Album Review: Architects - 'Holy Hell'

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Architects are finally back, with an album that’s been both highly anticipated and doubted for the last two years. It’s impossible to separate this album from the tragedy that inspired it - the passing of guitarist Tom Searle in 2016. But rather than sinking into despair, Architects have risen triumphant and released the most incredible tribute to the friend they lost. Drummer Dan, Tom’s twin brother, took over from his brother and embraced the role of main lyricist and producer, and the result is album that does not disappoint in any way. Tom’s influence clearly weighs heavy on this album, as the band have mentioned throughout the lead up to the release. 

Death is not Defeat’ is the perfect opener to this album. Emotion cuts through Sam’s brutal vocals and makes the song gut-wrenchingly real and almost hard to listen to. This song, like most on the album, is undoubtedly about the certainty of mortality, but its also an anthem of strength and duality.

New guitarist Josh Middleton had some colossal boots to fill, and he does it with such grace, producing guitar riffs that hold up perfectly against all seven of Architects previous albums. But not only does this album hold up against the rest, it stands out, as Architects continue to push the boundaries of their sound, adding strings to title track ‘Holy Hell’ and producing one hell of a head banger with ‘The Seventh Circle’.

Vocalist Sam lays his soul bare on album closer ‘A Wasted Hymn’, the lyrics somehow weaving a perfect blend of sorrow and hope. The final chorus - “Now it's time to sink or swim, I've got nothing except this wasted hymn. Holy Ghost, nothing lasts forever” - feels like a hard hitting depiction of where Architects are. They could’ve sunk, and no one would have blamed them, but they chose to swim. And in doing it so with such incredible strength, they made sure that there’s one thing that actually might live forever - Tom’s legacy. 

If you listen to all of Architects albums in order (not a bad way to spend a few hours, just for the record) you can hear them growing up. But Holy Hell is more than that, both lyrically and sonically. This album is simultaneously about suffering unimaginable sudden pain, and fighting your way through it. It’s therapeutic, it’s heartbreaking, it’s triumphant. And it’s a modern metal masterpiece.

Words by Megan Smith