REVIEW: Electronic sounds and grief merge in ‘Holy Hell’

Melodramatic metal · Architects’ latest record “Holy Hell” was released on Nov. 9 after a two-year break. (Photo courtesy of Epitaph)

British metalcore band Architects is back with its eighth studio album “Holy Hell,” following a two-year hiatus.

Written after the band lost guitarist and founding member Tom Searle to skin cancer, the album reflects on pain, grief and overcoming obstacles in a grueling and guttural project. Unfortunately, the album buries itself in the conventions of its genre and fails to feel truly original.

“Holy Hell” cranks up the intensity from the opening notes of its first track “Death is Not Defeat.” The crunching guitars and drums hammer the hook with explosive force. Vocalist Sam Carter grates against the heavy production with growling vocals that cut through the track.

“I’ll dismantle piece by piece / And I will know that death is not defeat,” Carter belts. His voice is heavy with emotion and desperation, making it clear that he’s attempting to persevere in dire circumstances.

The best moments on the album come when the band adds different textures to the aggressive production. The title track “Holy Hell” accomplishes this through looped strings that hold the track together within chaotic guitar work.

“Royal Beggars” mixes things up with pronounced synths layered over the verses. Carter shows off clean vocals in these moments, offering a temporary break from the torrent of shouts peppering the album.

Unfortunately, these instants are few and far between. “Holy Hell” is often bogged down by the usual pitfalls of the metalcore genre. Breakdowns come where expected; guitars crash in and fill out the track with a seemingly identical progression each time; and Carter screams into the void, raging against an unidentified force that tries to stifle him.

Repetitive lyricism plagues the album’s creative quality. Carter frequently yells about overcoming struggles or dealing with pain, but this constant theme is not delivered with enough nuance, framing or variety. Instead, the listener has to withstand over 42 minutes of anger hashed out in different refrains.

Even three songs in, the lyrics begin to feel whiny, melodramatic and drawn-out — and the use of ridiculous metaphors doesn’t help. The dark and moody production choices drown each track in the same brooding atmosphere, making them difficult to distinguish at times.

Take, for example, the chorus on “Royal Beggars”: “Overflowing with rage, but we still obey / ‘cause we’re asleep in a hurricane.” With the grinding guitars and strings, lines like this  one come off as overdone and silly for a band as seasoned as Architects.

“Doomsday” features the phrase, “And when the night gives way / it’s like a brand new doomsday.” Too often, Architects’ lyrics are riddled with platitudes that do not serve a creative focus, aside from working as an incorporated, edgy title track.  

Despite these nagging issues, “Holy Hell” is a solid addition to the group’s discography. It has enough energy to be a riveting listen in small chunks or for motivational purposes.

Architects does not reinvent the wheel with this album, but has created a work that’s cohesive and listenable, which might be good enough this time around.