Review: Architects – Holy Hell

“Into the night we burn and rage / In depth we repay for time on this stage / The lights are bright, but don’t lose your way / ‘Cause once it ignites, the flame must decay”

It’s nearly impossible to approach Holy Hell objectively. The eight full-length studio album from British metalcore giants Architects lives entirely in the aftermath of guitarist and lead songwriter Tom Searle’s passing in 2016 after a three-year battle with skin cancer. As such, it’s a deeply emotional and personal document. Even so, its excellence in craft cannot be denied.

You can buy or stream Holy Hell on Apple Music.

From a broad perspective, Holy Hell is an unsurprising crash course in the complexity and devastation of grief. At times, it reads like a letter from Searle’s brother, and Architects’ drummer, Dan. At others, it dwells in the depths of sorrow, desperately searching for a path forward. On a molecular level, it almost inexplicably manages to build and evolve on a sound the band had presumably perfected in recent years.

All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us solidified Architects as titans of metalcore, as if more proof was needed. Unbeknownst to listeners upon its release, that album allowed the late Searle to explore his fate in painful detail. “Death is Not Defeat”, the opening track of Holy Hell finds Dan responding to his brother’s final lyrics, acknowledging the pain of a finite existence, while gripping tightly to hope: “Now you’re finally complete / I will see you where oceans meet”.

We could spend the remainder of this review exploring the beauty of Dan Searle’s lyrics and uncanny ability to capture the journey of grief  – and there are no shortage of moments to share. But it’s all brought to life through a band stretching itself and allowing their collective pain to forge a path forward.

New guitarist Josh Middleton makes his presence felt throughout, whether it be found in surprisingly melodic riffs during the opening moments of the album’s title track or in the band’s signature mathematic breakdowns on singles “Hereafter” and “Modern Misery”. Throughout Holy Hell, the band sprinkle in elements, such as dark synthesizers and stringed instruments that blend gently into the mix, adding emotion without sounding out of place. These additions take tracks like album closer “A Wasted Hymn” to a deeper place than the band has ever been able to explore.

Atop it all, Sam Carter, long considered one of the genre’s best vocalists, delivers his finest performance. Here, Carter finds new ways to splinter, be it delicately, as on “Royal Beggars” or in outright fury as on “The Seventh Circle”. On the former, Carter fights through sorrow while singing, “Royal beggars / Do you wanna / Live forever / Alone?” On “Seventh Circle”, Carter shreds his vocal chords non-stop for 1:30 as he helplessly bellows, “I feel the blood drip from my face / Maybe it’s better to never have been”. One can only imagine the scene in the studio while putting such a performance to tape.

Carter’s ability to evolve as a vocalist, transcending the traditional role of metalcore frontman, is made even more extraordinary when considering the circumstances. On back-to-back albums, he has been tasked with delivering a surreptitious farewell and then the mournful response of the bereaved. It must be the kind of responsibility that allows one to tap into parts of themselves they never knew existed. It has resulted in the kind of work that defines a career.

In the face of such loss, it would have been understandable had the remaining members of Architects chosen to walk away. That they chose to carry on is laudable. That they were able to take their collective grief and infuse it into something so life affirming, beautiful and real is inspiring. The band’s excellence is no longer debatable. Architects stand among the elite in modern metalcore.

5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Most Anticipated of 2018: #10 Architects Press Onward

Last year proved to be one of reflection and recovery for many in the heavy music scene, as fans mourned the 2016 loss of Architects’ founding guitarist and songwriter Tom Searle. In September, the British metalcore act released “Doomsday”, their first track since Searle’s passing, serving as a farewell to their brother and a notice that they intend to carry on.

While it was hard to imagine Architects without Tom in the near aftermath of his passing, it’s even harder to think of one of the genre’s best bands hanging it up. It’s true – things won’t be the same without Tom, but Architects have shown themselves time and again to possess the kind of talent and drive needed to push the boundaries of the genre. Whatever comes next from the band will be welcomed with open arms.

And certainly, after 2017 proved to be worse than most of us imagined, the blistering voice of Sam Carter would be music to our ears. Even aside from their musical prowess, Architects’ penchant for battling against the voices of privilege, wealth, and oppression in our world have become one of the band’s hallmarks. If ever there was a time for punk music to land a blow amidst our current state of affairs, the time is now.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

architects-band-2016

Where do you go once you’ve reached the top? In 2014, Architects released what appeared to be their masterpiece with Lost Forever // Lost Together, a triumph of modern metalcore that firmly planted the band atop the genre. After a decade of scratching and clawing, it appeared that the bone-crushing Brighton act had reached their zenith.

