Holy Hell

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The British metalcore stalwarts' eighth full-length effort, Holy Hell is the follow-up to 2016's brutal and wildly nihilistic All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, and the first Architects release to not feature founding member and lead songwriter Tom Searle, who passed away in 2016 after a three-year struggle with cancer. Simultaneously defiant and utterly broken, the 11-track set is spilling over with invective and despondency, but there is a shaky through-line of hope that imbues every down-tuned bend and primal scream with the faintest of glows. Structurally, Holy Hell mirrors its predecessor, with atmospheric chamber-core synths and strings giving way to meaty riffs -- new guitarist Josh Middleton (Sylosis) makes an impressive debut -- and seismic breakdowns -- Dan Searle remains one of the genre's most dynamic drummers. Vocalist Sam Carter finds access to more firepower than usual, raging against the dying of the light on standout cuts like "Doomsday," "Hereafter," and "Death Is Not Defeat," with the expected rawness of someone who just lost his best friend. The towering "Mortal After All," which features one of the band's best riffs in years, impresses as well, as does the fractured "Royal Beggars" and the soaring closer, "A Wasted Hymn," all three of which push the needle into the red without sacrificing melody. Architects are aptly named, as their knack for blowing shit up is equaled only by their appetite for construction. Holy Hell is both a teardown and a rebuild, and while it isn't always an easy listen, there is some hard-won catharsis to be found in its attempt to distill the messiness of grief into four-minute blasts of sonic demolition.

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