Even in a modern musical climate where big album releases justifiably or unjustifiably get receive significant hype, the prospect of a new record from UK metalcore giants Architects is legitimately something worth paying attention to, granted the tragic circumstances surrounding the band over the course of the last couple of years. Out of this darkness, however, comes ‘Holy Hell’ – the band’s latest album and their first since 2016’s ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’.
Promotional singles “Doomsday”, “Hereafter”, and “Royal Beggars” have gradually been released over the course of the past year or so, paving the way for the release of Holy Hell in the coming weeks. Each with their own unique atmosphere which separates them from not only the other two but also all of the other songs on this album, Architects have wisely selected the most appropriate musical offerings when it comes to hinting at what the whole body of work has within its arsenal, whether that’s the anthemic nature of “Doomsday”, the aggression of “Hereafter”, or the melodic touches on “Royal Beggars” that correspond with the track’s emphasis on traditional Architects riffing.
Of course, with the loss of guitarist and creative centerpiece Tom Searle in the summer of 2016 and the inclusion of Sylosis frontman Josh Middleton on lead guitar, the end product of ‘Holy Hell’ is going to venture into different musical territory than what has been heard over the course of Architects’ previous work. Opening track “Death is Not Defeat” can be easily interpreted as a nod to the band’s recent history, as well as their determination to continue on despite the sad circumstances that they’ve had to deal with.
Architects’ discography since their first album with current frontman Sam Carter has taken many musical twists and turns over the years, with every record exploring a different creative avenue while still maintaining the traditional elements that give Architects their individual identity that makes their music stand out to listeners as purely Architects. ‘Holy Hell’ continues this trend by emphasizing the band’s trend of incredibly intricate musicianship influenced by a variety of classic bands, from Meshuggah to Converge to Decapitated and everybody in between. Combining melodic tinges with relentless aggression is a very difficult thing to achieve, and despite this challenge ‘Holy Hell’ is Architects’ best example of this effort to date.
In accordance with this, the main body of work presented throughout this album is an accurate representation of those attempts to produce an album heavy yet heartfelt, nailing the best parts of the past while exploring new territory, and paying homage to Tom while incorporating Josh as a member of their group. It’s difficult to overstate how much Architects have managed to nail the halfway point between musical reinvention and familiar nostalgia on this album, so it’s one of those things that you just have to experience for yourself because I don’t think it’s something I can explain through words alone. Whether it’s Carter’s vocal lines on “Mortal After All”, the sonic expansiveness of title track “Holy Hell” or the visceral rollercoaster that is “Modern Misery”, this album just screams excellence from beginning to end.
Coming back as a band after the passing of such a vital member is an incredibly difficult proposition for any band both musically and emotionally, but Architects have hit the road with such undeniable stride that to some people, ‘Holy Hell’ will rank in the upper echelons of this band’s entire discography. They are such a shining example of not only creative brilliance but also how to conduct yourself so that you bounce back from darkness until the brightest light imaginable.