ARTIST: ARCHITECTS

TITLE: HOLY HELL

LABEL: EPITAPH

RATING: 9/10 

WORDS: HARRY HIGGINSON

Architects’ 8th studio album, ‘Holy Hell’ is without a doubt the most important British metal album of this year. The band have made their name as one of the most consistent and progressive bands to come out of the late 2000s metalcore scene, bending the rules of the genre to breaking point and transcending the subgenre to become their own beast entirely.

But beyond just being another exercise in technical precision, brutality and anthemic song writing, this record is a tribute.

Tom Searle’s tragic departure shortly after the release of their 7th full length LP ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’ left a hole in the group; without their lead songwriter, guitarist, friend and brother, the future looked uncertain for the band. ‘Holy Hell’ then, is certainly more than just another record, and laced throughout the track listing are references to Tom’s departure. ‘Doomsday’, the last track partially penned before his passing, with lyrics completed by his brother and the band’s drummer, Dan Searle, is truly excellent, an emotional, heartfelt farewell executed in their typical powerful style. Lead singles ‘Hereafter’ and ‘Modern Misery’ are Architects at their sharpest, the latter’s hammering riffs seeing Architects blend technical proficiency with brutal simplicity in a way that sets the track out as not only a standout on the album, but in their entire discography.

“beyond just being another exercise in technical precision, brutality and anthemic song writing, this record is a tribute.”

Josh Middleton’s presence on the album is notable too. The Sylosis guitarist, the man tasked with filling Searle’s shoes is a perfect technical fill-in whose background in a more conventional metal band also leaves its mark. The lead guitar line in the opening of ‘Mortal After All’ see the band’s archetypal rhythmic pummelling accommodate a more melodic instrumental style, a subtle bit of experimentation that really pays off. ‘The Seventh Circle’ is another highlight – a departure from the Meshuggah-esque chugging that is typical of an Architects record, its hardcore-tinged tone, grimy production and nihilistic lyrics hint at a possible future direction for the group, and keeps the back end of the record from stagnating, adding a rawer element to the band’s arsenal.

Architects have upped their production game too – with a guitar tone as crunchy and heavy as ever, the band have increasingly incorporated electronic elements in to their sound, the use of synthesised strings adding complexity and depth to the record whilst retaining the hard edged core that defines their records. Their flirtations with melody seem to be even stronger than in the past too; closer ‘A Wasted Hymn’ is a fitting end to an emotional album. An expansive, introduction gives way to vocalist’ Sam Carter’s sensitive vocal delivery, surprisingly mournful and suppressed for a man who made his name with throat-shredding screams. Without a doubt, when it’s called for Carter is still capable of demonstrating that he’s amongst the very best for sheer intensity, especially on ‘Death is not Defeat’ and ‘Damnation’, but these moments of genuine tenderness show a different, more sentimental side to the frontman. They cement him as one of the most versatile vocalists in metal, a force to be reckoned with indeed.

“Crushing, cathartic and brutal in equal measure, this is a band firing on all cylinders against all odds…”

The record isn’t without its flaws – there are moments when the swelling strings tread dangerously close to being overblown, and the group could afford a little more variety on the front end of the record, but in reality, these criticisms are just nit-picks. With just enough progression to keep their sound fresh, but enough of their trademark brute force and technicality to still be quintessentially Architects, ‘Holy Hell’ may well be one of the finest albums the group has produced. ‘Holy Hell’ rarely drops the ball across its 40 minute runtime. Crushing, cathartic and brutal in equal measure, this is a band firing on all cylinders against all odds, a masterclass in how to write a metal album, and more importantly, a fitting tribute to a talented man taken too soon.

Bravo Architects. Bravo.

 

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