Holy Hell, A Cathartic Journey of Acceptance
Brighton-born metalcore band, Architects, put out their heavily awaited eighth album Holy Hell earlier this month, after teasingly releasing the emotionally potent and sentimental tenth track of the album ‘Doomsday’, September of last year.
In the face of immense grief and loss, Architects have smashed it out of the park with this intensely reflective and inspiring album. Losing brother, friend and band-member Tom Searle to melanoma cancer in the August of 2016, the band have borne the burden of pain upon their shoulders. Being the band’s co-founder, alongside his brother Dan in 2004, as well as the chief writer of the majority of their material, the loss of Tom and the resulting uncertainty of their future as musicians without him makes the album and its message infinitely more potent. Holy Hell is a reflective homage to Tom’s influence on their lives and their music as well as reiterating the promise to the fans that, in Dan’s own words, “there’s still a future” for the band and their art.
Holding Architects and this promise dear to my heart as a long-term fan of the band myself, I have patiently awaited this album to see how they have evolved and developed as artists. I’m so pleased to say, like all their albums, it’s been worth the wait. Holy Hell is proof that in the face of uncertainty and grief, Architects have harnessed and nursed the raw emotion of their response into an intimate collage of sound and sensation from orchestral, melodic beauty to raw visceral energy and aggression.
Whilst evolving their sound continually with every album, becoming less musically technical as a result of this, Architects continue delight by fusing this development with elements of their original hectic style. Holy Hell’s intense two-minute interlude titled ‘The Seventh Circle’, is the perfect example of their synthesis of past and present. A dual-bass pedal rolls below a hectic Hollow Crown sounding guitar riff creating a wall of chaotic sound that is slowly stripped away leaving Sam Carter’s repeated verse, in all its distorted and passionate glory, about struggling to come to terms with the reality of loss, ‘I don’t wanna dream anymore’. A potential nod to their song ‘Naysayer’s lyrics ‘I’m a dreamer and I’m dreaming on’ showing what’s changed for the band over the last four years.
Thematically, the lyricism within Holy Hell is about death, religion and in Dan’s words, having a major role in writing the album’s lyrics, it’s about pain. “The way we process it, cope with it” and appreciating that it is a necessary experience, bringing personal growth and wisdom. Focusing more on the tribulations of being human, rather than political and environmental disaster at the hands of conservatism (all too relevant!), Architects have produced their most emotionally accessible and personal album to date. Holy Hell takes us on the cathartic journey of acceptance and growth that they themselves have undergone. A voyage beginning with the album’s introductory track ‘Death Is Not Defeat’, a thematic continuation of the final song of their previous album (All Our God’s Have Abandoned Us), ‘Memento Mori’, creating a lyrical dialogue between Tom and Dan on the fragility of life and the impression of influence that transcends this boundary. A heart beat can be heard thumping underneath Sam’s vocals ‘And I will know that death is not defeat’ at the end of the song’s introduction; setting premise for the album itself and leaving the resounding image that legacy discounts the conclusiveness of death, that Tom’s heart beats on within the music itself. Sam Carter’s vocals across the album are unsurprisingly incredible with fantastic range to go from tortured screeches and growls to harmonic, clean singing. Proving, yet again, their continued skill and ability to experiment and develop both vocally and musically. Holy Hell is a fusion of atmospheric string instruments, violins and such, with electronically synthesised beats combined with the technical proficiency of their musical ability to epitomize 21stcentury UK metalcore.
It was an absolute pleasure to listen to this album again and again. It proves to myself and many other Architects’ fans that they still have fantastically profound and inspiring music to offer us. It is always refreshing to see a band evolve their sound to fit their own vision for their art whilst still going all the way to maintaining their fan base and sticking true to their sound.