Friday, 28 January 2011

Architects - The Here And Now [8/10]

I often question why we, as a race, fear change so much. Is it a threat? An enemy? Are we really so desensitized into maintaining the status quo that even the prospect of change frightens us? It baffles me how some of us react to changes in even the slightest areas of our lives. I’m of course referring to music here. I can empathize – I know it can be quite perturbing when your favourite band suddenly veers off onto a different path, especially when they were previously onto a golden formula (Mastodon, Trivium and, obviously, Metallica have all experienced this). The thing that a lot of people tend to disregard however is an artist’s natural need to change, adapt and evolve. As a musician or a songwriter, hundreds of different sounds can filter into your mindframe over the years, and these can alter the way you produce your craft in every way, from the ideology right down to the composition. You could be writing the world’s most extreme death metal for years on end, and one day you may wake up and feel an overwhelming desire to make a jazz record, such is the, perhaps, fragility of a songwriter’s mind. So today, I put Architect’s latest The Here And Now under the microscope. Since 2007’s Ruin, Architects have been writing masterclasses in tech metal, peaking with 2009’s Hollow Crown (a benchmark of modern metal by any stretch of the imagination). Anyone expecting another Hollow Crown should approach The Here And Now with caution: this is a different beast entirely. Gone are the Meshuggah ape-ing riffs, the complex time signatures and off-kilter arrangements. What we have instead is a collection of songs that can rattle your bones and reduce you to tears in equal measures.

By now you’ve all heard ‘Day In Day Out’ (or you should have. If you havn’t, you’ve got problems. Mega choon). It’s a defiant introduction to Architects Mk. II, if you will; a bold mash-up of post-hardcore and punk. It sets us up perfectly, the album’s biggest strength being that it maintains a constant theme throughout. ‘Learn To Live’ is markedly different from our opening track, now showing an evident emo-influence, but not in an MCR way – think more Three Days Grace. Things really start to kick up a notch on ‘Delete, Rewind’, it’s grinding Stampin’ Ground-esque main riff creating an irresistible moshpit ready groove. Two of the albums finest moments come within this one track; the destined-for-crowd-participation breakdown that screams “THIS IS THE END OF THE WORLD!”, and the gang vocal driven refrain of the title towards the end of the song. It sounds nothing short of mighty. ‘BTN’s intro oddly repeats the same chord progression as ‘Day In Day Out’s verse, and unfortunately doesn’t improve much, ending up as one of the albums very few weak moments. It’s quickly overshadowed by the stunning ‘An Open Letter To Myself’, a searing ballad for the 21st century which see’s the wonderfully versatile Sam Carter lamenting “My so called friend, when will we see you again?”. It’s a welcome break in the action before ‘The Blues’ kicks us back into gear again, which in its closing moments showcases my favourite feature of Sam’s voice; his aggressive almost Phil Anselmo-esque singing. Coupled up with ‘Red Eyes’, both songs are high octane riff driven explosions of sheer force, and the underlying hardcore tendencies of ‘Stay Young Forever’ round off a crushing triplet before we enter ballad territory once again in ‘Heartburn’, somehow toppling ‘...Open Letter..’ in terms of sheer hooks with its infectious and powerful chorus. ‘Year In Year Out’ concludes the record with a guest appearance from The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato, whose distinctive and inimitable growl stacks up brilliantly alongside Carter’s hardcore shriek. The track provides a perfect finale to an almost flawless collection of songs (until hidden track ‘Up And Away’ ruins things a little bit. I hate to nitpick but this really didn’t need to be here).

Architects are slowly building a success story that only Bring Me The Horizon can compare to, as far as music with this level of intensity and aggression is concerned. They’re part of a very select group of bands who represent the future of British heavy metal, and with this album they’re very slowly climbing to the top of the pile. The truth is, this is a far more commercial turn for Architects. The songs here are far from the clich├ęd perception of the chart-topping rock song, but they’re even further away from the muso’s dreams that were ‘Ruin’ and ‘Hollow Crown’ (and a whole world away from the Dillinger Escape Plan worship of ‘Nightmares’). Will The Here And Now have Architects suddenly popping up on T4 while Steve Jones asks them vague questions with a constant air of self-importance? Not likely, but what it does have is the potential to lift Architects into the higher regions of British heavy metal. This time next year, Architects could be filling theatres across the country. I suggest you catch them in an intimate setting while you still can: 2011 is Architects’ year.

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