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Architects at The Van Buren
April 27, 2019 @ 8:00 pm - 11:30 pm
On February 3rd, 2018, Architects confirmed their ascent to the very upper echelons of British heavy music.
In front of a sold-out Alexandra Palace – one of London’s biggest and most revered live music venues – the quintet gave a performance of such resonance that it met acclaim from both the rock and wider music press, and underlined their status as a live act of such ferocity that they would later be coronated ‘Best British Live Band’ at the 2018 Kerrang! Magazine Awards.
Such an accomplishment is not, common industry perception dictates, supposed to happen to a band such as Architects, whose fiercely authentic blend of rage, emotion and unrivalled technicality has long since earmarked them as the most special of propositions to the devoted ranks of rock music fans, despite their standing staunchly in opposition to the disposable, shallow nature of popular culture in 2018.
For those reasons alone, the dizzying success of Architects in recent years makes for one of music’s most incredible stories. Placed within the context of the tragedy that befell the band in August 2016, however, and it becomes all the more remarkable.
Eighteen months prior to that evening, on the morning of August 21st, 2016, the world awoke to the news that Tom Searle – founding guitarist, principal songwriter, band leader and twin brother to drummer Dan – had the day prior passed away following a private three-year battle with skin cancer.
Architects’ critically acclaimed and commercially successful (charting at #15 in the UK) seventh album, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, had been released just weeks before, and with touring commitments scheduled to take them into the biggest venues of their lives all around the world, the band drafted in longtime friend, guitarist Josh Middleton, to help them pay public tribute night after night, month after month, to a man described by drummer Dan as “the omnipresent heartbeat of the band”.
“In those first months after Tom’s death, I didn’t deal with it at all and I felt so unhappy and anxious,” Dan continues. “I hadn’t dealt with it or acknowledged it; I’d ignored it and just tried to cope. But I knew that at some point, I had to learn from it. At the time, we told people that we had no idea what would happen to the band. And that was for real. I really believed we could keep going as a band, but, in many ways, it felt like a ridiculous ambition to have.
“It’s at times like that that you ask yourself, ‘What is left?’” adds Sam Carter. “As a group of friends, we had to find something.”
“Ultimately, there were two choices,” Dan says. “Feel sorry for yourself, and believe the world to be a horrible place and let it defeat you. Or let it inspire us to live the life that Tom would have wanted us to live.”
Written in the aftermath of Tom’s passing, and recorded across a six-month span from October 2017 through to April 2018, the stunning Holy Hell – Architects’ forthcoming eighth album, released on November 9 via Epitaph Records – is the sound of the resultant grief, pain and confusion that engulfed the band during that time.
As the world has long come to expect from Architects – vocalist Sam, drummer Dan, guitarists Josh and Adam Christianson and bassist Ali Dean – it is a record masterfully executed. Few bands, of this modern era or any other, can match the quintet’s ability to blend uncompromising heaviness with razor-sharp melodic musicianship. Though to take these 11 songs at headbanging face-value would be to miss the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with the band’s most personal work ever. In turning their songwriting perspective away from the previously explored territories of impending environmental disaster, global societal suffering and political corruption, and focusing instead on the most difficult trials and tribulations human beings must all encounter in life, they have put forward their most emotionally affecting, universally accessible songs to date.
“For me, broadly speaking Holy Hell is about pain: the way we process it, cope with it, and live with it,” Dan begins. “In losing my brother, the primary thing I have taken away from the ongoing grieving process is that there are lessons in pain. There is in pain. It’s where we learn, it’s where we grow. And yet, we don’t possess the understanding to process the pain in our lives, to acknowledge it and accept it and look it in the eye.”
Certainly, Holy Hell stares suffering in the face throughout its complex lyrical journey, which opens with the anthemic Death Is Not Defeat – “A song to Tom,” Dan reveals. “I think a bit of him felt like he was letting us down by dying, and I couldn’t have him feel that.” What follows, however, much like the grieving process that underpins its entire creation, is a narrative arch that is not an easily navigable path leading simply from dark beginning to brighter end.
While Damnation finds the band revisiting and reexamining the lyric <<’Hope is a prison>>’ – originally penned by Tom Searle on All Our Gods… track Gone With The Wind – from a more hopeful place, and Doomsday (released as a previously standalone single last September, which to date has garnered in excess of 15m views on YouTube) takes on a more positive meaning in context, the haunting refrain of <<’I don’t want to dream any more’>> in the bludgeoning The Seventh Circle is a desperate reminder of a darkness that lurks behind every false dawn.
