Death. A subject we are all far too familiar with many times over. One of the only certainties in life, yet it never ceases to catch us by surprise and has the most absolute power to tear from the very fabric of existence of those who are left behind. Death clearly does not only affect the ones it takes. While their life has come to its ultimate culmination or untimely end, the friends and family who remain will feel the ripple of this loss for the rest of their own time on this earth. Regardless of what we all understand about death and even when it comes at an expected moment (is there ever truly such a time?), it’s hard to fathom that we could ever fully comprehend or come to terms with everything else that in entails and the ultimate impact of it all. When I typically write an album review I do my best to approach them from a second person point of view. I attempt to write it as an outsider with the least amount of biased possible attached to it. When the time came for me to write the review for this album though, I found it extremely difficult (if not impossible) to approach it from any other angle than one with a personal connection to the overall theme of said album. Now I do not believe for one second that I’m the only one who feels this way, nor do I think there won’t be other reviews out there that were written with such personal detachment. But due to some of my own losses of extremely close friends and family throughout my short time of life I can only assume I felt a greater connection with this leitmotif than perhaps I could have otherwise avoided. I myself have had my struggles and torments due to whom I have lost, but through these deaths I have also learned some valuable lessons left behind which have helped me to grow and develop into the man I am today. That’s kind of the point. Yes, there will be many difficulties, many moments of pain and sadness and even anger, but there will also be many positive sentiments or silver linings we can take with us and use when we press to move on with our own lives. It’s this ‘seeing the forest for the trees’ type of insight which helps us to mourn our lost loved ones in the proper manner, but at the same time being able to realize the ‘collateral beauty’ (yes, this was taken from a movie, but a invaluable lesson none the less) that can also come from these deaths. This is precisely what Architects have done with their latest album, Holy Hell. An album which touches on all of the aspects and beyond that can so often be associated with death.
Ever a band that has had an unequivocal, unparalleled and uncanny ability to produce the truest form of almost any emotion simply through sound, the band has carried this on yet again with each and every track on Holy Hell. The opening track “Death Is Not Defeat” exemplifies this sentiment from the very first note. Strings full of longing and sadness yet which quickly usher in a sense of determination and ambition begin this anthem of life after death. ‘When I leave this skin and bone, beyond the final heartbeat. I’ll dismantle piece by piece, and I will know that death is not defeat’. Hauntingly powerful words which only help to echo the message delivered by the instruments not only in the beginning of the song, but in every note throughout the choruses and verses. This can used as a personal disposition or a teaching that could be extended to those that carry on after loss. Death does not always mean the end. Life for some can carry on, and this is something we must all do our best to remember. Sam Carter’s extremely emotional deliver pacts such a punch that one could actually believe such a notion. As previously stated, the sheer emotion conveyed through the instruments alone is otherworldly, and this song does a more than fantastic job of displaying the positive through a negative point of view. Do not look at death as simply the end but take what positivity and hopefulness for the future that you can from all you have learnt from those you have lost.
There are a multitude of life lessons one can take from death on how perhaps they should continue to live their own life. But how exactly do you put each teaching into action? Which are the right and wrong ways to go about things? And setting aside all that. Were we even living right to begin with? There’s no defining way in which any individual should or shouldn’t live their lives (within reason) but there is an ultimate question that comes from it all; where will I go when I die? Whether it was the bands intentions or not, it is a funny premise to contemplate. Is there a place we go that reflects on both the good and bad we have done? A Holy Hell for lack of a better term. Sonically and lyrically the title track seems to question this thought. The track is one of the more blistering tunes on the album and almost sets forth a fiery and angry tone, and yet its rhythm and some of its subject matter seem to suggest a balance of ideals and questions one could be presented when it comes to that one big question to counterpoint. The group has always seemed to strive to produce lyrics that are both thought provoking and insightful and it seems that yet again Architects have excelled in this. This track will be sure to incite a mosh pit that will shake the rafters, all the while instilling a vast array of questions for the listener to ponder once they’ve finished banging their heads.
