How Architects Found Peace on Their New Album

Death, Hope, Nihilism: How Architects Found Peace on Boundary-Pushing New Album

U.K. metalcore act talks creating "more complete picture of human experience" on 'For Those That Wish to Exist'
architects-web-crop-ed-mason-1.jpg, Ed Mason
photograph by Ed Mason

Revolver has teamed with Architects on an exclusive "Blue Dream Splash" 2LP variant of their new album, For Those That Wish to Exist, limited to 500 worldwide. Order yours before they're gone!

Architects have been a band for over 15 years. In that time, they've put out eight albums, endured numerous lineup changes, and sadly lost their founding guitarist Tom Searle to cancer in 2016. The English metalcore quartet have been through a lot — but they've managed to secure longevity in a genre where young acts have historically burned bright and fast. At this point, Architects are lifers with one of the most passionate fan bases in the scene, but they'd be lying if they said they weren't nervous to release their ninth record, For Those That Wish to Exist.

"I feel discouraged from taking creative risks because I find the prospect of being at the wrong end of an internet onslaught difficult," says drummer Dan Searle during a Zoom call with vocalist Sam Carter and Revolver. "People will call me a snowflake and all sorts of things for that, but it's a scary thing to do these days, to take a chance. Because it's almost harder when the band is more established and, if we're being totally transparent, this is our way of making a living. This is how we pay our bills and feed our families, so there's a lot of risk involved."

Searle's anxieties aren't unfounded. The 15-song, hour-long album weaves a sprawling tapestry of French horns, strings, synths, and alien-like vocal processors into their signature breed of stadium-sized metalcore. Compared to their already grandiose 2018 album Holy Hell, everything on this record is even bigger — the melodies, the sheer breadth of the arrangements, and the scope of its concept, which navigates the push-pull of hope and nihilism in a world that's falling apart. It's the most ambitious album they've ever made, and although it felt incredibly liberating for them as creators, they know that it's going to be a challenging listen for some metalcore purists.

"There were definitely points when we were writing some things where it was like, 'Well, this moment in this song is gonna really piss some people off,'" Searle says matter-of-factly.

After releasing Holy Hell, their first without Searle's late brother Tom and the final entry in a trilogy of records that boosted their sound from rabid mosh-pit fodder to stadium-tier metal anthems, Architects felt like they had solved that puzzle and they were ready to try something different. While Searle was listening to Kendrick Lamar's 2015 jazz-rap masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly — a stark pivot from the gangsta rap of his previous work — he began to question why that type of experimentation doesn't really exist in the world of metalcore.

"There's a lot of 'don'ts'," Searle says. "I was just noticing how when you listen to a hip-hop record, there's one thing that's consistent and that's the vocals. But you can go anywhere you want. It can be jazz ballroom, but as long as it has the vocalist on it, it's fine … But with us, it felt like, 'Well, it's got to be two distorted guitars, bass, drums, and a guy screaming.' I don't want to sound like I'm throwing shade at the genre because we like the music, but I just felt like, Well, can we rip this up a little bit?"

The result is a record that Searle defines as being influenced by metalcore, but not metalcore itself. He and Carter elaborated on their intentions behind this sonic pivot, the record's topical lyrics, and finding a strange sense of comfort in accepting that we're all going to die — and that's alright. Our conversation has been condensed for clarity.

WAS THERE ANYTHING YOU KNEW YOU WANTED TO DO GOING INTO THIS RECORD, EITHER LYRICALLY OR MUSICALLY?
SAM CARTER It felt like it would be real easy to carry on where we were going because the last three before this were in a similar sort of vein. So after a while it's like football: if you take the same free kick enough times, more often than not, you know that it's going to go in. So every now and then it's nice to move the ball to feel a little bit out of your comfort zone. And just get that general feeling of excitement that you're doing something that you haven't done before.

DAN SEARLE I think Holy Hell would've been a very different record if Tom had still been here, and it was more in the same vein as the previous two records because we felt like we needed to consolidate and readjust as a band without Tom. And it wasn't the time for us to change the script. Whereas with this album, it just felt time to spread our wings a little bit and challenge ourselves and take it somewhere new.

WHAT ABOUT THIS RECORD FELT THE MOST OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE?
CARTER Everything feels a lot grander than before and it feels a lot bigger and it feels like we were in a position to do the ideas justice. Whether it be having French horns on a song — and actually having French horns properly recorded — or writing with that sort of stuff in mind and knowing that we would be able to do it.

SEARLE When you're a band for a decent amount of time, the sound of your band is to some degree governed by the rules you self-imposed. What you are allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do … I think when we were writing it, it was more about asking ourselves whether we liked what we were writing, rather than what other people would think. And to be honest, the way we're talking about this, you people are going to expect it to be a ska record. We didn't throw the baby out of the bathwater, we just stripped back what we were allowing ourselves to do.