“I desperately wanted the album to be lyrically authentic,” Dan reveals. “I originally wanted to make a sequential album that went from ‘fuck life’ to ‘life’s OK’, but that’s simply not how grief works. I wanted to express the blunt end of grief, where it can feel like there is no point in life any more, and I didn’t want to censor that.”
And yet, in closing with A Wasted Hymn, Holy Hell sees the band looking forward to a light at the end of the tunnel. The album’s most emotionally heavy moment, the track features a segment of guitar recorded by Tom prior to his death. “It’s my favorite part of the record,” Dan smiles.
“I was very worried about people taking away a despondent message from the album,” Dan admits. “I felt a level of responsibility to provide a light at the end of the tunnel for people who are going through terrible experiences. Because I would have like that when Tom first died. Hearing someone else articulate it in the way we have done here would have been something that would have really helped me.”
“I hope Holy Hell helps people going through similar to us,” Sam Carter says. “The one thing that’s come into focus throughout this journey is that it’s not just us going through grief, and I hope if it can help people in the way that it helped me process those emotions.”
“To help other people through their pain,” adds Dan, “would be an amazing thing to be able to take away from this.”
THY ART IS MURDER furiously charges once more unto the breach, clawing and spitting against the dying light and a seemingly inevitable collapse of existence. Dear Desolation, the Australian metal crew’s fourth and mightiest album, is a devastating blow equally against and embracing of a cataclysmic nihilism and all-out misanthropic warfare.
Combining classic and authentic death metal elements that invoke the renegade, spirit-crushing, monstrosity of early Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, and Decapitated with the precision rhythmic assault of Meshuggah and the breakdown-infused bounce of Black Dahlia Murder, THY ART IS MURDER have redefined a once cast aside and maligned subgenre, proudly reenergizing and representing the best in extremity.
The band’s music remains uncompromising, building upon the savage momentum of the controversially outspoken Holy War (2015), the punishing Hate (2012) and their gigantic debut, The Adversary (2010).
Dear Desolation continues the band’s evolutionary trajectory, remaining consistently inventive and diverse without sacrifice the band’s established identity. The adventurous spirit of the band’s unprecedented collaboration with The Acacia Strain and Fit For An Autopsy, released as The Depression Sessions, continues unabated, expanding and informing the band’s already confident creativity.
A new generation of death metal acolytes and vintage older thrashers alike enthusiastically proclaim the band’s unrelenting aggression, cementing a reputation with an increasingly fervent international fanbase. Videos for “Holy War,” “The Purest Strain of Hate,” “Shadow
of Eternal Sin,” “They Will Know Another,” “Light Bearer,” and “No Absolution” resulted in more than 30 million views on YouTube; “Reign of Darkness” alone accounts for nearly a third of those online views.
Thy Art Is Murder sharpened their sonic weapons on the road, with early tours in support of genre giants like Fear Factory and Cattle Decapitation, followed by much heralded appearances at Soundwave and all over North America on the Rockstar Mayhem Tour with Slayer. They’ve earned accolades from the likes of Metal Hammer and fellow bands alike, while delivering standout sets at festivals like Download.
Holy War, the band’s third album, entered the official Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) chart at #7, the highest ever debut position for an extreme metal act born and bred in the country.
When guitarists Sean Delander and Andy Marsh reconvened to begin work on what would become the band’s fourth album, they kept the material anchored in the rhythmic death metal that’s become their signature, but with an emphasis on songs that are both bigger and more straightforward. Dear Desolation is lean and stripped down.
Holed up in New Jersey for several weeks, the duo amassed around 25 songs between them, trimming the fat with the assistance of longtime producer Will Putney (Every Time I Die, The Amity Affliction, For Today) until only the 12 strongest compositions remained. Drummer Lee Stanton and bassist Kevin Butler laid down their contributions, with powerhouse vocalist CJ McMahon knocking out awe-inspiring performances, with Marsh’s lyrics, in less than two weeks.
Thematically the album expands beyond vicious polemic and vehemently contrarian invective into broader storytelling, contemplative death anxiety, and meditations on mortality and
morality. It’s an album of culture, environment, community; ties that bind, the panic that unwinds, and the constant, urgent primal scream.
If this is truly the soundtrack to the end of humanity, it’s music that should unite and empower extreme metal fans in all corners of the genre. Thy Art Is Murder skillfully ignites a crowd of 150 or 150,000.
Dear Desolation is custom built for the festival stage, organically streamlined to translate to a wide audience as skillfully as the central sound at Thy Art Is Murder’s core has resonates in sweaty clubs and theaters since the band’s formation in 2006. This is extreme metal for the people, torchbearers for a primal style that doesn’t die.
