Two years after their last release, Architects are back with their eighth studio album, ‘Holy Hell’. Those two years have been the most difficult years the band have faced following the sudden death of guitarist and lead songwriter Tom Searle. Some bands would have given up there and then, but not these guys.
Tom’s twin brother Dan, the band’s vocalist, became the songwriter, allowing him to use writing as an outlet. Those lyrics are undisputedly the highlight of the record. They hold so much emotion that it’s impossible to separate the album from the event that led to it.
Setting up the record and giving an insight into the thoughts of the band is ‘Death Is Not Defeat’. Sounding like a grief-stricken stream of consciousness, this song will resonate with everyone, not just fans of the band. Heavy drums and thrashing guitars complement the harsh vocals, unapologetically kicking the record off.
The softer opening vocals of ‘Hereafter’ make the song accessible, while the lyrics encapsulate the concept of fighting a losing battle with grief: “I’ve been lost in a maze and every route I take leads right back to you”. It is an extremely clear view of emotions, just like Mike Shinoda gave us with ‘Post Traumatic’ in June. The music production here sums up how it all can be; complex riffs and heartbeat-like drum patterns show how the mind can be overwhelming but the heart is still a constant.
The title track is anthemic, showing that Dan will continue his brother’s legacy in the best way. This shines through across the record, as snippets of Tom’s voice notes and riffs are scattered around like ashes. His own lyrics are also honoured in ‘Damnation’, as “If hope is a prison, then maybe fate will set me free” plays with Tom’s lyric from ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’- “Do you remember when you said to me/ ‘My friend, hope is a prison?’”. Tom’s presence is definitely felt, making for a wonderfully poignant record.
The lyrics continue to shed light on loss, prevailing most in ‘Dying To Heal’ and ‘Doomsday’. Both songs tell of the difficulties of grief and the challenge of confronting those feelings whilst knowing that not doing so can be damaging. The music never fails to push through, often working to heighten the message portrayed by the lyrics.
The symphonies of ‘A Wasted Hymn’ show they’ve come full circle, providing an encouraging ending to an emotional album. Each song plays a part in telling the story of the band’s emotions, in turn reflecting the experiences of grief felt by fans. This album is certainly one of Architects’ best and is a perfect tribute to their fallen brother.