Review || Architects - "Holy Hell"

On November 9th 2018, Architects will present "Holy Hell", their eighth studio album -the first after the passing of guitarist and founding member Tom Searle, via Epitaph records. This album was a bet for the band. Choosing to carry on without the main composer is certainly a daunting task but the Brighton-based powerhouse managed to turn the odds to their favor and create an exceptional posthumous tribute to honor Tom's legacy. Architects' art has always had the ability to speak to fans on many different levels and help them cope with hardships. In a turn of events, this is what the creation of "Holy Hell", the most anticipated album of the year, meant to the band.

Consisting of 11 tracks, it is a tense and poignant album, balancing between defiance and heartbreak. There is a continuity in the flow of the songs and the addition of orchestral elements, which would otherwise seem weird or out of place, give them a subtle dramatic tone. Even some electronic elements add density to the end result. The theme of loss and healing is prevalent, infiltrating the compositions, yet the album is still anchored to the present. Someone recently suggested that we treated “Holy Hell” as the manifesting stages of grief -and they’re not entirely wrong. As the compositions progress and the lyrics become more and more clear, this theory seems to be validated. The listener ebbs and flows through the fierce denial, the intensity of anger, the despair in bargaining, the crushing depression and, finally, after small relapses, coming to terms with the new reality. Even if they're not going through a rough patch themselves, they can easily relate to the music. 
One thing that is immediately noticeable is the remarkable evolution in Sam Carter’s capabilities over the last few years. This became evident with a live performance of “Doomsday” at Radio 1 Rocks, where he aptly demonstrated how a vocally demanding track can look sound like a walk in the park, without straining his throat and still be very personal. His performance in the album is a testament to that. In all their brutality, his vocals convey very strong emotions and songs like the cathartic “Holy Hell” and “A Wasted Hymn” can’t but hit home. Then, the rhythm section, comprising of guitarist Adam Christianson, bassist Ali Dean and drummer Dan Searle, undertook the duty to give volume and substance to the album. Like a well-oiled machine, the trio delivered the bombastic undertones that supported the weight of the diversity in the compositions. 
The real unsung hero, however, is guitarist Josh Middleton. It’s never easy to step into someone else’s shoes in an established band, let alone those of a beloved musician like Tom Searle -and very likely at the expense of your own established band. We are no strangers to anger-fueled backlash from fans but the second risk the band took seems to be fully calculated and paying off. Middleton, who is a longtime friend of the band, is a renowned and well-rounded artist who did a fantastic job blending his own creativity, style and influences with Architects’ staple sounds and the late guitarist's unfinished ideas, making the outcome feel… homely, actually. When listening to the album in full, I understand how Tom is omnipresent -and the “Holy Ghost” documentary title makes perfect sense. In order to move on, embracing the darkest and lowest points of life is essential. To quote Thomas Fuller, "it is always darkest before the Day dawneth". 

To sum things up, what these guys have accomplished with “Holy Hell” and the way they have artistically translated their pain is monumental. It’s raw, it’s emotional, but most of all, it’s brutally honest. The quintet is probably one of the best bands of our time.

A masterpiece in 11 acts. Album of the year. 

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