Architects, Brixton Academy, gig review: An intensely emotional milestone from one of Britain's finest metal bands

The precision with which the Brighton metalcore mob pull off their most important gig to date is a fitting tribute to late guitarist Tom Searle

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It’s a big night for metal in London. Just down the road, Metallica are playing a one-off intimate gig to 900 fans and industry types at House of Vans underneath Waterloo station. However, for 5,000-ish fans of the heavier things in life, they’re at an even more important event in Brixton. 

Tonight is a hugely significant gig for Brighton metalcore outfit Architects. After 12 years on the scene and seven albums, it’s their biggest ever UK headline show and it’s sold out. Vocalist Sam Carter is clearly ecstatic to be there. Three songs in he moves away from the mic stand and proudly postures at the front of the stage, one foot propped on the speakers, breathing it all in as the crowd chant in unison “AR-CHI-TECTS, AR-CHI-TECTS”, before yelling: “I’ve waited for this moment for a long time so I’m going to make it good… BRIXTONNNNN!”.

Carter’s screamed vocals are the foundations of Architects’ sound, combined with the down-tuned guitars and blistering double-bass beats that assault beneath. The onslaught breaks only occasionally for brief flashes of melody. It’s brutal and intense but Architects pull it off with equal parts precision and heart that it’s an absolute pleasure to watch live. To the untrained ear, these heavy songs may sound gloomy, but Carter’s politicised lyrics in the likes of “These Colours Don’t Run” and “Naysayer” are delivered as calls to arms, and the raised-fisted response of the crowd brings to life their life-affirming quality.

Lasers and flashing strobes give the tracks another dimension, and there’s something incredibly satisfying about watching four jets of smoke shoot upwards across the stage in perfect synchronisity with a bowel-trembling guitar breakdown and guttural “URGH” from Carter. From a band raised in the tiny toilet touring circuit, they’re finally giving their sound the atmospheric treatment it deserves in the big arena.

While the usual four-piece play as five tonight, there is one person missing on the stage. Indeed, it’s not just the scale of tonight’s performance that makes it such a special one. Three months ago, Architects’ guitarist, primary songwriter and founding member Tom Searle died after living with cancer for three years. Twin brother to drummer Dan, Tom had kept his illness from fans, making his death at the age of 28  all the more of a shock. While notable for his physical absence, Tom’s presence lays thick in the air. In his frequent inter-song spiel, Carter responds to chants of his former bandmate’s name with: “Tonight we stand with you in celebration of our brother’s life. Tonight we open Tom's diary and sing some of the greatest metal songs ever written.”

Hyperbole aside and while they are not everyone’s cup of tea, to the metal ear they are indeed great. “Colony Collapse” has a deep groove while the breakdown in “Phantom Fear” shakes the foundations of the building.

Returning to the stage for their encore, Dan Searle comes out from behind the drum kit to take the mic and pay tribute to his brother.

“This probably sounds strange to some of you but we always thought if he wanted it enough he'd be here tonight, but it didn't happen,” he says. It’s an emotionally-charged moment and Searle isn’t the only one in the venue struggling to hold back tears.

Turning it around, he ends on a positive note: “We've spent some time being close to dealing with death and you realise how fragile life is. It's very easy to sleepwalk through life. Don't sell yourself short. Find what you love and embrace it. Don't settle for mediocracy.

”Make the most of this life, you never know when it might end.”

Returning to behind the kit, Architects finish with “Gone with the Wind”. Sparks rain from the ceiling as the audience joins Carter at his most melodic for the poignant refrain: “A sickness with no remedy, except the ones inside of me.” In retrospect, it’s clear how much Tom’s illness must have influenced the writing of the band’s latest record All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, released just three months before he died.

While it's not clear what the future holds for Architects as a recording band, tonight’s gig is a testament to how much they still have to offer live. They have overcome great tragedy, showing resilience and professionalism beyond their years, and the finesse with which they pull off such a momentous performance is a fitting tribute to their fallen comrade.