention to, especially since his vocals have seen a vast improvement here over previous albums.
Those disenchanted by Who Can Know It? Will find ample enough reason to return to Cancer as much of the musical style of their past returns. Though it is not as manic as their early works, Cancer rings so much more passionate and legitimate than any other Christian bands out there. Many may scream of war and battles, but use it as empty allegories, whereas Showbread throws their whole passion into what they believe. It is, underneath its multiple musical stylings, a representation of the pure punk mentality, not often seen anymore. It is all bolstered by the faith the band has in Jesus Christ, fully on display in the album’s two-part closer, “You Will Die in a Prison” and “You Will Not Die in a Prision.” But at no time does it feel like they force it upon you. This album will appeal to non-Christians just as much as Christians simply for the fact that it’s an album that can stand on its own two legs musically, with enough rebellion to fuel the punk in all of us. Cancer is available now, for free, from the band’s website, and look out for the movie, dropping in 2013.