Release Date: 9th November 2018
The debate regarding festival headliners regularly results in the same complaint – ‘why is it always the same three or so bands?’. Considering the exponential growth Architects have experienced over the past few years, from selling out Brixton Academy to performing at Alexandra Palace, and with an upcoming arena tour to boot – not to mention one of the most hotly anticipated metal albums of the year – it looks like we’ve found our new festival heavyweight in the Brighton metallers.
Holy Hell is the eighth album from the ‘post-metalcore’ act (as their signature sound has been dubbed), and is the first release not to feature founding member and guitarist Tom Searle after losing his three year battle with skin cancer in 2016. While his presence is still found on the album (single ‘Doomsday’ was a rejected track from the band’s previous album penned by Searle, and one would assume there are some leftover riffs of his dotted across Holy Hell), this record serves as the band’s first attempt at creating without their chief riff master. And a solid effort at that. All the elements one would expect from an Architects album are present: the punishing breakdowns, Sam Carter’s throat-shredding screams, electronic soundscapes sprinkled in for good measure. The riffs are as strong as ever too. Fifth track ‘Damnation’ showcases the modern metalcore riffing the band have pioneered, and highlights just how inferior all the current rip-off bands are in their attempts to replicate (steal) the band’s sound.
Equally, songs like ‘Mortal After All’ and ‘The Seventh Circle’ present some new elements not heard in Architects songs, or at least not recently. The latter is a modern thrash song clocking in at just under two minutes, and is quite possibly a result of Josh Middleton’s involvement in the band (the Sylosis guitarist serves as Searle’s replacement), while the former opens with a melodic line that wouldn’t be out of place on Hollow Crown.
Yet despite these ‘older’ metal sounds, it is clear that the band are attempting to branch out and draw in the mainstream audience. On numerous occasions, the less ‘metal’ songs – of which several are the singles – drew parallels to Bring Me The Horizon’s change in sound; maybe not as stark a change as That’s The Spirit, but certainly reminiscent of Sempiternal. Yes, the massive choruses and less riff-centric songs were present on the last two records, but Architects seem to have increased the focus on this style of writing. While the singles ‘Hereafter’ and ‘Doomsday’ are strong as standalone tracks, their impact diminishes when included on an album of similarly structured songs. A cynic might even suggest that these songs were written and released as a way to entice new listeners, as those not familiar with the genre may be turned off by more overtly metal tracks. Even so, this ‘arena oriented’ metal seems to dominate the album; perhaps this is the direction the band are hoping to pursue?
It might not be the strongest Architects album, but Holy Hell still remains an admirable addition to the band’s oeuvre. Very little new ground is covered – in fact, some of the riffs seem a little too similar to those found on All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us – and despite the odd flashback to the band’s more technical days, it appears that era is long gone. But hey, it’s still head and shoulders above most of the metalcore records out there, and if a young teen decides to explore modern metal, Holy Hell is a great place to start.
Recommended Track: Mortal After All