Hitting up their biggest Melbourne headliner to date, Architects brought down ‘Holy Hell’ material & other recent gems in 2019 to cap off their largest Aussie run yet.
[PC: Digital Beard Photography.]
The first time I saw Architects was in early 2010 at that year’s Melbourne Soundwave. It was hot as balls, no one really wanted to mosh, the band looked like they were mid-heat-stroke, and it was all ‘Hollow Crown‘ material with one or two ‘Ruin‘ songs. Later that same year, I saw them play to about 100 people (if even that) at what is now called 170 Russell, with supports from Rolo Tomassi, This Is Hell (fuck, remember them?) and the mighty Comeback Kid. It was a great show but it was almost a non-event, one that happened mere weeks out from when 2011’s now-much-ignored ‘The Here And Now‘ LP would land. I next saw the group support The Amity Affliction and The Ghost Inside at the Palace Theatre (RIP) to a great response as people moshed their hearts out to ‘Alpha Omega‘ and ‘These Colours Don’t Run.’ I then watched Architects destroy a wall-to-wall packed-out Cornet Hotel in 2014 with pretty much every monster track off of that year’s ‘Lost Forever // Lost Together,’ and it was great to see that success paying off for them. Not until 2017, in the wake of loss and tragedy, did I see them next live as apart of their ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us‘ tour with Ocean Grove, where their new material reached a higher realm in the live environment, even within the smaller confines of St. Kilda’s Prince of Wales band room.
My point here is not to gloat or to even gate-keep about Architects, but to simply highlight how on every subsequent Australian tour that Architects have embarked upon, they’ve been at that next higher level of popularity and success with each new trip taken down here. Of course, this most recent ‘Holy Hell‘ Aussie tour was no different, seeing them play their biggest headline sets on our shores to date. All capped off with a near 5,000 attendee performance at Festival Hall. To say that this set was big would be the grossest understatement of 2019.
After an important foreword from their friend and all-round legend Richie Hardcore about violence and sexism towards women in Australia, and how we must all have brave conversations when we witness such unacceptable attitudes, Architects stormed out of the gate with ‘Death Is Not Defeat,’ fittingly opening up their final show of 2019 with the song that began their latest record. Backed by flashy, mood-adding visuals on a screen behind them, a dazzling light show, and an impeccable live mix, the U.K. metalcore stars were in damn fine form on all fronts. Yet I’m hard-pressed to think of a time when they haven’t been great live; such is the synchronicity, talent and professionalism of this band when they step up in front of us all to play publically. And their fans, this audience, us, reciprocated that passion with spontaneous chants of “Architects!” and giant sing-alongs at any given point.
Each member of Architects plays a vital role in their live set sounding as good as it does. Guitarists Adam Christianson and Mr. Sylosis himself, Josh Middleton, were nailing every single low-tuned chug and string-skipping riff, with wicked intonation and precision. Drummer Dan Searle didn’t miss a beat, figuratively and literally speaking. Special mention also has to go out to bassist Alex “Ali” Dean for not just providing the immense low-end that rattled my nuts throughout the night, but for doing a lot of the synths and programming live too. Lastly, there’s of course vocalist Sam Carter, who for my money, is one of the best live vocalists in this scene today. His clean singing live is so spot-on and evocative, his higher-pitched screams have come so far too, and the occasional low growl that he’d add to the song out of nowhere was great. And yes, his “bleughs”, as insanely played out as they are now, are just so sick live. This band is a well-oiled machine!
The night’s 16-song setlist was a mixture of tracks from their last three records, mostly dominated by ‘Holly Hell‘ material. (Obviously, as this was the ‘Holy Hell‘ tour.) So of course, ‘Mortal After All,’ ‘A Wasted Hymn,’ ‘Modern Misery‘ and ‘Royal Beggars‘ and others got their time in the sun. Yet it was the giant ‘Hereafter‘ that felt the biggest, the most moving, in the moment. Matched with similar rapture-like visuals from its music video, the already mammoth song took on a whole other heavy feeling and tone when performed live. While I did give ‘Holy Hell‘ a 70/100 last year – and while I think I’d score it even lower now, as I just do not return to that album outside of three or four specific tracks – I’ll be first in line to state that these newer songs sound fuckin’ HUGE live. Take ‘Royal Beggars‘, for instance. On-record, I find it kinda boring, but put that track in an arena with almost 5K people shouting “Cause we’re broken” and I’m all about it.
For me, ‘All Our Gods…‘ is my favourite Architects release and those songs are still the live highlights for me. ‘Nihilist‘ is a fucking musical bull stampede; ‘A Match Made In Heaven‘ is mosh and riff central; ‘Gravity‘ ironically makes the band look like they’re floating; ‘Downfall‘ is simultaneously uplifting with sing-alongs and phone lights/lighters illuminating the venue yet is crushing in its drops and choruses; the mid-part of ‘Memento Mori‘ alone is enough to swell hearts and shed tears; and the spectacular ‘Gone With The Wind‘ is just something… else when brought to life in the flesh. (It was also about this time, during one of these 2016 cuts, that some utter mad-lad hopped over the Festival Hall fence separating the seating from the standing area, giving security the run-around.)
All of this is a testament to the passed-on Tom Searle’s songwriting and this band’s insane live presence. That slightly older tracks like ‘Gravedigger‘ and ‘Naysayer‘ can still sound as relevant, urgent and be as loved six years on when the band churns such metalcore bangers out is nuts. For real, that “bitter and then some” call from the former track was staggering when coming from the crowd’s collective lungs, and the chorus of latter could be heard just as loud alongside the PA. As 2019 is ten years since ‘Hollow Crown‘, I would’ve personally loved to have seen a mention of the classic ‘Early Grave‘, or maybe some form of older album medley, but alas, (royal) beggars cannot be choosers in this case.
Architects have been on a mind-blowing journey, as Sam himself would put it near the end of the night, but one that’s also been difficult and challenging in its own ways. To overcome Tom’s passing and this band continuing on is nothing short of courageous and noble. At one point, Tom Searle’s initials shown on the screen behind the band, with all of Festival Hall promptly breaking out into loving cheers and applause, chanting “TOM” over and over. He may have left us, but he is never forgotten.
Still, an Architects set has followed the same pattern for the last few years, and this show was no different. What with it seeing Sam’s now almost-obligatory speech relating to the band, their journey of late, and Tom, all saved for the final moments. But Sam and the band have said quite a lot about Tom’s life and work, his impact on them, and their respect and appreciation for the endless support since 2016. Yet this portion of the set is now more so about the Architects members on stage right in front of us. About the five brothers, five mates, who have banded together through real adversity and have come out the other side, bigger than ever. Not unscathed, and not without difficulty, but alive and still burning to perform. This talking segment from the frontman addressing his bandmates and the gathered crowd may have been more than expected, but it was no less heartfelt. It even shows that the band can, and will, move on from ‘Holy Hell.’
Honestly, I almost don’t even need to tell you that they ended things with ‘Doomsday‘ as it’s a real given by now. Yet with maybe the exception of the heart-crushing ‘Gone With The Wind‘ – which also helped conclude their encore – there’s really no other song of theirs that feels like it can or even should conclude an Architects performance currently. It’s a track that leaves all of the immensely heavy thoughts and yearning feelings of grief and loss up on-stage, both emotionally and musically too. It’s perhaps one of the most quintessential Architects songs for their career, if not THE song of their time as a band currently. In so many words, it put the perfect end on what was a colossal set from one of metalcore’s biggest acts of late. A band who has, well and truly, earned that top spot.