Few bands have been through the things Architects have, but with critical acclaim and commercial success overflowing, the scene leading metallers are entering a new phase.
By: Jack Press. Photography: Ed Mason.
Few bands could follow the death of their founding father and principal songwriter after a long-fought battle with melanoma with a critically-acclaimed genre-defining album and headline not only Alexandra Palace, but Wembley Arena, too. Architects have weathered the worst storms and transformed themselves from unlikely underdogs to the champions of British metal as we know it today. While their achievements were holding them high up on a pedestal for all the world to see, they were digging themselves deeper and deeper as they drove on to disguise their pain. So how does your brain react when the rollercoaster screeches to a stop, and you get off?
“It was a weird one really because we’d sort of been going since Tom [Searle] passed away. The only thing we knew how to do was be a touring band, and it felt like it was necessary for us to just carry on with what we were doing to help us heal,” explains Sam Carter, Architects’ longtime vocalist, at the start of a Zoom call that dives deep into the last four years of their lives.
“Obviously doing [2018’s] ‘Holy Hell’ was extremely difficult but touring it, man, we didn’t really take time to stop and think about it because it was so hectic. We got through making the record, and then it was ‘okay, let’s go’, you know? And we got back out on tour to what is our safe place, because we love being on tour. We’re best mates, and there’s nothing better than touring around the world and playing songs for people with your best mates, but, we didn’t really take in how big an album cycle it was until we stopped for a little bit and then it all came at once.”
As much as there was a perilous pit of pain to wade through, the band – completed by drummer Dan Searle, bassist Alex Dean, and guitarists Adam Christianson and Josh Middleton – were left consumed by the crippling anxiety of climbing the mountain of writing an album without any input from their principal songwriter.
“We were coming into a situation where we were having to be the songwriters for the first time, and we were having to take control of the beast that is Architects. Tom is such an amazing songwriter so to even try and do anything on that level was bold, you know?” ponders Sam, pausing before adding: “This record didn’t need to be ‘Holy Hell’ part two, because we’ve done that, and we’ve done that process of showing that side of us, and that pain. It’s kind of like our second record instead of it being our ninth, it was like ‘okay, we know that works, and that works, we can do that, so let’s expand on that and see what we can create’, and we wanted to have the time to go all in and create something special.”
“It’s kind of like our second record instead of it being our ninth”Sam Carter
It’s a cliche to end all cliches, the concept of a band creating something special, but Architects’ ninth studio album, ‘For Those That Wish To Exist’ truly ticks the boxes of a modern masterpiece. Whilst those trademark blastbeats and breakdowns are barricading the beat in force as always, there’s a newfound electronic experimentation that lends itself to the industrial wasteland they’ve soundscaped. It may well have been one of the last songs they wrote, but they knew they had it when they let lead single ‘Animals’ out of the cage.
“It was something that we had spoken about with Tom when he was ill, about moving into this organic industrial world, and I feel like it was the first time that we’d actually really managed to do that. We all felt it was something that he would love, and would love us doing, but it wasn’t really until we started showing people and they were like ‘woah’. You’re so deep in it that you don’t realise what an absolute banger it is, and also how different it is.”
With great power comes great responsibility, and when you’ve come from a scene as stereotypically stubborn as the metal world, standing out from the crowd can quickly cast you out to sea. For Architects, they’re far more concerned with redefining what it means to be heavy, and making magic with the music they’ve got pouring out of them, even if that means embracing elements of other genres.
“I think a lot of the time, bands can swing and miss by going in and losing a sense of what they have. I don’t know whether it’s through a sense of not wanting to have that, but we love being a heavy band, and we love that side of the band. I don’t ever not want to be that band, but it felt like we had to give each song purpose and do what the song needed rather than going ‘okay, let’s just put a breakdown here’,” he deadpans, before amusedly noting that while ‘Animals’ is Architects at their most distinctively different, it’s also their most successful single, with regular airplay across BBC Radio 1. “It completely blows me away hearing it on Radio 1 all of the time. Someone tweeted me the other day saying, ‘I was just dancing in my car to Steps and then ‘Animals’ came on’. This is so weird, I love it so much. It’s so surreal because it was never written as a song that was supposed to be a rock anthem, it was just this song where we felt like we’d done Tom justice.”
In doing Tom justice and embracing a new era of the band, they’ve also bought in a star-studded cast of guest spots, including Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall, Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr and Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil. Arguably some of the biggest frontmen of their generation, the artists bring their own unique styles to Architects vision, with the latter proving to be a ‘pinch me’ moment for the band.
