Architects: Holy Hell review – addressing tragedy with gravity and defiance

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In 2016, Brighton metalcore giants Architects were sent reeling when founder guitarist and songwriter, Tom Searle – brother of drummer Dan – died of skin cancer, aged just 28. Two years on, the surviving sibling describes the regrouped band’s eighth album (the first since the tragedy) as being “about pain: the way we process, it, cope with it and live with it”. However, rather than succumb to understandable despair, the album comes hurtling out of the traps, from defiant opener Death Is Not Defeat onwards, offering what the surviving Searle hopes will be “a light at the end of the tunnel for people who are going through terrible experiences”.

Tragedy has also brought realignment, with new guitarist Josh Middleton (a long-time friend, who shared in the collective grief) and a shift from trademark political/environmental to more personal themes. Royal Beggars (“We’ve totally lost our way”) could still double as social commentary, but the songs otherwise address the stages of grieving, from shock to a gradual acceptance, with raw candour. As vocalist Sam Carter screams, “I wasn’t braced for the fallout.” Musically, they’ve also pushed at their own boundaries. The brutal bits are more savage, the gentler bits more reflective, and there are even occasional almost classical textures. The songs’ difficult birth has given them a bracing, anthemic, heartfelt and occasionally even eerily dreamlike quality. Architects aren’t a band for anyone with sensitive hearing, but it’s hard not to be moved by this loud, cathartic howl.

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