Review: Architects struggle with life, death, and grief on Holy Hell
“The aggression and anger are accompanied by notes of sadness and doom. The slivers of hope and acceptance come in waves. They are not in order, and are experienced simultaneously.”
All eyes were on U.K based metal band Architects this week as they released their highly anticipated follow up to 2016’s All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, and eighth studio album Holy Hell. Holy Hell marks the first record from the act following the death of lead songwriter, guitarist and brother Tom Searle, who was the sole contributor in the bands songwriting process since 2006.
Having to fill the shoes of an incredibly large presence, former touring guitarist Josh Middleton officially joined the band during the All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us album cycle, started to send demos to drummer Dan Searle, who stepped up to take on the brunt of the work with creating Holy Hell, picking up right where his brother had left off.
You can stream the album on Spotify here.
The opening track is the band’s statement for the album; “Death Is Not Defeat.” The song starts off with a soft orchestra, building a crescendo to Sam Carter’s piercing vocals only to quickly grow quiet for the lyrics;
“And I will know that death is not defeat.”
The emotion in this song is beyond powerful, and is projected through the slow and heavy breakdown.
“It’s at times like that you ask yourself, ‘What is left?’” said Carter in a press release. “As a group of friends, we had to find something.”
The album holds a theme of mortality, clear that the band was shaped by the death of their loved one. “Mortal After All” contains an eye opening line in the bridge;
“The end will come for all of us, this all rests on the fault line. All ends will be met and all worlds must collapse.”
The sense of morality is balanced with a sense of hope. In “Dying to Heal” Carter screams “I see no silver linings when the days are so dark. So hold a flame to these words, enough pressure will create a diamond”
“For me, broadly speaking Holy Hell is about pain: the way we process it, cope with it, and live with it,” said drummer Dan Searle in a press release. “There is value in pain. It’s where we learn, it’s where we grow.”
It’s true, it is the stages of grief. The aggression and anger are accompanied by notes of sadness and doom. The slivers of hope and acceptance come in waves. They are not in order, and are experienced simultaneously.
The release of the second single “Hereafter” was met with high praise, and huge anticipation for the upcoming album. However, the following singles mimicked the same instrumental pattern – lowering expectations for the album. “Royal Beggars” and “Modern Misery” held the same pattern, and lacked diversity from each other.
It’s hard to sit here and say that the aforementioned songs were boring, because they are are from it. The mathematical guitar progressions and perfectly timed drums make for an experience. But it’s the formula of the song that is repetitive. Opening verse, timely long screams, chorus, second verse, heavy breakdown that progresses into a melodic bridge that slows to the end of the song.
However, the release of four singles prior to the release of the album made it very accessible to fans. The first single, “Doomsday” was released independently without an album announcement. It made it clear the band wanted to show their work with the community, and did not want to hold onto it in secrecy in order to build hype.
However, “The Seventh Circle” breaks this trend. The song starts off sounding very hardcore, with the band seemingly reaching all the way back to their roots in hardcore. Once Carter’s vocals kick in, you can immediately pick up on a sense of anger and urgency as he yells;
“I’m stepping off the edge, I think I’d prefer oblivion. I feel the blood drain from my face, maybe it’s better to never have been.”
The closing song “A Wasted Hymn” brings together this dual sense of loss and doom with a ray of hope. It shows the band fighting through the pain to mold it into something Tom would be proud of, to honor him.
When the Doomsday Tour ended last year, fans we were concerned that they would never hear music from Architects again. We should have known better.
Architects is not only Tom’s life work, but also represents a lifetime of effort from Sam Carter, Ali Dean, Dan Searle, and Adam Christianson; it is a reminder that passion, talent, and persistence has been the key to success, even in the absolute hardest of times.
As the opening number says, death is not defeat, and even if this record becomes their finale, it is proof that death cannot defeat Architects.
“Now it’s time to sink or swim.”