When Architects sold out a headline show at London's Alexandra Palace at the start of the year, you'd be justified in thinking that it would be there coup de grace. After all, performing one of the great metal shows of the last decade to 10,000 people is no mean feat. And if we're truly honest with ourselves - it's an achievement we couldn't have imagined Architects ever reaching four years prior.
Architects' rapid ascension has been made all the more captivating by their downright refusal to stray from their original identity. For seven albums they've been calling the world out on paramount topics such as sexism, racism, and climate change (to name a few) and have remained mercilessly heavy throughout. The bands steep climb through the ranks of popularity reads like a classic underdog novel - with the latest chapter being one of tragedy, and heartbreak.
You'll remember that the death of guitarist, and main songwriter Tom Searle in 2016 sent desolate shock waves through heavy music and left the band, understandably, wondering whether they would continue. With all that said, new album Holy Hell is not the bands comeback chapter. It's actually a whole lot more than a mere return to form - this is the bands greatest triumph.
From the first 30 seconds of the aptly titled opening track 'Death Is Not Defeat' you get a sense that this is not your typical Architects record - you can feel something special is in the offing. Vocalist Sam Carter sounds as slicing as usual but this time with an even more prominent beating heart. His occasional melodic chimes blend perfectly with his sledgehammer assault during the breakdowns, this is Architects on the grandest scale we've ever seen them.
The performance of lead guitarist Josh Middleton can't be understated throughout Holy Hell. And while 'Hereafter' and 'Modern Misery' have choruses so grand they couldn't fit on the Richter scale, it's both 'Mortal After All' and 'Dying To Heal' that best sum up the genius within this record. The flickering, omnipresent metallic guitar lines of Middleton give base to metal ragers which are razor sharp around the edges yet produced with a shimmer. The inclusion of more subtle, intermittent melodic riffs make it sound that much heavier when the breakdowns rear their nasty heads, how the quintet manage to sound both abominable and pristine at the same time is beautifully bizarre.
Holy Hell comes with its fair share of variety too, 'The Seventh Circle' and 'A Wasted Hymn' juxtapose each other wonderfully. The former is nothing short of a two minute, carniverous rampage through your bloodstream - and is quite possibly the heaviest song Architects have ever penned. Album closer 'A Wasted Hymn' strikes as a more laid back affair (if there is such a thing in this record) but is no less forceful in its delivery, and Carter's screams of "now it's time to sink or swim" wrap the theme of this album together with endowment.
It's hard to escape that this is undoubtedly Architects' best, most complete record. The Southerners never give you a seconds peace, every breakdown, every chorus demands your attention, this is metal produced with a fine liner. The bands drummer, and brother of Tom, Dan Searle has picked up where his sibling left off, and helped craft an album that portrays the genius Tom instilled into the band more than anyone could have imagined possible. In 12 months time people will begin discussing their album of the decade, Holy Hell will be in your list.