“It’s a bit of a piss take, isn’t it? When I look at it, I’m like, ‘this is fucking cool’,” muses Sam, before collecting his thoughts, and enthusiastically continuing. “I think Biffy have always been a massive inspiration to our band, especially when we were younger. We have nine albums and no one really gave a shit until the last three, and people did, but it was still us struggling to make ends meet, but doing it for the love of it. Then you’d see bands like Biffy where it took them a few albums to really connect with people while they were still putting out credible music.”
The result of this passion is ‘Goliath’, a track as ginormous as its title suggests, which picks up your eardrums and slams them back down to Earth euphorically. While Simon Neil’s trademark melodies are present and correct, it’s the earthquake-inducing eruption of energy his seismic screams deliver across the breakdown that shines through. For Sam, it was important to embrace their idols and their friends on their tracks, even more so with the death of Tom still very fresh in their minds. “It made sense to have that kind of friendship documented so that when we’re all dead and gone, someone will be drunk listening to the record and going, ‘that’s cool, I bet they had some crazy nights out’.”
The balance between being dead and gone and being the band who go on crazy nights out isn’t too far from the moral compass that makes up ‘For Those That Wish To Exist’ – an album that is as much about the hope humanity can carry itself on as it is about the dystopia we’re dictating our future to be. They’ve always been associated with raising their voices about the world around them, but Sam and co. feel it’s more important to simply shine a spotlight on it and let their listeners make up their own minds.
“There are far more important people than us talking about the issues going on in the world, and no one seems to give a shit, so I think with this record it was way more important to just put a spotlight on it rather than ask the question and be like, ‘why isn’t anyone fucking doing anything about this?’ Let’s just talk about what’s going on in the world because it’s impossible to talk about anything else. It’s like starting to write songs about things you’re impassioned about, so for us, we’re like, let’s start with Earth, because it’s fucking crazy what’s going on here at the moment.”
“Greta Thunberg is loved around the world for what she’s doing, but she shouldn’t have to be doing it, this should already be done”Sam Carter
While they’re not directly delivering a message to move the masses by, they are looking for us to take a little accountability for our actions, or lack thereof, as they look towards the handful of people taking a stand.
“Greta Thunberg is loved around the world for what she’s doing, but she shouldn’t have to be doing it, this should already be done. When she talks about people stealing her childhood, it’s like yeah, this should’ve been happening so long ago. It felt important to use it as a diary and document it and put it out there to be like, ‘well how do you feel?’ and it not being this straight-up ‘this is how you should feel’ record. There are some parts that are quite hopeful, and there’s other parts where you’re fucking walking into the sea – I think it’s important to challenge the listener.”
If challenging the listener was a lyrical influence, so too are the wars they’ve been waging on a daily basis with the demons that haunt their heads and their hearts. So much so that for Sam, this divide between hope and despair is the very thing that comes to define their latest body of work.
“Sometimes I’m ready to go to fucking war. I feel like this is obviously the right thing because people are being hurt doing this, and I’m going to use my platform to discuss it. I don’t care who I’m going to piss off. Other times I’m like, ‘I can’t face this today’. I can’t do this because I know I’m going to get battered for it. I know people are gonna have a fucking go,” he asserts. “We’re so worried about being shouted down and being cancelled that there’s no room for growth. If you’re out of the norm, people are like ‘what the fuck, I wouldn’t do that, so it’s wrong’. It’s a fucking weird world. Sometimes I listen to it, and I’m like, yeah, there’s hope, and we will get through, and we will create a place where if I ever have kids they’ll be able to live a full life and then some days, I’m like ‘well there’s fifty years left, so I’m probably not gonna have kids, fuck it’. It’s up and down, you know?”
Despite the darkness that envelops the band at every moment, there’s a light that perforates it. It’s this light that has allowed them to blur the lines between the boundaries their genre once held them down against, and it’s this light that has allowed them to create an album that not only honours their fallen brother’s vision, but cements their legacy as one of modern metal’s torchbearers. Ultimately, for Sam, it’s important to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I think you have to find positives in life otherwise there’s no point, especially with stuff we’ve gone through with losing Tom, it would’ve been easy to have gone ‘we can’t do this’, and I don’t think anyone would have begrudged us for it. But, now we’re at a really great point in our lives, and we’ve worked really hard to get here, and sometimes you have to create a positive from a negative – otherwise, everyone would just stop.”
Taken from the March edition of Dork, out now. Architects’ album ‘For Those That Wish To Exist’ is out 26th February.