Ten years on, we revisit one of Architects’ most important records, 2009’s ‘Hollow Crown’.
The mere fact that 2009 was a decade ago, to me, is astounding and a testament to the idea that time does indeed fly. I was 15 that year and had been playing the guitar for around three years. I had a pretty standard taste in heavy music for a kid my age at the time, which began with my guitar teacher in year 7 showing me the second riff in Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’, allowing me to quickly branch off into several other bands of varying subgenres. When it came to heavy music, more specifically the metalcore of the era, I was barely scratching the surface. By age 15, I’d discovered A Day To Remember (I pretty much listened to those first two records every day throughout 2008), Bring Me The Horizon (I couldn’t stand 2006’s ‘Count Your Blessings‘ and I still think it’s rubbish, fight me), Trivium, Bullet For My Valentine, and had recently found out about some small Aussie band called Parkway Drive, who were still a year off releasing their most well-written work, 2010’s ‘Deep Blue’. These are all bands that, despite being heavy, for the most part still retained a hook-laden song structure in their music, and that’s what I’d grown very accustomed to.
And then, ‘Hollow Crown’ happened.
I used to buy a lot of music magazines, and in particular, Metal Hammer. In one particular early 2009 issue, they were championing a young band from Brighton called Architects, who’d just released their third record, ‘Hollow Crown‘. I went on YouTube, eager to see what this metalcore band would sound like, and found the video for a song called ‘Early Grave’. I think you all know what happened next: an absolute sonic bludgeoning befell me. About four minutes later, I was completely floored! The music was chaotic, owing to the band’s strong tech-metal influence of artists like SikTh, Botch, and Dillinger Escape Plan – it’s a time and place record of where these kinds of techier, mathcore metalcore bands were at. However, the song (and wider album) also retained a big melodic factor, also throwing in some of the heaviest breakdowns I’d ever heard at that point. Whether it was vocalist Sam Carter’s intensive, throat-shredding screams, drummer Dan Searle’s precision or the polyrhythmic chaos that was his dearly departed brother Tom’s guitar work, I was fully hooked. (Tom may be gone but he’ll never be forgotten; his riff work and song-writing here really standing the test of time). Essentially, I’d just found my new favourite band!
I decided to check out the band’s other material, and outside of a few shining moments, their previous two records ‘Nightmares’ and ‘Ruin’ didn’t resonate with me. Their latest record at the time, however, absolutely did. It was more restrained than the aforementioned releases but not to the detriment of the record’s sound, pacing or overall quality. Reigning in the chaos just a little bit also turned out to be a great career move in retrospect, with the band now sitting right atop the metalcore pile for a number of years now. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Song-wise, there are a few songs off this record that are the obvious standouts. Unlike most records of this ilk, there’s no slow build with an ambient intro or a less frenetic track, it’s just straight into the aforementioned fray with the monstrous ‘Early Grave’. This shit just kicks off right away – it’s just ‘go-go-go’. It’s a statement of intent, to say the very least, and sets the vehement tone and vicious pace of ‘Hollow Crown‘ very well. What a song.
Another favourite for many fans is ‘Follow The Water’, and it’s been in their setlist on and off ever since for very good reason. The song is a little less chaotic than ‘Early Grave’ and incorporates more melody with a much simpler structure. This is perhaps the best indicator of where the U.K. outfit would head on 2012’s ‘Daybreaker‘ – what with it’s bouncier parts and that huge, anthemic outro of “Follow the water/drain the lake to bring it back to me” over tapped guitar parts. Well, not before the divisive follow up of 2010’s ‘The Here And Now’, a more radio-friendly, simplified experience.
A song I wish that Architects would play more often is ‘In Elegance’, another real gem. It’ll never happen but hey, a man can dream. Much like ‘Follow The Water’ before it, it’s very similar to the sound the band would nail on their later releases, but hearing it on an album that’s a bit less orderly sounding is a nice change in retrospect. It has the familiar tapped guitar leads over a slow section with Carter providing strong clean vocals. And he’s definitely come a long way as a vocalist as they’ve continued their astronomic rise over the last few years. If Sam couldn’t sing and scream as he does live, Architects just wouldn’t be as well-loved as they are. (And yet Oli Sykes gets away with bloody murder with his sorely inconsistent vocal performances, having Jordan Fish pick up the vocal slack, and over-used backing tracks). There’s no loss of power in his screams, but he’s become a more competent, more confident clean singer as well; his pitched yells add to his vocal range. In my mind, he’s easily one of the most identifiable singers in metalcore today.
The album’s title track doesn’t get a lot of mention, but if anything, it was a sign that the follow up to ‘Hollow Crown’ would be much less heavy. The song starts off with a very stripped back instrumental section which consists of synthesisers, electro-percussion, and Carter’s soft clean singing. It slowly twists and builds up over a couple minutes with rising vocal sections and additional guitar layers before eventually exploding and closing things out on a massive chorus passage, one that really feels like a fitting climax was achieved. Another Side-B track that also doesn’t get a lot of love is ‘Dead March’, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the heaviest songs off of the entire album.
I often hear people bemoaning the direction Architects would take as the years went on, despite the band’s continuous popular rise. This album’s follow-up, ‘The Here And Now’, was a much more melodic, post-hardcore affair in the vein of bands like Alexisonfire. Despite it containing a couple of my favourite songs – the melodically emotive ‘An Open Letter To Myself’ and the energetic ‘Stay Young Forever’ (which features a wicked guest feature from Comeback Kid’s Andrew Neufeld) – the group ignore songs from said album in their live set. What came next was a return to form in the shape of ‘Daybreaker’, and then what I’d consider their most cohesive effort, ‘Lost Together // Lost Forever’ in 2014. Since then, Architects have definitely settled into a groove and released ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’ (which sadly was the last album to feature Tom Searle before his passing from cancer in 2016), and just last year, the decent ‘Holy Hell’. They’re really following a pattern of songwriting and structure eerily similar to ‘Lost Together..’, but being as that was the bands most successful release, I’m not at all surprised in that move.
Personally, ‘Hollow Crown’ is my second favourite release next to ‘Lost Together..’. The great thing with this band is that in the ten years since I’ve been listening to them and the release of ‘Hollow Crown’, they’ve built an incredibly dedicated and loyal international following and inspired legions of younger bands. Not only that, but they’ve fought their way through some truly difficult moments in their career, coming out the other side bruised but alive. And even what’s considered their weakest material by a vocal section of this fanbase – ‘The Here And Now’ – is actually in retrospect a very strong release. Undeniably, I doubt I’d even be writing about these other records without the success and impact of ‘Hollow Crown’; an album that saw the realisation of a young band from Brighton’s potential.