While She Sleeps have chosen a fitting way to celebrate their tenth anniversary as a band – by becoming totally independent. It’s a bold, impressive and powerful move that both reflects the decade gone by and hints at what the future has to offer. More than that, it demonstrates that age-old cliché is still true today – if you want something done right, do it yourself. Not only did they self fund their new album ‘You Are We’ with the help of their fans through a PledgeMusic campaign, but the band converted an empty warehouse in the heart of their native Sheffield into their own multi-purpose studio. It’s not the first time the band have had their own space – 2010’s debut EP ‘The North Stands For Nothing’ was recorded at a home studio called The Barn – but with this new space, which was built with the band’s own money, they’ve taken things to the next level.
“There’s always been a very DIY aspect to this band,” explains vocalist Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor, “so going it alone a bit more now just reiterates that to everyone. The Barn was a very important place for us – it’s where we grew as friends and it was where we hung out and could be creative – so the idea with this new space is that it gives us a lot more creative space. There’s a studio and live room, and we have space now to achieve what we want to achieve as a band. This place is going to house us for a good few years.” “We’ve all been skint for a while because of this place,” chuckles guitarist Sean Long, “but we’re hoping that it comes into its own. It’s already becoming a space for other bands, too. They can use it as a pre-production space or store their gear here, and it’s constantly busy with people coming here and working. It’s a nice positive space where we can all get creative and be the band we want to be.”
It’s also a place where the band – completed by guitarist/vocalist Mat Welsh, bassist Aaran McKenzie and drummer Adam Savage – aim to break down the barrier even more between themselves and their fan base. As part of the new record’s PledgeMusic campaign, fans were able to head to the studio and take part in the music video for ‘Hurricane’. “That was absolutely crazy,” beams Taylor. “I’m still aching from that! But the special thing is that every kid who came down for the video shoot actually helped make the album happen. And to that extent they made this warehouse capable of living.” “Now more than ever,” adds Long, “our fans know that it’s them making all of this possible for us. The divide between artist and fan is ridiculous, because there are no fans without the artist and there’s no artist without the fans. They go hand in hand together as one absolute thing, and I really like that we can see that in play with what we’ve been doing. It’s very reassuring to see that support right in front of us.”
That’s all the more crucial because of the experiences While She Sleeps have had with the music industry in their decade of existence, not least with previously being on a major label. They’re quick to point out that it’s not been all bad, but that it’s not been all good either, and that it’s their fans who have propelled them through both the good times and the bad. The same is true for their own personal struggles, especially when Taylor had to have surgery on his voice midway through making ‘Brainwashed’. Lesser bands might have given up the fight, but While She Sleeps pushed on through, encouraged by the loyalty, love and devotion of their fans. As much as that’s been made visible thanks to the new warehouse space, it’s also audible on the band’s new record. Made with Carl Bown, who also produced ‘Brainwashed’, its songs are full of as much force, focus and determination as ever. The likes of ‘Hurricane’ and first single ‘Civil Isolation’ continue the band’s trajectory as one of the most inspiring, riotous and important voices in British music today, demonstrating both their continued musical evolution and their incisive social conscience. Yet while these are brutal anthems that paint a vivid picture of a post-Brexit Britain, they stand as both the most universal and most personal songs of the band’s career.
“I feel like these are some of the most powerful and relatable songs that we’ve ever written,” says Taylor. “These songs look at the world as a whole, but it’s also very much about us. We’ve all been through a few ups and downs over the past few years, and I think it’s important for us to express that, because our music is our healing and our therapy. There’s a lot of heartfelt stuff in there from our own personal experiences, but there’s also much more of a global view, too.”
“We’re never not going to be singing about worldly issues and politics,” says Long, “because that’s what we do without even trying. But, as Loz says, on this album it’s all housed within very personal ways of dealing with those things. We’re not just screaming about all the problems in the world, we’re screaming about how we feel about those things. I’ve never been more connected to moments in the studio when I’m writing music than I have with this record.”
This album does more than bridge the divide between past and present. It establishes who While She Sleeps really are in unfiltered, grotesque and beautiful glory. It sets them up as their own driving force, as a band who operate on their own terms and conditions and write music the exact same way. It’s a record not just made in spite of the problems and pressures they’ve faced in the past, but one created out of them and brimming with the passion that has always propelled the band and clearly continues to do so a decade on.
“The main thing with While She Sleeps,” says Taylor, “is that we’re digging our own path and the longer we keep working at it, the more people will realise we’re not going anywhere. We’re just going to keep on doing our own thing. And if we can explore new sounds and styles and still sound like us; if we can progress but still hold onto the While She Sleeps sound, then that’s great.” “My mum even likes it,” says Long, laughing, “so I’m very happy.”