On Architects and How Hardcore Can Temper Grief
The band's first song after the death of co-founder Tom Searle, “Doomsday” is an ode to the tangle of emotions when grieving.
The morning Tom Searle's death was announced, you could hear a pin drop. Primary songwriter, lyricist and guitarist for Brighton metalcore outfit Architects, Searle was instrumental in the band's rise to the top of British rock. Be it the frenzied, personal tirades of breakthrough masterpiece Hollow Crown, or the latter day political slant of pulverising records like Daybreaker and last year's All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, his intelligent approach to a genre too often plagued by identikit brawn-over-brains groups gave Architects an emotional potency that their fans latched onto. He died in August last year, at 28, following a longstanding battle with cancer. The news came as a stomach-dropping shock to fans who, until that point, had been largely none the wiser. The first anyone heard of Searle's illness was when his brother – and Architects' drummer – Dan Searle, broke the news of Tom's death on the band's social media. "We want to carry on, that is important to say, and we will strive to do so," the post concluded, "But we will not release any music unless we truly believe that it is something that Tom would have been proud of. Whether or not we can achieve that is something that we will have to discover in time."
Last week, Architects dropped "Doomsday", their first release since All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us and Tom's subsequent passing. Left half-finished after his death, the band took it upon themselves to complete the track, with Dan writing the lyrics in his brother's stead. Unsurprisingly, "Doomsday" is about his conflicted feelings regarding the loss, and is a marker of Architects' poise in the face of extreme sadness, as well as an exercise in the strength and emotional honesty that truly great heavy bands thrive upon. Framed by similar visual iconography to All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, and echoing many of its musical signatures, there's no doubting that this is a continuation of Architects' – and Tom's – legacy. Death has a way of bristling against that need to carry on.
After the passing of my godmother two years ago this week – a woman whose impact on me I will never be able to articulate, for fear I would only understate it – I found the idea of continuing along the same path almost vile. How could I go back to the same job, shop in the same shops, frequent the same places, when such a seismic event had occurred? When such a defining figure had been taken away too soon? Amid the numbness of immediate grief, I felt compelled to chuck it all in; scrap everything, put a full stop on it, start again. Continuing felt akin to acting like nothing had happened. I hated myself for simply getting up for work every morning; every grocery shop felt like a sick joke. "What if I completely forget? What if I never accept?" writes Dan in the lyrics to "Doomsday". It's a mental conflict that's all too familiar to anyone who's suffered such a sharp loss. Knowing the right path is impossible. Worse still, in its most violent throes, grief can make all paths seem like the worst option – to forget is cruel; to never accept is equally rough.
We're never given forewarning on how to process grief. As inevitable and universal as the common cold, it's inescapable, and yet we spend the first chapter of lives trying to do just that. In many cultures death is a banned topic of conversation – too difficult, too morbid – kept out of sight and mind until it comes rearing its head of its own accord. Hurried conversations about the end only come in the wake of devastating news, jostled into the bustle of hospital visits and goodbyes, whispered phone calls and funeral plans. There's little time to think of what will come after.
While you'd be hard pressed to find a genre that doesn't frame music as an outlet for grief, such admissions take on a new life within hardcore and metalcore. These fanbases are built on a feeling of collective identity – one where the relationship transcends a simple, fan-artist binary, instead thriving off the combined energy of every person in the room. What's more, they're musically and lyrically centred on otherwise often discredited or sidelined feelings of pain, anger and anguish, becoming one of the few places men in particular can outwardly express many of these emotions in the process.
As such, these documents of loss become unifying mantras. "I'll Get By", the centrepiece of Pianos Become The Teeth's The Lack Long After, finds frontman Kyle Durfey ruminating on the importance of carrying on with his life after his father's death, while still bearing the weight of his grief. "It's been a rough while and some days are worse than others / There's no proper way to feel, no mirth, no levity, no amazing grace," he sings, articulating his desperate attempts to find some stability and a "proper" way to feel. "I must not let you die / Your memory survives," states Misery Signals' then-vocalist Jesse Zaraska on "The Year Summer Ended In June", a track dedicated to the memory of their late friends Jordan Wodehouse and Daniel Langlois after they were killed by a drunk driver.
Likewise, Touché Amoré's masterpiece Stage Four, released late last year, is an ode to singer Jeremy Bolm's late mother, who died while the band were performing onstage at the Fest in 2014. "I was told that you wouldn't have known / Told myself I was where you'd want me to be," Bolm sings on "New Halloween", attempting to ease that sadness by reflecting on his mother's pride for him living out his dream, before admitting: "But it's not that easy." Many people – myself included – are first drawn to heavy music as a means to articulate thoughts and feelings they may not fully understand yet. While that might first manifest itself in teenage anger and frustration, it takes on a similar life when dealing with the similarly incomprehensible concept of death.
"Maybe I do it as a minuscule sacrifice," Dan Searle wrote in a recent blog post reflecting on the one-year anniversary of his brother's death and his conflicted emotions at pushing on. "I should at least suffer a bit, I tell myself, after everything he went through. As if the grief weren't enough." It's that compulsion to self-flagellate – that 'why not me' reflex – which plagued my own feelings of grief, too. When my godmother died I was in the midst of a period of self-destruction that only made my mind double down on qualifying her death in comparison to my own life. Why did she have to be leave forever when I, with my 'six beers a night, seven nights a week' mentality and ill-advised new smoking habit, got to carry on? Grief and guilt are terrible bedfellows.
And so, "Doomsday" is both a celebration of Tom's life and an ode to the tangle of emotions that came in the wake of death. "Souls don't break they bend," Dan writes, his polarised mindset reflected in frontman Sam Carter's pained screams and tender croon. "But I sometimes forget I have to do this for you, and the only way out is through."
This is where Architects' honesty comes into its own. In dealing so openly with their two-toned mindset, they've articulated a cryptic emotional struggle that's normally left to mourners to decode alone. "It goes without saying that this has been a very hard, difficult year for us," Sam Carter said as their Reading Festival main stage slot drew to a close last month, thanking the fans for their support throughout the preceding year. Fighting back tears, he continued: "Tom gave every single person the time of day, so thank you – on behalf of him – for letting us keep his music alive." Framing the band's continued path as a mode of honouring his memory, they offered a beacon through those dark and cloudy paths – a message of support and a guiding light to those as confused and conflicted by their own grief as Architects themselves surely have been over the last year.
To their further credit, Architects never faltered. They toured again, after a brief period of mourning. Dan and the rest of the band never once hid their grief, but they charged ahead through it, finding solace in Tom's music. The band themselves aren't spokespeople for grief – nobody should never be expected to perform as such – but their strength and humility should be commended. In allowing a controlled insight into their own grieving process, they're pushing forward a conversation on one of the most difficult processes in human living – one that's too often left unsaid until it's too late.
Follow Tom on Twitter.