Grief can be a destructive force. Oftentimes the loss of a loved one leaves the living feeling incomplete. Mourning can occur in any number of ways. For some it’s a period of celebration of a life, for others a period of agonising bereavement. For some it’s a time of anger and coping with the empty space. Somewhere between these differing reactions, we find the latest release from Brighton’s Architects, Holy Hell.
The album is not much of a musical departure from previous release, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, which is in itself stunning. On 20 August 2016, the world, but more importantly Architects, lost founding member, chief songwriter and brother, Tom Searle. AOGHAU was an exploration of them coming to terms with mortality. It was something the band should never have had to have gone through – Tom was 28 when he died. However, their resolve resulted in arguably their greatest release; an album filled with fear, anger and acceptance.
After this tragic loss, Dan, Tom’s brother, and Josh Middleton (formerly of Sylosis) took on lead songwriting duties. The whole band became a more publicly collaborative unit, and it’s to great effect. Their ability to replicate that classic sound is undeniably brilliant. They don’t sound like a band covering themselves, they sound real. It’s an album of stark honesty and truth both musically and lyrically. There are little hints of outsider influence; the thrashing nature and harmonic slides of The Seventh Circle and Dying to Heal, stand out as an exploration of a different style. For the most part however it’s business as usual for the band, and that is more than anyone could ask for.
Vocalist, Sam Carter, gives a ferocious performance. He seethes with barely restrained anger in the heavier sections of the album, but has a soft and contemplative nature in quieter moments. His trademark delivery and tone fit gloriously against a backdrop laced with orchestral stabs, more than ever on Mortal After All.
The lyrics he delivers are heartbreaking. It’s impossible to listen to this album without being sucked into the grief that the band have had to work through. The fact that this album has come out at all, let alone a mere two years after its predecessor deserves boundless praise. Whether you have been a fan in the past or not is irrelevant. This is a deeply human album that will speak to anyone who has lost, and especially those who feel they need a hand to find their way.
There is not a dull moment on the album as we hear the quintet lay their souls bare. They are stronger men than many could ever hope to be, and that strength of character translates into emotionally investing, powerhouse music. Melodic, catchy, gentle and brutal in equal measure, the album is a triumph for the listener, and a victory for the band. It is flawless, brave and sincere. It is Architects.