THE ALBUM IS CALLED FOR THOSE THAT WISH TO EXIST. TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOU LANDED ON THAT PHRASE IN PARTICULAR.
SEARLE
I felt like it sounds like something that could be really cryptic, but I actually see it as being really blatantly obvious. The album is generally about: Wow, we're really messing this up but we're all struggling so much to get through the day. How do you save the world when you can't make ends meet or you're struggling with your mental health? We've got a lot of challenges on a personal level, so when we're dealing with the micro it's hard to even address the macro.

So that's what the album is looking at broadly. Like, "What the fuck are we doing?" It's not so much a finger-pointing, "Fuck authority — the government are trying to screw us." It's kind of like, "Oh my god, I'm finding it so hard to deal with my own life. How the hell are we gonna get out of this?" So it's that feeling of being overwhelmed and kind of that sense of powerlessness.

architects-web-crop-ed-mason-5.jpg, Ed Mason
photograph by Ed Mason

CARTER The same with so much of life, I think your overall mood when you go into the record depends what you take from it as well. Because sometimes you really do have that will to fight and talk about what you think is important and you're ready to take the hits from people who will criticize you for it and you're ready to take the hits from putting yourself out there and feeling brave enough to do it. And other times, like Dan says, you got your own shit going on and you don't want to take the punches to try and do something good.

THE RECORD SEEMS TO BE ABOUT GOING BEYOND POLITICIANS, BUT THAT WE AS A CITIZENRY HAVE TO COME TOGETHER TO STOP CLIMATE CHANGE AND OTHER LOOMING THREATS.
SEARLE
Yeah, there's stuff about that and there's stuff about the hypocrisy of both political wings. Just trying to look beyond these pre-packaged tribes that we've been sold into. That you are either the left or you are the right, and these are the things that you will believe. You will believe that taxes should be lower for rich people, but you also disagree with gay marriage. It's not like these beliefs that we hold on the left and the right are intrinsic to our human nature and certain personality types.

THE SONG "ANIMALS" CONVEYS THE AGONY OF THE RECORD'S SUBJECT MATTER, AND THERE'S THIS PUSH-PULL IN THE SONG BETWEEN TRYING TO MAINTAIN A POSITIVE OUTLOOK WHILE ALSO ASKING, "SHOULD I JUST PULL THE PIN?" IS THAT THE CENTRAL TENSION YOU GUYS WERE FEELING DURING THE WRITING OF THIS ALBUM?
SEARLE
Yeah, and there's always someone saying that change is not possible. And that song is also kind of saying, "Man, a lot of this stuff we worry about doesn't matter." There's lots of contradictions on the record. And I kind of started seeing that coming when I was writing the lyrics and just made my peace with it because that's just human nature, isn't it? Having these different aspects of ourselves that contradict. So I kind of let go of the idea of having a consistent belief or message I was driving out and just surrendered to the fact like, "Well, one day I feel like I can save the world and the next day I feel like we're fucked."

It's a difficult balance. Surrendering to that and not just being OK with terrible things happening all over the world. . .I'm not saying it's about giving up or letting go, just tempering your everyday anxieties with a little bit of a surrender. That no matter what, we'll be OK.

IT SEEMS LIKE THE CLOSER, "DYING IS ABSOLUTELY SAFE," CAPTURES THAT SENTIMENT.
SEARLE Yeah, exactly. That was like 14 tracks being pummeled by how bad things are and how terrible I feel about them, and then at the end going, "But it's OK because, chill." Obviously, everybody knows, we've been through this with losing Tom, you do get this blunt hit over the head and for me it was a real brutal sense of nihilism. I just felt like nothing matters.

I felt like after Tom died, a sense of like, "Oh, so that was all for nothing." Like his life was for nothing. What does that mean? When does it become something? You get a key at the end that's like, "I did it, I completed it." It's not like that, you think that you're heading somewhere and then you don't. That's quite a harsh realization but after a while and the dust settled, I realized in this moment I'm OK, Tom is OK. Because as far as I'm concerned, he's OK now. I couldn't say that for some time when he was actually suffering.

architects-web-crop-ed-mason-6.jpg, Ed Mason
photograph by Ed Mason

CARTER That's the thing I relate to quite a lot with the record is the ups and downs of it. That can work with grief as well. With losing Tom, I'd say 50 percent of the time I still live in a very nihilistic world where I don't give a shit about anything. And then the other 50 percent of the world I feel ready to fight the good fight and find the small things in life, whether it be literally seeing a bird fly into my garden. That can make my day sometimes, and some days I look at that and feel nothing. And that's the rollercoaster of life, trying to understand that you could drive yourself crazy.

SEARLE Circling around to the change in sound on some parts of the record and the length of it and being able to explore more territory and more sounds, is that we were kind of able to give a background of us riding those waves of how you feel day to day. That's why "Black Lungs" is more of a fist-in-the-air, let's save the world song. It's more of an anthemic, everyone together, we can do this thing. And then other parts of the record are much more bleak. And perhaps a bit more downbeat and less hopeful, and I feel like because we were able to diversify more, we were able to more honestly express a more complete picture of the human experience.