“It gave us something to focus on and something to put our pain into…” - Architects talk moving on tragedy and making new album Holy Hell
In the last two years, British metallers Architects have hit the stratosphere.
Always an acclaimed and beloved band with hardcore metal fans, the band largely remained a curiosity up until the release of their 2014 album Lost Forever // Lost Together. That album, with its perfect blend of technical metal and furious hardcore power took the band out of clubs and into sizeable venues and festival slots.
Its follow-up, 2016’s All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, took things a step further, pushing the band into arenas and into the UK Top 20. It was unprecedented success for a band who were producing some of their heaviest and undoubtedly the most complex music of their career to date. Sadly, it coincided with the ultimate tragedy.
Tom Searle, the band’s guitarist, died at the age of 28, after living for three years with melanoma skin cancer. Searle, who’d founded the band with identical twin brother and drummer Dan, was not only the band’s guitarist but also the key songwriter. All their songs began with him and he would pen all the lyrics.
Searle’s death came four months after the release of All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us and the band undertook touring in support of the album in tribute to him, with Sylosis guitarist and long-time friend Josh Middleton stepping in.
During early 2017, the band stated that they planned to carry on and write new music, something they confirmed with the release of new track ‘Doomsday’ at the end of that year, the first to feature Middleton, who had joined as a full-time member.
Now the full fruits of the labours of the new Architects arrive in the shape of new album Holy Hell. The LP is the band’s eighth full-length effort and sees Dan Searle and Middleton also acting as producers.
With the album on shelves today, we spoke to frontman Sam Carter about the making of Holy Hell and why this LP has given the band something to get through the grieving process…
When did you decide that you were ready to make another album? Did you just accumulate enough songs to do it or did you sit down as a band and decide that you wanted to make a new record?
“We always wanted to do it, but it was something that went unsaid for quite a while. After we did the tour which ended at Brixton Academy with Josh, there was just a really good vibe. A couple of weeks after that Josh sent over a couple of songs and I knew Dan was working on a couple of things. After we heard Josh’s songs we knew that the musical chemistry was right and we had the components we needed to make another Architects record.”
Previously, songwriting was largely left up to Tom, so writing must have been quite different this time...
“It was very different. Dan has always worked with Tom, but more on the structure of songs. With Josh, Dan was more hands-on, he was chopping riffs up and writing his own sections. He’s grown so much as a musician in the last few years, he composed all the strings for this record and written all the lyrics. He and Josh have got us most of the way and then I came in and did the vocals.”
You’ve known Josh for a long time, but how has he adjusted to being a full-time member of the band? He must have felt like he was walking on eggshells in the early days…
“He’s been so respectful of Tom, always. The first tour we did he used all Tom’s gear, Tom’s pedals, Tom’s guitars, he’s come in and just told us ‘I’ll do what you need me to’. He and Tom were great friends, Tom really looked up to him. That’s helped a lot. He’s a great guy, no ego, just a great musician, we’re really thankful for him.”
You’ve self-produced this album. Why did you decide to do that?
“We were so driven and we knew exactly what we needed to do. We didn’t need anyone to try and get better performances out of us, we were so precious over every detail. We knew the size of the task in front of us, nobody needed to spell that out. As for the vocals, I worked with Dan for months on them and he did produce me. He got an amazing performance out of me. But then, when you’re reading the lyrics he’s written about his brother and he’s right there with you, it’s not difficult to get in that headspace.”
Can you see the difference in the lyrics with Dan writing?
“To put it bluntly, the last record was me singing lyrics that were Tom talking about his journey with cancer, which was very painful and being inside Tom’s head wasn’t a great place to be. This is Dan writing about the journey we’ve been on since Tom has passed away, it’s an album about grief and that I can absolutely relate to. We talked a lot about what we wanted to say and those conversations really helped us move forward. But once we were done recording, I did have to stop and I went to counselling. Singing those words definitely put a lot of weight of my shoulders.”
Was there a time during the writing and recording when you did think that this might be too soon?
“No. We’d had two years in a world where nothing made sense and all we were doing was being there for Tom. That was it, the band didn’t matter. So the most normal thing to do after it was to be together and to be active. There was no point sitting alone with our thoughts. We needed to have fun and going to the studio and all pulling in the same direction was massive. It gave us something to focus on and something to put our pain into.”
When did you decide it was going to be called Holy Hell?
“Relatively late on. It was thrown around for a while after Dan wrote that line. That song is such a dark one and it sums up the record. We also love how striking those words are next to each other.”
In terms of what you’re going to be doing live, you’re in arenas now…
“We’re an arena band now. It sounds weird to say and it doesn't make sense, but when you look at the tour dates you have to say it. Things are starting much earlier now, we need to do more thinking with production and keep the show interesting. We’re not playing the Freebutt in Brighton any more, we’ve got trucks and a big crew now. It’s exciting now, we’ve got the scope and money to do things we’ve never done before.”
You’ve got eight records, but a lot of your fans have come on in the last couple, will your set be skewed that way?
“No one really gives a s**t about what we did before Lost Forever // Lost Together. That makes it easier. Occasionally we get hardcore fans who demand an early song, then we play it, and they’re the only one going off. We always try and chuck in a few deep cuts, but we’ve got a pretty hefty back catalogue to pick through.”
Are there any songs from your early days that you’ve said you’ll never play again?
“Anything off Lost Forever // Lost Together, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us and Holy Hell is in the mix, anything further back than that and I need some persuading. I’m the one who has to talk to the crowd and get them riled up. I do like those deep cuts. We did ‘Black Blood’ and ‘Alpha Omega’ on the last touring cycle and that was fun. I’m sure there will be some surprises.”
Finally, you’ve always prided yourself on touring in places that most bands won’t go, is that still the plan for this album cycle?
“We’re not rushing around as much as we used to. We’re over 30 now! But we do pride ourselves on going where most bands don’t go. America and Australia have become great for us now. We’ve been through a lot of hard times as Architects and it does feel like time to really enjoy being in this band.”