Earlier today it was revealed that Architects’ guitarist and co-founder Tom Searle had lost his three-year battle with cancer. He was 28 years old. If you are a fan of Architects or not, we can all agree that 28 is no age to go, and it’s heartening to know that he fought until the bitter end.
Tom was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in 2013, but was given the all-clear after surgery to remove part of his lower leg. Fans didn’t know he was still battling this cruel, spiteful disease until today and it never ever showed. In those three years Architects grew to become a behemoth in the British metal world, releasing two world-conquering albums and playing their greatest ever live show at the Roundhouse in London last year. Not once did Tom show any signs of slowing down or putting an end to his second family. He didn’t let cancer control his life and as such took his art in directions never before conceived.
I didn’t know Tom personally, but I interviewed him a handful of times over the years on different album cycles, and he was always a charming, funny, kind and likable guy. Musicians often get a bad rap for being egomaniacs, divas, or even just dickheads, but Tom just wanted to have a laugh and make great music – which he did.
The band swiftly outgrew their mathcore leanings and launched headfirst into serious metal territory, a challenge Tom embraced fully. The result was Hollow Crown, a lesson in forward-thinking metalcore and an album that undoubtedly influenced everyone from While She Sleeps to Heights to Devil Sold His Soul. But unlike some of their metal counterparts, Architects always stayed true to their heavy roots.
Tom and the band’s love for bands like Meshuggah, Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan, and a passion for musical authenticity, meant they were never chasing a ‘commercial’ audience like some of their peers, instead setting themselves up to be one of the greatest British metal bands of the 21st century.
2014’s Lost Forever // Lost Together is arguably the band’s crowning achievement. A non-stop bludgeoning of aggressive, frantic, anthemic metal that was in no way derivative and a definitive statement that British metal will not stagnate when you actually give a fuck. The passion Tom and his band had and still have for heavy music is inspiring, when so many bands get stuck in a rut and struggle to sound relevant, out come the Searle brothers with songs like Gravedigger, Colony Collapse and poignantly C.A.N.C.E.R. – a song Tom wrote about his melanoma in 2013.
The band were never afraid to write about important and vital issues, from cancer to war to the sociopolitical climate, Architects are as progressive musically as they are lyrically and for that reason alone Tom’s contribution to music will be missed dearly. So many bands are afraid to take a stand and make a fucking statement but Architects are the antidote to bland verse-chorus-verse-breakdown-chorus-repeat metal. Intelligent music for metal fans that have been spoonfed bullshit musically and culturally for far too long.
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Tom’s final album with Architects, All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, is a further exploration into darker, heavier, more emotional territory where few bands fear to tread. Riffs so big they could level buildings and a complete rewriting of the structural rulebook, Architects are risk takers and it always pays off. Fittingly, closing track and ultimately Tom’s swansong Memento Mori (Latin for the pertinent phrase “be mindful of death”) is the biggest departure from the Architects blueprint and perfectly showcases the band’s willingness to change and embrace outside influences with elements of electronics and post-metal pushing boundaries even further.
And that’s what Tom should be remembered for. Whether you know it or not, British metal has lost one of the visionaries of the genre; an artist that knew the true power of music in emotional and societal change. In a year that has taken so many celebrities and musicians from us, the impact of Tom Searle on modern heavy music cannot be underestimated.
Rest in power.