Holy Hell

Written by: AP on 30/12/2018 23:55:35

While many artists from the metalcore establishment have pushed into increasingly mainstream styles bordering on alternative and even nu-metal in recent years, Architects have largely stayed true to their roots. The Brighton-based outfit did toy with shifting toward a post-hardcore-oriented sound on 2011’s “The Here and Now”, but they quickly abandoned the course after being met with a hail of criticism, and restored the faith of their fanbase by following it up with “Daybreaker” only a year later, and since then, their output has been consistently excellent. However, when tragedy struck in 2016 as lead guitarist and primary songwriter Tom Searle was ripped from this world by cancer, it cast serious doubt on the future of this seminal group, and there was a period after “All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us” was released as the final piece of Tom’s legacy in 2016, when not even the remaining members could say for certain whether Architects would continue as a band or not. But in the darkness of grief, the group seems to have found only strength and defiance and the need to push forward, distilling these into their most powerful and emotionally wrenching album to date: “Holy Hell”.

Tom’s spirit lives on in the music, and as such, the lyricism — now written by his brother, drummer Dan Searle — is absolutely brutal. Whether he is renouncing the idea of disease as a mortal enemy in the opening track, “Death Is Not Defeat”, or decrying the havoc we wreak on our planet in “Modern Misery”, his words seethe with rage, cry in despair and tremble from heartache all at once, and they are perfectly embodied by vocalist Sam Carter, who puts in the performance of a lifetime for these eleven songs. His prowess has never been in question and one might even refer to him as the complete metalcore vocalist, given his mastery over all three tenets of the genre: growls, screams and melodic singing. But even his past glories are eclipsed by the urgency of his delivery in the likes of “Doomsday”, the chorus of which still takes my breath away and gives me the shivers every single time I hear it. It sounds as though Carter took those three styles of vocalisation and deployed them in parallel to create an astonishingly emotive, melodic roar that tugs at your heartstrings as he muses:

They say, ‘the good die young’ / No use in saying, ‘what is done is done’, ‘cause it’s not enough! / And when the night gives way / it’s like a brand new doomsday / What will be will be / Every river flows into the sea, but it’s never enough! / And when the night gives way / It’s like a brand new doomsday

As the penultimate song, “Doomsday” serves as both the climax and the catharsis of “Holy Hell”, yet the album never asks the listener to wait for a highlight to arrive. A memorable record typically offers two or three standout moments like it and then keeps the bottom standard sufficiently high so as to invite from the listener a positive reaction overall. But what Architects have accomplished with “Holy Hell” is a piece of music in which skipping ahead is totally out of the question. Between the dramatic, orchestral intro to “Death Is Not Defeat” and its reprise at the end of “A Wasted Hymn”, the album forms a seamless litany of metalcore gems that stumble over one another to be the best track in the genre this year. And it is not only the quality of the songwriting or the skill of musicianship that make it so — it is also the overarching theme of salvation through suffering that the music and lyrics so perfectly capture. While guitarists Josh Middleton (who stepped in to fill the void left by Tom Searle’s passing) and Adam Christianson still churn out their riffs in the savaging F# tuning that forms the basis of Architects’ signature sound, resulting in some of the heaviest, most gorging material from the band since 2009’s breakthrough “Hollow Crown”, the former musician in particular also seems to have brought the influence of his past work to the table. The guitar melodies that swirl out of the djent-style riffage in songs like “Damnation” and “Royal Beggars” certainly have an air of Sylosis about them, being quite dark and melancholy in their tone, and rolling off some of the treble in favour of a smoother sound than fans with a keen ear for those kinds of subtleties may be used to. Whatever fresh ideas Middleton adds to the band’s palette, however, he adds with great sensitivity both toward the legacy of Tom Searle and how people expect Architects to sound.

No — “Holy Hell” sounds like Architects through and through, albeit it witnesses the band at the apex of their abilities. Its expression is incredibly uniform, but only to the extent that it plays like an album rather than merely a collection of songs without a red thread. There is nothing uniform about the actual tracklist, which betrays variety both overt and subtle, sometimes roping you in by simple means like a striking chorus (“Royal Beggars”), other times driving you straight into the pit with a barrage of metallic hardcore (“The Seventh Circle”), but mostly just holding you mesmerised beneath the thick and ruminating atmosphere as you join Carter and his compatriots in making sense of and ultimately healing from an unspeakable trauma. All of the pain these musicians feel, you feel it too. The light they see at the end of the tunnel, as Carter hauntingly repeats “All is not lost…” in the lead-up to the hopeful and even somewhat uplifting closing track, “A Wasted Hymn”, you see it too. An afflicted and deeply moving piece of music, “Holy Hell” is thus certain to be remembered as a landmark album not only in the context of Architects’ own repertoire, but also the metalcore genre as a whole. And with credentials like that, it would be confounding if the record did not feature heavily on the various best of lists that are getting published left and right as 2018 winds to a conclusion.


Download: Death Is Not Defeat, Mortal After All, Damnation, Doomsday
For the fans of: Bury Tomorrow, Northlane, While She Sleeps
Listen: Facebook

Release date 09.11.2018
Epitaph Records / UNFD

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