November 5, 2018 Architects – Holy Hell (Album Review)
Few bands enjoy a spotless reputation for always crafting awe-inspiring musical gems, but Architects continually stand as one of the most beloved bands on the heavy music spectrum. So, this Friday, November 9, 2018, fans can rejoice when the band deliver their brand-new opus, Holy Hell, thanks to Epitaph Records.
Brighton, England’s Architects formed in 2004 and have been building a truly impressive name for themselves ever since. With the release of their debut album, 2006’s Nightmares, they laid the foundation, and then continued to wow audiences with six more albums over the next decade, including 2009’s Hollow Crown, 2012’s Daybreaker, and, most recently, 2016’s All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us. Their sincerity and musical prowess have led the band to share stages with the likes of Bring Me the Horizon, Suicide Silence, Stick To Your Guns, Parkway Drive, Whitechapel, Comeback Kid, Every Time I Die, The Devil Wears Prada, The Amity Affliction, and many, many more.
Sadly, all has not been without major bumps in their path, and the band has already seen tragedy with the untimely passing of Founding Member, Songwriter and Guitarist Tom Searle, Drummer Dan’s twin brother, due to skin cancer in August 2016. Emotionally beaten and battered, Architects have chosen to soldier on in the name of their brother and have done so with heartwarming finesse.
With this in mind, Architects – Vocalist Sam Carter, Guitarist/Vocalist Josh Middleton, Guitarist Adam Christianson, Bassist Alex Dean, and Drummer Dan Searle – are poised to deliver their eighth studio album and first without Tom, Holy Hell. A jumble of understandably conflicted emotions, the album sees the band trying to deal with their well of grief – alternating between fury and sadness, resentment and pleading – and it all plays out as an epic journey that is guaranteed to leave no dry eyes in the house.
Holy Hell cuts immediately to the chase as bittersweet strings accompany Carter’s pained screams that “Death Is Not Defeat.” A kind of mantra for the collection, the band remind themselves why they are soldiering onward, amidst Djent-y basslines and their signature programming that sets a darkly reflective mood. For first single/video “Hereafter,” the band explode into a proper Architects amalgamation of superbly proficient musicianship and delicate atmospherics, creating a massive sound that transcends beyond the mortal plane. As though he is appealing to the Heavens for a direct response, Carter digs deep and howls the pain of the past two years, all cried out but still learning to “live without.” If you can escape “Hereafter” with dry eyes, something’s wrong with you!
We are indeed all “Mortal After All,” and the band acknowledge this fact by exploring new depths with a heavy-hitting wall of sound. Here, they state the blatantly obvious, opening a deep well of emotion and slamming bass which continues into album namesake “Holy Hell,” a lament that we’re all destined for the hereafter and our time together is finite. Dean’s bass leads the charge into “Damnation,” where embittered growls that proclaim hope a prison and the angry stomp that is exactly what its title suggests coalescing together in a darkness that is dusted with a hopeful desire to transcend this dark fate.
The hurricane of sound that is “Royal Beggars” (“All hope is dead, but we’re coping”) gets angry at our own blindness, with Djent-y bass riffs and poetically choking frustration. It is this whirlwind of emotion that leads them to “Modern Misery,” a glance at our inability to co-exist with the world around us without death and destruction. It’s a perfectly aware comment on the greater misery blooming in our current times, beyond that which is deeply personal. Then they step back to look further into the idea of closure, the goal of the grieving process and the holy grail of our suffering when we are “Dying to Heal.” Here, they go heavy in words and sounds, expressing the dichotomies inherent in our journey of emotional healing – that often we must fly too close to the sun and tango with danger before we can learn to accept and respect the finality of our human condition.
Clocking in at just under two minutes, “The Seventh Circle” is the frustrated explosion, the tearing at the hair and pleading for solace. This paves the way for a track that fans already know and absolutely love, “Doomsday,” which was released as a stand-alone single at the end of 2017. A throbbing, pulsing heaviness that is infectiously catchy, the track is the perfect example of a band firing on all cylinders, despite the magnitude of their personal condition. While it’s more easily digestible than the bulk of Holy Hell, it still stands as a brilliant addition to Architects’ already superb oeuvre.
Ultimately, beautiful atmospherics build a tension into the coup de grace, “A Wasted Hymn,” an acceptance that nothing gold can stay. With layered sonic dramatics, Architects create a poignant mood and offer their insight into transcending pain and reflect upon the impermanence of our existence. It is a bold send-off, an emotional farewell to an album that is truly and irrevocably intertwined with the depths to which we fall when we lose someone we love – there’s fury and faith, desolation and epiphany, and, ultimately, acceptance.
There is a gravitas to Holy Hell that is hard won but respectfully earned; there’s frustration and bitterness, hopelessly hopeful pleas and a truly raw, bleeding heart overflowing with all these conflicting emotions. As the band try to process their personal pain, they deliver a sincerely tormented opus that leaves them at their most vulnerable and, consequently, their most brilliantly honest. No amount of upheaval could ever be written off as worthwhile to produce a great record, and yet, to live in hearts left behind is to achieve a form of immortality.
The heartfelt anguish and inspiring resiliency on display throughout Holy Hell is something that cannot ever be faked, something that many bands would shy away from. Instead, Architects embrace their journey with strength and love and a transparency that allows them to deliver their most poignant and truly moving record to date. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Architects’ Holy Hell 5 of 5 stars.