For Architects, the last two years have brought dizzying heights and crushing lows. Their 2016 album ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’ turned them into one of the biggest, if not the biggest, metal band in the UK. In the same period though, band founder, songwriter and guitarist Tom Searle died, aged just 28 after a battle with cancer.
Since then, the band have talked openly about the bewildering nature of grief and their struggle to heal, and they’ve poured every drop of that anger, sorrow and confusion into 8th album ‘Holy Hell’. Grief is like a bully in a playground, heavy-handed, unforgiving and cruel, and the only way to triumph over it is to face it head on.
On tracks ‘Hereafter’, ‘Death Is Not Defeat’ and ‘Doomsday’, Architects wear their pain unflinchingly. Together with new guitarist Josh Middleton, drummer, and Tom’s twin, Dan stepped up to take on the song writing and production roles previously assumed by his brother.
Despite this being his first attempt at writing lyrics, some of the imagery painted on ‘Holy Hell’ is gut-wrenchingly beautiful. “Souls don’t bend they break”, screams frontman Sam Carter on ‘Doomsday’ with a desperation so intense it almost knocks the wind out of you; “Death is an open door.” Carter has a voice that defies regular human lung function but here his performance is nothing short of astonishing. His palpable emotion on opener ‘Death Is Not Defeat’ is so achingly brutal it’s difficult to listen to and the enormity of his loss surges through the mic like a tidal wave of anguish.
‘Holy Hell’ is not as immediate or anthemic as ‘All Our Gods’, but it’s an incredibly human album. The band have confirmed that Tom is “all over” these tracks, he wrote two of the songs (although the band are staying tight-lipped as to which ones) or be it in spirit and weaving in snippets of music he’d been working on. And true to his unwillingness to settle creatively, ‘Holy Hell’ succeeds in pushing Architects’ sound further than ever before.
The grooves dig deeper, while the instrumentation is techier – just check out the complexity of ‘Damnation’ and ever shifting patterns on ‘Hereafter’. The band have played around with space, melody and classical instrumentation on closer ‘A Wasted Hymn’ and two-minute neck-snapper ‘The Seventh Circle’ is up there with the heaviest thing they’ve ever done.
There’s no doubt that grief hangs over this record, ugly, uncomfortable and overwhelming, but healing waits at the end of the tunnel. Tom’s legacy has been treated with fierce, fierce love and in doing so Architects have been able to draw strength from their sadness and ultimately triumph from tragedy.
Words: Dannii Leivers
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