Architects Changes It Up On For Those Who Wish To Exist
Architects is back. For Those Who Wish To Exist is the ninth studio album from the Brighton metalcore giants, and their second release since the passing of guitarist and primary songwriter Tom Searle in 2016.
This record is one that I personally have been greatly looking forward to: Architects is one of those bands that seems to get better with every release, and this pattern miraculously even extends to 2018’s Holy Hell, their first album since Tom’s death and (in my opinion) best yet. Holy Hell gave the remaining members of Architects credibility in standing on their own feet, painting a bright future for the band. For Those Who Wish To Exist is their chance to make that future a reality.
Let’s dive right in. For Those Who Wish To Exist begins with “Do You Dream Of Armageddon,” a synthy, ambient intro laden with ominous clean singing, keys, and the soaring string sections that have become a staple of Architects’ sound. What follows is 14 tracks of a sound that is unmistakably Architects, but frankly a massive departure from their last several albums. For Those Who Wish To Exist fits pretty squarely into the rock genre. Gone is the alternate drop-F# tuning and bouncy, dissonant riffs that gave Architects that distinct, instantly recognizable sound. Guitarists Adam Christianson and Josh Middleton instead rely largely on huge, open chords and reverby, clean lead melodies.
Also mostly gone are Sam Carter’s beautiful, tortured screams, with the band heavily shifting the focus to melodic singing; Carter still utilizes his signature pitched-scream, but much less than on previous releases. It’s certainly no longer the band’s trademark on For Those Who Wish To Exist. Instead, Carter largely alternates between melancholy, calm melodies on verses and bridges and high, soaring belts on the massive choruses that pervade almost every track.
The occasional breakdown can be found throughout the album’s hour runtime, but these breakdowns sit at a higher tuning than usual, and rely more on power chords than that classic Architects low, chuggy “thall” sound. The breakdowns that do happen are more like the breakdowns you’d hear on a Linkin Park or newer Bring Me The Horizon album than anything off All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us or Lost Forever//Lost Together, and they feel like an afterthought; the focus of this album is unmistakably on the melodic aspect, not the heavy. For Those Who Wish To Exist is Architects, but it’s definitely not quite the Architects I know.
I’ll start with what I like. This album, in execution, is nearly perfect. The production (by guitarist Josh Middleton and drummer Dan Searle) is absolutely incredible. It’s truly remarkable for a self-produced record to sound this great. The drum and guitar tones are huge. The strings, keys and ambient pads are immersive and gorgeous. The vocal mix is absolutely beautiful.
For Those Who Wish To Exist is one of the most massive sounding records I’ve ever heard, possibly even more so than Holy Hell. It’s enormous and encapsulating without becoming overwhelming and crowded-sounding, a perfectly balanced and absolutely entrancing sound. The chorus on Dead Butterflies stands out in particular, a wall of open guitar chords and symphonic strings that sounds like I’m sitting in the middle of a live orchestra.
The band’s performances are equally perfect. I’ve said for ages that Dan Searle doesn’t get enough respect as a drummer from the metalcore community, constantly being overshadowed by names like Matt Greiner and Chris Turner. Well, on this album he certainly proves himself. The drumming is a standout: huge but tasteful, just intricate and technically difficult enough without becoming too much. Most importantly, Searle is versatile. His pounding rhythms on “Discourse Is Dead” are what make the heavy parts of that song hit the way they do, while his syncopated, ghost-note laden closed hi-hat grooves on “Demi God” are what prevent that song from just feeling like every other ballad on the album. Show that man some respect!
Sam Carter’s performance is equally stellar. I would argue he solidly established himself as the single best frontman in metalcore about two albums ago. His voice is dynamic and powerful, absolutely stunning. Also, I actually think some of the softer songs on this record work really well. “Demi God” and the closing track “Dying Is Absolutely Safe” stand out in particular. These songs manage to take full advantage of Sam Carter’s absolutely top-notch singing abilities, and the implementation of piano melodies and acoustic guitar is surprisingly convincing, and honestly gorgeous.
Finally, the guest spots. Winston McCall sounds just as powerful and demonic as I would have hoped, and Simon Neil’s switch from singing to screaming was an incredibly pleasant surprise and one of my favorite moments on the album. Mike Kerr from Royal Blood doesn’t really add much, but he has a cool voice and fits the song so I have no complaints.
Now, the negatives. My primary issue with For Those Who Wish To Exist is that it just feels very, very safe. I’m certainly not one of those gatekeepers who gets pissed off whenever a band moves in a more melodic, less heavy direction. In fact, I often prefer it: The Act is my favorite album from The Devil Wears Prada, and I prefer new Bring Me The Horizon to old. The problem, in this case, is that, to me, it just doesn’t feel genuine.
The softer, radio-rock direction of this album doesn’t feel like a natural progression, like a creative evolution of Architects’ music. It feels like they wanted to write radio hits, and set out to do exactly that. Again, this is just my opinion. But I don’t see how Josh Middleton of Sylosis could write a song like “Meteor” for any reason other than to get on Octane Radio and sell out bigger shows.
And I certainly don’t see how it’s the natural development of a band that just put out Holy Hell two years ago. Quite the opposite: regardless of the band’s intentions, this change in sound comes across as forced and even jarring, a hard divergence from the sound they’ve established, rather than the next evolution of it. For Those Who Wish To Exist is extremely formulaic. Most of the songs sound the same, right down to the massive, half-timed choruses, the ambient, moody, lower-sung verses and the down bridges that build back up into the chorus again. It’s a formula, and a very safe one at that.
This is going to sound like a contradiction, but I also don’t love some of the heavy songs on this album. Some of them are great: “Impermanence” is awesome even before the guest spot, definitely one of my favorite tracks. But take “Black Lungs,” for example. Architects very clearly wanted to write a lighter, more melodic album, and Black Lungs feels like they sat together in the studio and said “ok, we need to write a typical heavy Architects song just so the fans aren’t mad.” It’s heavy, but it’s generic and uninspired and feels like the token “metal” song that the band added to keep the album from being entirely rock. It’s certainly no Nihilist, and I almost wish they’d just fully committed to the rock sound rather than throw on a couple (I put “Libertine” in the same category) heavy songs purely arbitrarily.
For Those Who Wish To Exist is by no means a bad album. In all fairness, it’s a good album. The problem is that it’s impossible to analyze a record like this in isolation, without bias or comparison to the band’s previous releases. Unfortunately, most of Architect’s previous releases are absolutely outstanding. Again, For Those Who Wish To Exist is good on its own. But it sounds like other bands, other albums I’ve heard before, when Architects has taught me to expect something truly unique. And it’s just really hard to put any off the tracks off For Those Who Wish To Exist up against a “Gone With The Wind,” or a “Royal Beggars” or a “Naysayer,” and be left with any other feeling than that it’s a decent but safe album that rather loses the core of what makes Architects so amazing: their individuality.
My score: 6/10.
Demi God, Dying Is Absolutely Safe, Animals
Least favorite tracks:
Meteor, Little Wonder, Giving Blood