We all have hopes, dreams, wishes, wants, desires (and more) when it comes to our lives. Things we feel we can’t live without for the fear that our life will then be unfulfilled and incomplete. We beg, pray and demand for these thoughts and notions to the point that we start to lose sight of the main point. Life is short. Relish in each and every day you have. Notice and appreciate the little things, because one day you’ll no longer be able to do this. Spend those extra minutes listening to your grand parent tell you about stories of their own childhood. Watch the sun both set and rise. Take time to breathe and look around at all that is going on around you. These are simple facts that could actually help us to lead fuller lives, yet ones we so often take for granted, and it’s an absolute shame. “Royal Beggars” is the defining gospel for all of these realities. It is the metaphorical brass tacks that many of us (including myself) should truly take into consideration when living what is left of our lives. Sam Carter’s harmonious voice when singing the beginning words sets enough of a tone in conducting these sentiments, and yet thankfully there’s so much more to truly drive the point home. The calmer moments of the song paralleled by the more intense heavier moments only reverberates this even further. To quote a heavy-handed cliché, ‘wake up and smell the roses’ because there is so much more to life that we have yet to discover.
If there were a song that completely shouts out the affects of what could happen if we don’t listen to “Royal Beggars” then that could only be “Modern Misery”. Lyrically this track seems to be the example of the tragic outcome that could take place if so many of us continue on such a petty and greedy path. The human race as almost a whole has always taken advantage of whatever it is that’s in front of them. Everything from materialistic bullshit to what this planet provides us with is just used and abused to the point of exhaustion. We ignore all that’s great and good and we simply use and abuse both things and other people. And in the end, we have all but nothing to show for it. We run aimlessly in circles so focused on the meaningless then the question could be asked, did we every truly live? Sonically the song sets an overall tone of taking. Its heavy draw itself almost seems to take your breath away if only to show you exactly what could be lost. The chorus both in sound and word is delivered as an almost cry for the world to wake up and take notice. In the final moments of the song, Sam Carter belts out ‘we used to run with the wolves’ multiple times as if to tell the listener that there was a time that we all used to be able to find true appreciation for life and hence we lived life to our fullest capabilities. It’s time we did that once again.
In Dante’s Inferno there are nine circles of Hell which describe the journey his characters take through the underworld. Architects clearly used this as a source on inspiration for their track entitled “The Seventh Circle”. In the book, the seventh circle is the one which corresponds with violence and from the very first moment of the track that is exactly what every listener will have the most severe and pure impulse to create. Immediately the song crushes your eardrums with a monstrous intensity and showcases the classic Sam Carter wail; ‘BLEGH’. Ballistic drumming, guitar and bass all raddle you to the bone at once as if they were on a sonic mission to destroy. Death can instill such an emotion of anger and furiousness that, that is all we want to do once someone so dear to us has been lost. There is no reason to the madness. No question why. You’re simply left with a visceral sense that nothing matters and that’s left to do is tear the world down. This is a more than natural feeling to have after such heartache. Let’s hope you use this song as a channel in which to release that aggression before focusing it anywhere else.
Death is the ultimate end to one’s physical existence on this planet, but it does not have to be the end of their life and what they leave behind. It is both the positive and negative that come with and after death that helps to shape us and this world with what comes next. We could view death as a loss and nothing more. The loss of an individual. The loss of love. The loss of lesson. Or we could strive to see all the silver linings and teachings that can come with it instead. To use all of that as a tool to find out what lies next for our own lives after experiencing death. Architects are no strangers to such tragedy after losing founding member and primary songwriter Tom Searle (who is also drummer, Dan Searle’s brother) in 2016 to cancer. This became the group’s greatest fear and inspiration all at once when writing Holy Hell. But through such an astounding loss of both a friend and family member, the band has created an absolute masterpiece that pays a beautiful homage to a lost mate who one could only assume would have been beyond proud of what his family has produced. Holy Hell showcases a plethora of anthems that fans from all over the world can share and treasure in connection with their own losses. These songs can be taken as both lessons and a cathartic sense of release, which I’m more than sure the band has felt as well now that this album will be unleashed to the world.