Death is never fun for any part of life, it’s just romanticized to grandiose proportions in art. To say it in a way that doesn’t make you rage quit on your electronic device, losing a loved one is easily one of the most painful experiences, akin to that of losing your genitals in an unfortunate smelting accident. The difference is that when you’re a musician, you get to bang out a sort of survival album, if you will. You spill your guts about how much you adored that person but how your heart will go on (please don’t sue me Celine). Such is the case with Brighton, UK metalcore juggernaut Architects.
Holy Hell is the first release since the tragic passing of Architects’ primary composer Tom Searle in August of 2016, leaving the future of the band’s artistic capability a thing of complete mystery. That being said, by now you’re probably getting bored since my score is in the headline, so let’s get sucking back on some meat and potatoes. As the kids say, the opinions “might” surprise you.
Architects have honed a formula over the last decade and a half that has seemingly been foolproof in cementing their place of priority amongst their listener base: mathematic-based riff patterns, thick palm mutes, fat fucking bass drops and breakdown grooves, epic chorus structuring, unbridled production quality across all fronts, and more “Blegh” than a baby after breakfast. Holy Hell in no way breaks from that formula and those definitive characteristics. The album leaves only the mystery of how much of Tom is really left in all of it, as writing creds were not and will not be released (with the exception of “Doomsday.”) So that should be it, right? Holy Hell is just another perfect Architects release, so where the fuck else could I go with this? Actually, a few fucking places.
First and foremost, this band has always been wildly entertaining in my opinion, but never truly stands the test of time. They’re faithfully consistent, but somehow to a fault. This record is no different as after three full listens (though they were consecutive and without the normally expected skip of less than enthralling songs), the tracks began to bleed into each other without concept of start and finish due to their incredible likeness to each other. This isn’t necessarily to say that they all sound the goddamn same, but it is to say that a decisive difference in their song structuring from track to track arguably hasn’t been a noticeable thing since 2011’s The Here and Now. The idea of “if it ain’t broke to fix it” is obviously at play here, but at what point does one maybe say, “Fuck, which song is this now?” The emotion is there, the production value is there… damnit, even the catchiness is there. It should all be coming up fucking Millhouse! Yet here I am, full after my first real serving, not even slightly enticed to go back for more.
A variety of issues could be attributed to this key point. Could it be the fact that some of the best and almost individual tracks were released as singles, leaving mostly carrion left for the remaining portions of the record? Could it be that the perfected Architects brand formula has boxed them into repetitiveness by drowning out the unique qualities of these tunes in the previously mentioned palm mutes and breakdown grooves? Hell, maybe it’s just the fact that the album desperately needs a sore thumb to bring the redundancy that’s inexplicably satiating my need for their distinctive brand of metalcore. Regardless, garden variety Architects fan’s will undoubtedly burst over this record and newcomers will be impressed, but this pundit just doesn’t wanna blegh again. (At least, not until their ridiculous tour package comes to my beloved home town of Montreal, QC on May 21st, 2019.)
Written by Jason Greenberg
*edited by Kate Erickson