Please indulge me for one moment. I am not usually one for breaking the fourth wall when reviewing an album but bear with…. Back in 2004, I had a polar response to two albums in a way that encapsulates a particular dichotomy that fans (and bands) often find themselves caught up in that has stuck with me as a point of reflection ever since. To change, or not to change, that is the question… I remember the unshakeable feeling of disappointment at just how much Slipknot had changed their sound and attack on Vol III: The Subliminal Verses compared to Iowa (both Roadrunner), and the same deep sigh of discontent that Soil hadn’t changed enough (or at all, with Redefine, J Records).
That I now realise that Subliminal Verses is the ‘knot’s crowning and defining moment (though it probably took me about ten years to get there…), and Soil disappeared down a hole of ever-diminishing returns may give you some insight into how you may want to approach Architects ninth album, For Those That Wish To Exist (Epitaph Records).
A change of emphasis was always likely. Notwithstanding the tragic passing of lead songwriter and fulcrum Tom Searle and his distinctive off-centre approach to rhythms and riffing, Architects were due to enter a new phase. Breakthrough and reset album Lost Forever // Lost Together was seven years ago, and they spent a five-year period drilling into a specific focus, all while raging against the dying light via nihilistic masterpieces All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us and Holy Hell (all Epitaph). That particular avenue has been well and truly mined, and the band were due to seek out a new left-hand path, though we shouldn’t get too hung up on the scale of the change… this isn’t a Load / ReLoad (Vertigo) shift, this is a natural stride forwards.
The lead vocal refrain from ‘Little Wonder’, a track featuring a seamless collaboration with Mike Kerr from Royal Blood, is telling: “I want to sing you a different song, one that’s easier to swallow”; a line that, while ultimately tying into the overall lyrical theme of taking responsibility for our own actions around climate change rather than blaming politicians and corporations, is dripping in double meaning. Delivering the message, Sam Carter is a superlative vocal performer, excellent at all times and with all elements of his dexterous range. The high and harsh vocals may have been dialled down (though not fully packed away), but every vocal on the album is flawlessly delivered, carries a hook, a melody, and is wholly appropriate to what the song needs.
Backing it all up, the production is major league. Drummer Dan Searle and guitarist Josh Middleton (Sylosis) have slathered every track with immense glossy thickness. The guitars may not serrate anymore, but they still pack a hefty-gut punch, while the synths and strings take turns to embellish subtly or to luxuriously swathe the tracks. Things are poppier, and there is a greater feeling of grandeur, yet the guitars still crunch percussively, encompassing, in the same way Deftones work things.
So, that’s the sound, style, and context taken care of… but what about the quality?
First of all, it has to be said, history shows us that it is difficult for even the grandmasters to maintain consistency over fifteen tracks, particularly where there isn’t a substantial deviation in terms of song-to-song diversity. ‘Black Lungs’ may have everything in the Architects template of modern metal anthem songwriting but it doesn’t quite bite the way some of their other lead-off tracks do, ‘Impermanence’ and ‘Goliath’ rely on their guest appearances to get them over the line (Winston McCall and Simon Neil respectively), and ‘Libertine’ and ‘Demi-god’ are pleasant enough, if naggingly filler.
But that is smashed into irrelevance when FTTWTE is at its best. For when this hits the high spots, it is as good as, if not better, than any and everything that has come before. ‘Discourse Is Dead’ has a real Sempiternal (RCA) vibe pushed on by precision chugs; ‘Dead Butterflies’ and ‘Dying Is Absolutely Safe’ are lush, understated downbeat reflective pieces showing beauty in negative places; and ‘Animals’, ‘Giving Blood’, ‘Meteor’, ‘Little Wonder’ and ‘An Ordinary Extinction’ are all set to be belted out on the main stage at Reading or Download or whichever festival as Architects 3.0 nail a glorious, overdue headline set for ages at – imagine any of those with a Muse level light show and production, and this is stadium metal, headbanging nirvana.
This is a band who have been at the very top of the second tier of heavy and alternative music for a while now, for whom the ceiling is no longer made of glass; such barriers have been skilfully removed opening their route onwards and upwards. Architects have made the right move at the right time and produced a selection of monstrously big, rock-club-anthem, stadium-filling, next-break-out band (not that they aren’t already selling out arenas) bangers that are destined to rocket them into the æther, and beyond.
Order the album here: https://architects.ffm.to/fttwte
8 / 10