Architects' seventh album is an ambitious, unforgiving wake-up call from a band that's staring into the abyss.
“Maybe we passed the point of no return / Maybe we just want to watch the world burn.” Things are not bright and sunny in the world of Architects, the five-piece metalcore outfit from Brighton, UK. And if that couplet in their song “Deathwish” is any indication, things aren’t getting any better.
Recorded in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the tail end of 2015, Architects teamed up with producer Fredrik Nordtrom (Dark Tranquility, In Flames, Opeth) to craft their seventh and perhaps most ambitious album, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us. Guitars are way up front, but keyboards play a vital role in the sonic landscape, mostly serving as a layer that you usually hear only during the quieter moments (not that there are too many of those). This type of layering works to the band’s advantage and prevents the album from sounding like a one-dimensional screamfest.
This isn’t a band of boozy, metalhead party animals. These are five earnest young men (all vegan activists and vigorously anti-war) who are staring into the abyss and judging by the way we’ve been acting and how we treat ourselves and our planet, we’re getting what we deserve. From "Nihilist", the album's opening track: “I found God clutching a razor blade / He said ‘look at the fucking mess they’ve made' / They’d trade their hearts if they were made of gold / But they’re as worthless as the souls they sold.”
On the surface, the music is noisy, brutal and unforgiving. Vocalist Sam Carter rarely brings his formidable pipes below scream level. This is a deadly serious band that insists on delivering a powerful message wrapped in distorted djent-djent-djent riffs and muscular drum fills. But there is variety, such as occasional sonic cool-down periods (relatively speaking). “Gone With the Wind” is one of the album’s more diverse tracks, with keyboards playing a more prominent role and a sense of melody pervading more than on other songs. It seems to hint at a personal ending to the world’s suffering through an apocalyptic finale (“The weight of the world is resting on thin ice / When the surface breaks, will I find paradise?”), but also seems to find eternal damnation through suicide (“I’d take a leap of faith but I’d lose my nerve / In the end, I’ll get the hell that I deserve”). Nothing is easy, there are no simple answers, but we’ve made our bed and we must lie in it.
The album’s most ambitious track is undoubtedly its closer, “Memento Mori”, which clocks in at just over eight minutes. Industrial keyboard patches blend with drum machines to create an eclectic, widescreen atmosphere. The sound eventually shifts back to Architects’ standard metallic guitar chugging but eventually dials back down to make room for audio samples from the late British philosopher Alan Watts: “You don’t have to try to hang on to yourself / It can’t be done and that is salvation / Memento mori / Be mindful of death.” So death is not necessarily the solution, simply an inevitability.
Musically speaking, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us doesn’t necessarily offer anything terribly new in Architects’ sonic, well…architecture. It’s not a giant leap forward, but it’s definitely the sound of a band doubling down, taking what they do best and running with it. And while the lyrics seem relentlessly bleak and unforgiving, the unspoken message is perhaps one of self-reflection. It’s a global tough love wake-up call in the most unvarnished way. Look at yourself, look what you’ve done. Is this the destructive path you wish to follow? They provide a list of the symptoms -- it’s up to you to come up with the cure.