At the start of 2019, Architects played their biggest ever headline show at London’s Wembley Arena. A celebration of unity in a world that inspires daily despair, it cemented their status as one of the very best bands around, as well as proving just how ambitious, cathartic and inspirational their furious anthems could be.
We could have done with some more of that this year. But thanks to the small matter of a raging global pandemic, tonight is only the second live show Architects have been able to play in 2020. And while we might be having to watch it from home, the band are just as impressive as they've ever been.
As they take to the iconic stage of London’s Royal Albert Hall to kickstart the campaign for new album For Those That Wish To Exist (out February 26 and available to pre-order now), vocalist Sam Carter stands in the middle of the empty room and launches into the snarling fury of Nihilist. With every shot capturing just how deserted the venue is, maybe all our gods have abandoned us, but Architects aren’t a band to wallow. Sure, the ferocious call to arms sounds strange without the roar of the crowd, but it’s no less powerful. With everyone feeling the weight of these strange times, the likes of Modern Misery, Gravedigger and Broken Cross are even more visceral.
Rather than just playing the hits to an empty venue and hoping it still connects, Architects twist their live show to suit an online event. A venue-wide light show dials up the theatrics and shows off just how expansive the space is – a world away from the intimacy the band normally conjure – while the title cards for each song make the stream seem more like an anthology of emotionally-charged short films than a gig.
Tonight, the closest we get to crowd interaction is seeing a crew member air-drumming from the sound desk and us typing ‘blergh’ into the live chat. Without that crowd to bounce off, the group has to lean on their more cinematic elements. The dynamic Gone With The Wind is more haunting than it’s ever been while the epic Death Is Not Defeat is given the space to soar. But with the band huddled in the middle of the room, it’s the achingly beautiful stripped-back renditions of Momento Mori and A Wasted Hymn that really pack a punch.
The surprises don’t end there, though, with Architects debuting three new songs. Live, For Those That Wish To Exist’s lead single Animals is even more direct. Blending industrial rage with bursts of arena-pop, the marching track is urgent, ambitious and brilliant. We’d call it the catchiest thing Architects have ever done, but that title belongs to the vicious Dead Butterflies; a honey-dipped synth-led rager. Elsewhere, there’s no messing around with the urgent Discourse Is Dead, which channels a palpable rage but doesn’t shy away from glitching electronics. Excited for the future, all three tracks feel like confident leaps forward from a band who’ve never been afraid to try new things.
Want proof? Look at tonight. Most rock bands have shied away from the now-necessary world of livestreams, worried the lack of physical connection will make the whole thing hollow. But Architects were never going to just sit around and wait for normality to return. Aware of the differences but finding new ways to connect, their livestream is a masterclass in how to do it, and proof that heavy music reaches beyond the mosh pit. The group have spent their career finding hope in misery and tonight, that’s never been more unifying.