On 20th August, 2016, Tom Searle, founding member of the Brighton-based metalcore band Architects, passed away, aged just 28. Unbeknownst to fans, he had been suffering from skin cancer the previous three years. It was hugely cruel blow, not only for friends and family, but for a band who had started to make some serious in-roads, their previous two albums, both top 20 affairs, were the result of hard work ever since he and his twin brother Dan formed Architects back in 2004.
It made national news, and even for those who had never heard of the band, nor had much interest in metal music, it was a shock. Tom was the lead guitarist, and the main songwriter, and the future for Architects was looking bleak. Dan needed to inform the band’s substantial and growing global fanbase, none of whom had any idea Tom had been ill. He took to Facebook, and posted an update. “You have to address it, – Interview 2018 you have to say something”, he has said. He and his bandmates had known about Tom’s condition all along. Now it was public, the band had to deal with the inevitable questions, the desire for fans to let their feelings be known, and the future of this exceptionally tight outfit.
While Tom had been ill, the band had decided, at the behest of Tom, to soldier on, and just last February they headlined the 10,000 capacity Alexandra Palace, in North London. Next February they take it up a notch again, this time headlining the 12,000 capacity Wembley Arena. Their comeback single, ‘Doomsday’, has already been viewed nearly 20 million times on YouTube, since its release last year. They just released their eighth album and first one post-Tom, Holy Hell, to huge acclaim. It is, with Dan taking over the lyric writing, both a tribute to Tom, and a meditation on grief. Tom’s work is also all over the album, a song here, a riff there.
It was a difficult decision at first, whether to carry on, not only gigging, but making new music. The last thing the band wanted was to appear to be “feeding off the scraps of Tom’s demos”. However, Holy Hell rose to the challenge, and proved their ability beyond doubt.
“The band was massively derailed at that point,” says Ali Dean, the band’s bassist. “After we lost Tom the only thing we wanted to do was to play some shows. That’s what we had been doing for years, and that is all we knew. We had a new album (2016’s All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us), and we wanted to go out and play it. It had been written by Tom, and it was very important for us to perform his music. The initial plan was to get out there, play some shows, and see how it feels.”
Josh Middleton, of the metal band Sylosis, initially filled in for Tom, and has since become a full-time member. “We had Josh fill in for Tom. Josh was someone who Tom had said, that if he wasn’t able to play any of the shows we had booked, he would be the only person he would consider to step in. We already had the nod that Josh was the guy, he’d been a friend of the band for a long time, and we all got on with him so well. He seemed the perfect person to do it, not to mention he is a phenomenal guitar player.
“We did that tour, and we weren’t sure what was going on, but Josh and Dan started working on some material, and we had a bunch of stuff that Tom had written that was demoed, some ideas, some complete songs. So, we had the starting point for moving forward. And once Dan and Josh came up with their own stuff, there was definitely a dynamic there we could work with, and allow us to move forward.”
Holy Hell is the result. A brutal catharsis pervading the album as a whole, beginning with the ‘Death Is Not Defeat’, a song that Dan has said is about his brother. “I just wanted to say to my brother, it’s okay that you died. You haven’t let anyone down by dying. That’s just the way it is, and I hope when I die I’ll see you.” ‘Doomsday’ is on there, too, a track that was release last year and which has re-modelled recently, as a piano reprise, featuring the Parallax Orchestra’s James Beckwith on piano. “Dan arranged the piano for it, and a guy called Will Harvey (who was also a founding member of alt-rock band Dry The River) arranged it. He also did the strings for the album. He heads up The Parallax Orchestra.”
What’s different about this record, apart from the fact that Tom isn’t fully a part of it? “There is a lot of Tom on the record. It’s something we have been very open about. We want to tell people people that Tom is still involved on this record. And, a lot of ideas are brought to the table by Josh, and him and Dan have been working together to put the songs together, and Dan has written all the lyrics for the record. Dan has really picked up what Tom was doing. He’s done an incredible job with it.
“We’re using a lot more electronics, a lot more keys and drum pads than before. And the strings have been a massive part of this record. Which again we have done in the past, but we have explored a lot more on this record. We’ve explored more new instrumentation on this record than ever before. And I think the album is a lot more melodic as well. Again, it’s something we have experimented with a lot in the past. We know that Sam can sing, but I don’t think we have heard him sing quite like on this record. He’s really pushed himself.”
Ali Dean has been an integral part of the band since he joined in 2006, replacing original bassist Tim Lucas. And he was instrumental in bringing vocalist Sam Carter on board in 2007, and who remains the band’s frontman. “I originally knew Architects when they were Counting The Days. I saw them at a show in Shoreham, at the Hall of the Good Shepherd. Sam and I were in a very bad metal band, with a couple of friends from Worthing, before I joined Architects. Our original singer (Matt Johnson) left, and Dan, Tom and I had seen Sam perform with a different band he was the frontman of, and we instantly recognised he had a lot of quality about him. He came to a practice, and he’s worked out quite well!”
They haven’t done any gigs around the album, but it has just been announced that their first show off the back of the new album will be at Concorde 2, a couple of days before they head off to Russia for some dates. “The Concorde has always been a favourite of ours. We did a record release there a couple of years ago. We grew up seeing shows there, it’s a big part of the band’s history.”
Architects are a very close knit band of brothers. Close enough to take the collective decision to become vegans a few years ago (“We were watching some documentaries when we were recording the Daybreaker album, and it struck a chord with all of us.”). Also close enough to survive tragedy, and to soldier on, continuing to deliver their highly melodic, and deeply personal brand of metal. Yet, still, the passing of Tom Searle is a very fresh emotional wound that needs caring for. It has been a very public affair, dealing with the death of a loved one, and close friend. “After a long time of being in a band together, people can experience a bit of distance between the group. Which is only natural – you spend enough time with any group of people, you will start to think, ‘well, I want a bit of time away’. But, we’re very close, and if any of us is struggling we’ll look after each other.
“When it comes to dealing with it publicly, we’re happy to talk about it. It’s good to talk about it, to talk about grief. For me, when I lost my dad years ago, my response to that was to keep it all in. It really wasn’t other people’s business at the time. But, talking about losing Tom is part of dealing with it. People share their stories with us, although sometimes a bit much. It’s difficult to know what to say to people. But just knowing the album, or our music, helps them get through difficult times, is good for us, and encourages us to keep doing it. We feel very grateful that we have landed on our feet, and that people have enabled us to keep going. Everyone is very excited about the new record, and looking forward to getting out there. I feel like people are really rooting for the band. We can definitely sense that.”