Poignant, powerful and utterly punishing.
All photos by Ed Mason
The Royal Albert Hall has always been a cornerstone of British culture. An architectural triumph slap bang in the heart of Kensington, its grand stage has played host to different masters of different crafts from all four corners of the globe over the 150 years its doors have been open. But it’s rare that this gorgeous building plays host to a spectacle as emotional, poignant and savage as this. Thought it’s rare that a band like Architects comes along either.
In another world, Architects would probably be playing this iconic room to a sold out crowd, screaming back every word and inciting utter chaos. But given the current state of the world, kicking off the campaign for their new upcoming album ‘For Those That Wish To Exist’ on this stage still holds a high level of importance. Tonight is testament to the hard work, resilience and bravery that the band has exhibited over the past few years and beyond. It’s a celebration of everything they have achieved and everything they are yet to achieve and as Sam Carter calmly walks through the halls of this famous structure, takes his place in the centre of the floor facing his band mates and kicks off ‘Nihilist’ in spine-tingling fashion, it’s clear it’s going to be a night to remember.
There’s something incredibly haunting about the likes of the sentimentally stirring ’Modern Misery’ and the bile-soaked brutality of ‘Broken Cross’ being met by total silence in these surroundings, but in another way the band delivering these monolithic songs to an empty room feels even more potent than if it was filled to the rafters. Despite being dwarfed by the towering walls around them, the band put in the sort of performance that makes them look like giants. Each riff that Adam and Josh sculpt as razor sharp as the last, every bassline that Ali conjures can be felt vibrating in the back of the eardrum, all of the drum fills that Dan produces are delivered to utter perfection and Sam’s vocals sound more vicious and visceral than ever before. Then there’s the small matter of the beautiful visuals that make shadows of the band as they glisten behind them and light up the space in front of them. It all equates to a powerful and striking visual that’s hard to take your eyes off and, more than anything, wish you were experiencing in the flesh.
Tonight also serves as a chance for the band to debut some of the new material that will appear on ‘For Those That Wish To Exist’, and they grasp the opportunity with both hands. ‘Animals’ sounds even more monolithic than on record with its industrial stomp perfectly juxtaposed against Sam’s soft vocals. Then you have ‘Discourse Is Dead’ which feels like an amalgamation of Architects old and new, with a deeply vital message at the core of it, and finally ‘Dead Butterflies’ proving to be the sort of song that rooms of this stature are built for, with gorgeous atmospheres and a beast of a chorus holding it together. Placed against the likes of the punishing ‘Gravedigger’, the beautifully touching ‘Gone With The Wind’ and all-consuming ‘Holy Hell’, they serve as a perfect reminder of the sheer array of sounds and emotions this band have the ability to conjure at the flick of the wrist.
Things then get slowed right down as the band journey down to the spot where Sam kicked off the show and deal out a stripped back and haunting double header of ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’ and ‘Holy Hell’ closers ‘Memento Mori’ and ‘A Wasted Hymn’ and allow us all a moment of quiet reflection. Just as gripping as any of the evening’s heaviest moments up until this point, it’s also the most vulnerable the band have looked at any point during the show and in many ways feels like the scale of what they are doing starts to truly sink in. Then as they return to the stage and belt out an incendiary ‘A Match Made In Heaven’, euphoric ‘Hereafter’ and tear-jerking ‘Doomsday’, that’s when it sinks in a little bit deeper for the rest of us too. To make a venue as legendary as the Royal Albert Hall feel like your own is no mean feat, let alone when you’re playing music as devastating as this, but Architects made it look like it was second nature throughout this stunning set. Perfectly poignant, powerful and utterly punishing from beginning to end, the band have not only reminded us why they belong on stages of this size, but also how there is no limit to where their music will take them.
More than anything, tonight’s performance serves as a vigorous reminder to just how powerful heavy music can be and how much not being able to experience it in this way at this time really stings. Oh, but what a sight it will be when we’re all allowed to do this together again.