It’s pretty telling that with Cancer you have to mention that fourth album. Their first three early nineties albums were pretty darned well received and are still rightly held in high esteem by many fans of death and thrash metal. But you always have to get over 1995’s Black Faith. For most fans of the extreme scene at that time it was a groovy commercial (well, relatively) step too far. Some of our memories were still seven years later in post-traumatic-cold-lake syndrome so barely registered it as a disaster…more sensible people than me had moved on. It really seemed to sting fans of those first three albums though.

I wasn’t a fan. Didn’t dislike them at all, just not really an obsessive fan. Didn’t like Black Faith though; not my style is all.

Cancer reformed in 2000 and something and released an EP and an album but promptly split up again. They then reformed in 2013, again, promoting the re-release of their first three albums. Five years and here they are with a new album.

These guys have taken just about every sling and arrow that the music biz can chuck at a band and they are still standing, and I hope enjoying their third life because frankly, you know, kudos. Takes strong jaws you know. I genuinely admire that kind of no bull attitude.

Yeah I’m stalling. You see for me I think what you get with Shadow Gripped is pretty much what I think people didn’t like about Black Faith. From the off, ‘Down The Steps’, this is melodic and groovy relatively light death metal with thrash pace injections. The production is OK but it it fails to draw out any energy and so what we are left with is a middling riff chugging style and getting a groove on with a very nineties guitar break (no; that last bit is not a criticism at all). Vocals are serviceable and intelligible.

And there we go for another nine tracks.

Second track ‘Garotte’ is probably the closest thing we come to a real hook. A little pacey, a little less groove, a nice chorus. Unfortunately ‘Ball Cutter’ is too similar, just concentrating on the other end of the body. Look, I really have nowhere to go with this I am desperately afraid; it’s OK. There is nothing overly wrong I guess. Of course they can play, and are a nicely tight but thankfully not overly technical in style unit. I guess ‘Half Man Half Beast’ does mix things a little with the extended intro but the production crushes the atmosphere from it. The last track ‘Disposer’ also has an actually very good slow grind beginning unfortunately it just ends being a bit samey, a bit characterless for me. Apologies. I’m sure others will disagree.

Somewhere on here I also think I heard the word ‘disco’. Can that be right?

Life is a funny old thing: Imperfect but all you get. It’s no surprise then that particularly these days when your first youthful experiments driven by something inside fail to become a way of life that, in later years when career and/or family are taken care of, many are now looking back and thinking “I wonder if… ?” Now that wondering with some is a slightly optimistic ” I wonder if we can make it this time..?” With most though it’s a more sensible “I wonder if this is still fun…?” or ” We still have something to say… ”

Not sure where UK’s Cancer fit in this, but on this outing I’d say it’s not necessarily the latter, but hope it’s the middle option at least. And if so I hope they continue and ignore me. I think there is probably a nice audience for them too, which makes me feel a little better. Catch them live at Damnation Festival and decide for yourselves.

Just not for me. Admire the band, just can’t get in with the album.Sorry.

(4.5/10 Gizmo)