It’s fair to say 2018 was quite a year for Architects.
From a sold-out gig in February at the 10,000 capacity Alexandra Palace – one of London’s most revered live music venues – to the release of their latest album Holy Hell in November, not to mention being named ‘Best British Live Band’ at the 2018 Kerrang! Magazine Awards, there have been some special moments fo rthe band in the past 12 months.
And the journey is set to continue, with Architects playing a string of gigs around the country over the next month, including one at the O2 Academy in Glasgow on Thursday, January 17.
However, it could have been so different.
The success of Architects in recent years makes for one of music’s incredible stories. Placed within the context of the tragedy that befell the band in August 2016, it is all the more remarkable.
On August 20, 2016, Tom Searle – founding guitarist, principal songwriter, band leader and twin brother to drummer Dan – passed away following a private three-year battle with skin cancer.
Architects’ critically acclaimed and commercially successful seventh album, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, had been released just weeks before.
With touring commitments scheduled to take them to the biggest venues of their lives all around the world, the band drafted in long-time 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 recalled.
“I hadn’t dealt with it or acknlowlegded 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.
Vocalist Sam Carter added: “It’s at times like that that you ask yourself, ‘What is left?’
“As a group of friends, we had to find something.”
“Ultimately, there were two choices,” said Dan. “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, Holy Hell – Architects’ eighth album – is the sound of the resultant grief, pain and confusion that engulfed the band during that time.
Few bands 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 focussing 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 explained.
“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 value 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 the anthemic Death Is Not Defeat.
“A song to Tom,” Dan revealed. “I think a bit of him felt like he was letting us down by dying, and I couldn’t have him feel that.”
Yet while dealing with themes of grief and loss, the album closes withthe song A Wasted Hymn, Holy Hell, which sees the band looking forward to a light at the end of the tunnel.
In the album’s most emotionally heavy moment, the track features a segment of guitar recorded by Tom prior to his death
“It’s my favourite part of the record,” smiled Dan.
He added: “I was very worried about people taking away a despondent message from the album.
“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 liked 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.
“To help other people through their pain would be an amazing thing to be able to take away from this.”
Architects are Sam Carter (vocals), Adam Christianson (guitar), Ali Dean (bass), Josh Middleton (guitar) and Dan Searle (drums).
They play the O2 Academy, Glasgow, on Thursday, January 17.
For tickets and further tour information, visit the band’s website www.architectsofficial.com