With that in mind, what do we do with All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, an album that for all intents and purposes is every bit the masterpiece of their prior release?

All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

You can buy All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us on iTunes.

For their seventh full-length album, Architects once again hit the studio with Henrik Udd and Fredrik Nordström, a purposeful decision by a band that felt as though they unearthed the treasure within on their last record. The resulting collection of songs won’t change the narrative of the band, but it will certainly rattle your soul once more, cementing Architects as the finest metalcore band on the planet

Because of the production similarities and the band’s decision to follow the thread they pulled on their last outing, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us won’t catch the casual listener by surprise. But for those who were transfixed with Architects’ rapid evolution, there’s even more to enjoy this time around.

The band wastes no time getting down to business, ripping out of the gate with opener “Nihilist”, an absolutely brutal track that sets the tone for the record. Lost Forever // Lost Together touched on a variety of themes related to the depraved condition of humanity, but All Our Gods points its focus primarily on corrupt Western politics and our self-elevated “gods” that bring nothing but ruin and decay. While the instrumentals of “Nihilist” grow more expansive and complex as the song progresses, vocalist Sam Carter’s lyrics become razor sharp: “All hail the corporatocracy / The word of God written in binary / All hail our apostasy / The dying notes in an unholy symphony”.

“Nihilist” doesn’t just set the tone for the album; it discloses the premise of the discussion surrounding this record. All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us forgoes the calm-before-the-storm moments of terrifying stillness that are littered throughout Lost Forever in favor of consistently tightened metalcore power that barrels through the speakers from start to finish.

That’s not to say that there’s no variety in sound – “All is Lost” features surprisingly grungy guitar tones that slightly slow the pace while “Deathwish” adds gorgeously haunting programming to its pummeling breakdowns, surgically filling out the already established Architects sound. The most noticeable improvement on All Our Gods belongs to Carter, whose vocals are now a perfect instrument alongside the guitars and drums. There is no more room for debate: Sam Carter is the finest vocalist in the metalcore scene.

His fierce screams are now complimented by melodic cries that are filled to the brim with conviction. On “Downfall”, his voice is full of desperation as the track hits the chorus: “We are paralyzed / But there are none so blind as those who will not see”. When “A Match Made in Heaven” reaches its sonic summit, he bellows to the depths in light of political corruption, screaming, “We found your fingerprints all over the trigger / If you’re looking for tyrants, take a look in the mirror”.

The rest of the band doesn’t sound too shabby, either. Guitarist Tom Searle is now officially accompanied by new sidekick Adam Christianson, and the duo sound stellar. “Downfall” is highlighted by complex breakdowns, rich with dueling guitars, right from the onset. “A Match Made in Heaven” houses some of the best riffs on the record, backed by tense, disturbing programming elements that fill out the mix. Not to be outdone, drummer Dan Searle struts his stuff behind the kit throughout the record. “Gravity” opens with a punishing wall of sound, driven by Searle’s powerful, ripping drums that break only for fleeting moments during a few small, spacey interludes that wouldn’t sound of place on an Underoath track.

If you were to find a blemish in All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, it would only be in some of the songs’ similarities to the band’s last outing. For example, “The Empty Hourglass” sounds strangely similar to the tone of Lost Forever // Lost Together, providing an unneeded whiff of familiarity. Yet for every moment you think the band sounds the same, there’s tracks like the fearful “From the Wilderness” that add fresh, audible tonal changes while calling out our indifference to the physical peril of our planet.

For all of the ways in which Architects have mastered their craft, the most vital element of their music is their steadfast conviction. If Lost Forever was a despairing cry from the void, All Our Gods is an enraged call for action. Carter has become a fire-breathing voice for change in the metal scene, but for all of the fury he projects, he still saves plenty of venom for himself. “I’d take a leap of faith, but I’d lose my nerve / In the end, I’ll get the hell that I deserve”, he laments on “Gone with the Wind”. Even when he takes aim at political leaders and oppressive regimes, you still get the feeling that he’s indicting himself alongside.

It’s this unwavering allegiance to principle, when coupled with the band’s masterful execution, which makes Architects one of the most important and dynamic bands in heavy music today. We could spend weeks arguing between the merits of their last two outings, but that would be a terrible slight to the band’s overarching message and abilities. To put it simply, the reign of Architects continues. Enjoy.

4.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.