ARCHITECTS // "HOLY HELL" - ALBUM REVIEW
ARCHITECTS RETURN WITH THEIR BRAND NEW ALBUM ‘HOLY HELL’
Loss and grief are themes that have underpinned metal records since Tony Iommi resurrected the devil’s interval, but often they are examined with a sense of emotional detachment—as though a lung-bursting scream can add meaning when the lyric sheet fails to join the dots.
But that's an approach Architects aren’t able to entertain. In the years since the death of guitarist Tom Searle in 2016, the Brighton band have uncompromisingly documented the processing of their grief, playing live shows that served as tribute and celebration while building ‘Holy Hell’, a stunning record that seeks to ask as many questions as it answers about mourning, legacy, and the afterlife.
Elements of Tom’s writing—unfinished songs, ambient studio flecks—have been utilised here, forming a patchwork with the words of his twin brother, Dan, the band’s drummer and co-founder, and a flawless, gut-wrenching performance by vocalist Sam Carter.
There is tremendous power in Dan’s unvarnished writing, and aided by Carter he has delivered an honest treatise on a terrible subject. “When I leave this skin and bone, beyond my final heartbeat,” run the album’s opening lines. “I'll dismantle piece by piece and I will know that death is not defeat.”
This is Searle delivering a message to his brother and also a case of setting his stall out. The words ask pointedly what our purpose is in the here and now, but also leave things open-ended—this is not a didactic record. “Don't be afraid, we all cross the same line,” Carter adds, exhibiting one of its trump cards: no matter how dark ‘Holy Hell’ gets, there’s always a sense that we’re in this together. Hope is a fluctuating currency, but Architects aren’t about to short anyone. “The truth is, all of us are hostages,” Carter yells on Mortal After All. “Staring down the throat of the screaming abyss.”
The record’s ferocious combination of crunching metalcore riffage—courtesy of Adam Christianson and former Sylosis guitarist Josh Middleton—thunderous drums and dexterous melodies will be instantly familiar to those who have followed the band’s rise from fringe concern to arena giants, and that stands up as another deliberate consideration. ‘Holy Hell’ is a step into the unknown for Architects, but it wisely doubles down on the things that they’ve been doing well since ‘Lost Forever // Lost Together’ sent them spiralling upwards half a decade ago.
It will delight old heads, but also feel at home in enormodomes. A song like Royal Beggars, for example, is an immaculate arena-rock exercise, and also a blistering take on the necessary action of facing your problems. “I'm as guilty as the next man,” Carter roars at its pit-imperative ending. “Our eyes are open, but we're not listening.”
It’s one of a number of moments when the weight of making an album like this is made plain. The physical process of recording music, something the members of Architects have completed many times, is weighed against the fact that these songs amount to something much bigger. “They say the good die young,” Carter sings on Doomsday. “No use in saying ‘what is done is done’, because it’s not enough.”