One of the most impressive things about Architects is their compulsion to just continuously top themselves. For a band who consistently hit peak after peak, with each time seemingly have nowhere higher to go, they’re always able to claw out a few extra notches and hit a new high point every time. Though by now, that’s a very well-worn observation, and while still true, it’s a testament to the reputation that Architects have built for themselves that that’s now the expectation. And even on top of that, they aren’t ones to undergo huge sonic shifts between releases; they’ve definitely moved away from technical metalcore on recent albums into a sound that’s a lot bigger and more cinematic while still being heavy, but the fact they’re able to go as far as they do basically on power and heart alone is captivating to watch. Few bands rapidly approaching their twentieth year can attest to their most recent album being their best, but the weight that Architects brought to 2018’s Holy Hell, a tribute to their late guitarist Tom Searle and one of the most searingly honest metal albums to be released in years, made for a true career-defining moment. If there was an album in their catalogue where any apprehension about them being able to top it could sneak through, it would be that one, but that’s not to say that expectations for For Those That Wish To Exist are low. That couldn’t be further from the truth in fact, not when Architects have become the standard-bearers for shooting for the stars and hitting time and time again.
That’s to say that calling For Those That Wish To Exist a slight step back is more of an understandable reality than any greater condemnation or criticism, and probably isn’t all that fair in itself when Architects are still on exemplary form. Their approach to making music has become so laser-focused that it’s practically impossible for them to make an outright dud at this stage, but it’s still flooring how much they bring to each new release when they really don’t have to. If there’s a band in modern metal who could coast by on good will, it’s Architects, but the fact that For Those That Wish To Exist is perhaps their most cinematic and sonically enormous release to date speaks volumes about how far they’re willing to push themselves on such a regular basis. It’s not a huge departure in itself, but the extent that Architects go to is where those thrills come from, and this album has no short supply at all.
It gets that way through what’s arguably the greatest extrapolation of the traditional Architects sound to date, especially after Holy Hell. They’re fully committed to an earth-shaking size above all else now, doing away with tech-metalcore in all but the tiniest amount of flavour, and letting the enormity of this sound swallow everything in its path. The most apt word is probably majestic, in how driving crescendos among ghostly layers of production will crash down on Giving Blood and Goliath, or how the opulence through strings on Discourse Is Dead and horns on Dead Butterflies lend a far richer sound. This isn’t a style of metalcore that’s typically open to cross-pollination with new ideas, and yet amidst the roaring walls of guitars and ironclad sheen that holds everything together so tightly, nothing about this album feels clandestine or stuck in its ways. Furthermore, this is as definitive an argument as it comes for cleaner production and synthetic elements can do in metalcore; the sweeping, calamitous size of the thing does that enough, but then there’s the caustic buzz that rumbles through An Ordinary Extinction and the gated chug of Little Wonder that hold onto almost industrial textures. None of this is every at the expense of groove either, as Ali Dean’s bass still has a lot of presence and power within a mix that could easily become overpowered thanks to the sheer amount of material within it, but never gets to that extent. It’s easily enough to forgive some of the less impressive cuts, like the formless atmospherics of Flight Without Feathers or the stripped-down closer Dying Is Absolutely Safe that’s a bit of a damp ending overall. At fifteen tracks, they aren’t all going to be hits, and the fact that pretty much everything else on For Those That Wish To Exist is Architects’ gold standard at full effect is truly remarkable.
The key thing in achieving that is how neatly balanced Architects’ sound is. There are few bands in metalcore – hell, in metal in general – that can consistently hit an equilibrium between crushing heaviness and a conceivable sense of melody, and that’s where this album steps up more than anything else. There’s a lot more clean singing from Sam Carter this time, or at least screaming that similarly factors in the hugeness of its canvas, and that feels like an important distinction to make when comparing Architects to other metalcore bands in a more melodic vein. The gradient of modulation here is a lot greater and more segmented, and it becomes all the more dynamic when Architects make use of the greater freedom and pliability that they have. A song like Animals has its thunderous stomp coaxed through an unmistakably melodic progression, but it’s where the vocals and their execution land that gives it a seething, surging ferocity. It’s the same with Black Lungs and Meteor, and any number of songs on this album that are so much more electric because of that. It applies to the guest vocalists too; both Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall and Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr offer their usual spices to Impermanence and Little Wonder respectively, but the bone-rattling shrieks that Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil lends to Goliath are mesmerising to hear unfold, easily becoming a left field highlight.
And of course, because this is Architects, that power and vitriol is always in service of a point to make, this time zooming out to look at the world as a whole, the destruction that humans continue to exacerbate and the efforts needed to try and prevent it that are seemingly going ignored. Admittedly it’s unfortunate that that’s the subject to follow Holy Hell, mostly because it’s inherently less interesting than the soul-deep examinations of humanity and death that that album brought, but Architects are never a band to slouch, nor are they ones to take the easy route. A song like Black Lungs is an obvious scene-setter, a broadside at those in power who are well aware of the responsibilities they have to make change and yet continue to deny or shirk, but For Those That Wish To Exist is a far more pragmatic listen than just resting on that one side of the argument. Carter will target people who persecute those on the same side despite their common end goal on Discourse Is Dead, and the ones who’ll scream out for change without actually carrying it out themselves on Little Wonder. It’s not as accusatory in tone as it might feel, especially when the album is blanketed by feelings of self-destructiveness and defeatism that current climates will automatically foster, as Carter will turn the focus on himself on Meteor, and ask whether he’s doing enough to combat it despite the increased pressure of having a considerable platform. As for the glances into nihilism on Impermanence and Dying Is Absolutely Safe, they feel a bit out of character but ultimately serves as new threads in dense, detailled tapestry. The lack of concrete answers feels deliberate, and the emotional highs that can serve feel all the more raw and real because of it.
But really, the fact that all of that gushing praise can be given to an album that’s ostensibly a step down from its predecessor is as solid as underlines come for why Architects are among the very best bands around. They keep pushing further and further to what could be a breaking point for anyone else, and yet they stampede past it on a seemingly endless, perpetual basis. This is a band with so many terrific albums under their belt that it’s genuinely easy to lose count of how many that actually is, and For Those That Wish To Exist is just one more glittering jewel adorning what’s become metal’s most formidable catalogue. It’s just everything that everyone loves about Architects and then some, not to their absolute highest standard but honestly not that far off either. It’s a train that’s nowhere close to running out of steam that just keeps delivering time and time again, the eternally true summation for a new Architects album that will never be incorrect, at least if they keep going down this path. It’s been said before, and it’ll be said numerous times again, but the point still stands – Architects are just the best, aren’t they?
For fans of: Parkway Drive, Bury Tomorrow, The Ghost Inside
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘For Those That Wish To Exist’ by Architects is released on 26th February on Epitaph Records.