If you’re familiar with, not just Architects as a band, but the metal scene as a whole, then there’s a 99% chance you’ve heard about the tragedy that befell the Searle family and Architects camp two years ago when their brother and guitarist Tom Searle passed away following a three-year fight with skin cancer. It struck the community, because not only did this happen to a very young man, but it happened to an incredibly talented musician and songwriter, too. He is a founding member of Architects and without him and brother Dan, they simply wouldn’t exist. The loss was devastating on varying scales for everyone.
There began a silent question in everyone’s minds of, ‘Will Architects exist without Tom?’ – a question the band themselves admit they didn’t know the answer to for a while. However, it shows great courage and respect for Tom’s legacy that they did continue in the wake of that sadness, and have produced their eighth album, Holy Hell, the follow-up to 2016’s All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us.
We’ve already been presented with four tracks from the album – Doomsday was the first, back in September of 2017 and was followed with a piano reprise of the song earlier this year. It’s widely known that this track is one which Tom himself began writing before his death, originally intended for AOGHAU, but did not make the final album. Following Doomsday, in the run-up to the release of Holy Hell we have heard Hereafter, Royal Beggars and Modern Misery. Three fantastic insights to the album as a whole, truly showcasing the abilities of Architects as we know and love them, and each one different from the last.
Holy Hell is a whirlwind of obvious emotion and the prevalent theme, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that of pain and loss. However, far from being a melancholic affair, the album radiates positivity. In an event that perhaps would have destroyed many bands, Architects have risen from their grief stronger and more committed to their music than ever. Drummer Dan states, ‘For me, broadly speaking, Holy Hell is about pain: the way we process it, cope with it, and live with it,’ adding, ‘There is value in pain. It’s where we learn. It’s where we grow.’
There is a certain twist to this new Architects material with the permanent addition of Josh Middleton, also of Sylosis. Whilst Doomsday showcases the Architects sound we know and love, the remainder of Holy Hell has an even more intricate guitar sound, bordering on tech-metal at times, and riffs reminiscent of older style death metal even finding their way into the mix. There’s a definite influence from Josh throughout the album, and the boldest embodiment of this is during The Seventh Circle. It’s definitely edgier and rawer than the rest of Holy Hell, which is exactly what the album needed.
The most notable thing about Holy Hell is that each track is easily distinguishable from its counterparts, yet the album as a whole flows seamlessly from one to the next. Opening track Death is Not Defeat is a blatant nod to their recent history, but positivity radiates from the lyrics. As well as drawing from their personal experience, it follows on from the closing track of AOGHAU, Memento Mori, written by Tom and therefore entwining the two albums even more intricately than they already were. It’s a respectful and emotional acknowledgement of Tom’s legacy.
The album and the band’s progression do have to be analysed and recognised on their own merit, however, and not just because of the impact that Tom and his life and death have had. It’s admirable that Architects have continued but it also shows that they’re far more talented and creative than they even give themselves credit for. Throughout multiple interviews Dan and Sam state that ‘Tom was Architects,’ and completely discount their own input to the band. However, knowing that all but one of these tracks were written following Tom’s death, that signature Architects sound lives on through Holy Hell, yet they have progressed into new territories at the same time.
The band, prior to the release of Holy Hell, announced a run of UK shows culminating in Wembley Arena. It’s safe to say this is a feat most bands aim towards but most never make it there. Not only have Architects made it, but Holy Hell features tracks that will fill arenas; a feat desired by most and achieved by few. We can’t wait to see the production that accompanies these fantastic songs in a huge setting like Wembley. The title track, Holy Hell, in itself will be a particular highlight, featuring strings sections to add an anthemic sound and an absolutely massive chorus that will fill every corner of any arena. It’s a difficult feat to add unrelenting aggression with sweeping melodic statements but Architects make this seem like a second nature to them.
A Wasted Hymn follows Architects’ now infamous trend of closing an album with a track that begins sounding softer, more melodic and gentle, yet crescendos into a strong, anthemic chorus ensuring the repeat button is smacked harder than Ali Dean’s bass. This is one album with a huge hype surrounding its release that has lived up to the hype and delivers tenfold on what fans have come to expect.
Holy Hell as a whole is an album that Architects should be so incredibly proud of. It is outstanding musicianship and song-writing, executed in the most flawless way. They’ve kept their signature, distinguished sound whilst venturing into territories as yet uncharted by Architects. It’s easy to go as far as to say no other modern metal band could have achieved what Architects have with Holy Hell. Tom Searle’s legacy is safe with these men.
Holy Hell as a whole is an album that Architects should be so incredibly proud of. It is outstanding musicianship and song-writing, executed in the most flawless way. They've kept their signature, distinguished sound whilst venturing into territories as yet uncharted by Architects.