Architects are well overdue a shake-up at this point. Holy Hell is a much stronger record than I first gave it credit for, but it still feel like a slightly less-potent rehash of the two (admittedly outstanding) records before it. For Those that Wish to Exist provides that much-needed breath of fresh air, even if it’s undeniably uneven one. Yet, it’s hard to tell weather the album’s various successes and shortcomings are qualitative ones or simply results of its sheer novelty.
It’s easy to see why Architects would stick to their guns for so long. The last time the band stepped out of their comfort zone, for 2011’s The Here and Now, they were more or less run out of town until they come limping back with the Hollow Crown (2009) rehash Daybreaker (2012) (if you don’t think that’s fair, just look at their covers). Architects are undeniably ambitious, but all their sizable fan-base seems to want from each new outing is a set of repackaged tech-metal riffs with some slightly catchier choruses. While their status sky-rocketed over the last decade, the band have also seemed creatively stifled, afraid perhaps they’ll loose their footing again after having fought so hard to claw their way back to the top.
Ironically, For Those that Wish to Exist feels like a far more cynical shift in sound than The Here and Now. Sure, the band had become critical darlings and underground starlets off the back of Hollow Crown, but they had hardly set a trend for themselves, and were far, far from the arena-filling prospect they are today. Conversely, For Those that Wish to Exist‘s lead single, “Animals” sounded like newly-anointed guitarist Josh Middleton (Sylosis) was trying to punch his way out of Bring Me the Horizon. The track seemed seemingly built to land the band on alt-rock radio and it did just that, placing number forty-seven spot on Australian radio channel Triple J’s “Hottest 100” of 2020 countdown, which the station claims is the “world’s biggest music poll,” alongside only one other metal band – you guessed it – Bring Me the Horizon, with “Obey” at seventy-one and “Parasite Eve” at number thirty-eight (The amity Affliction were also at number sixty-four, with “Soak Me in Bleach,” one of the lighter offerings from their surprisingly heavy last record). Mission accomplished.
The album’s subsequent singles have only gotten softer and less inspiring, leading many longtime fans who came to the band through their metalcore era to raise their hackles in dreaded anticipation. In many respects, the band only have themselves to blame for the mixed reception and apprehensive anticipation of For Those that Wish to Exist. For whatever reason, they seem to have chosen not only to showcase the album’s softest material, but also its weakest offerings in the lead-up to its release. “Animals” and opener “Black Lungs” are perfectly fine alt-rock infused modern metalcore tracks. However, third single “Dead Butterflies,” is an over-dramatic and somewhat insincere-sounding retread of “A Wasted Hymn” and “Momento Mori” which doesn’t even manage to reach the tepid heights of those tracks, while the newly released “Meteor” is one of the many insubstantial and ultimately disposable numbers that could have easily been cut from the album’s bloated run time. What’s more of a shame is that they obscure and overshadow the otherwise largely outstanding material the rest of the record contains.
If anything, many newcomers to Architects will be shocked by just how heavy For Those that Wish to Exist often is. Standout track “Goliath” is among the heaviest – and best – songs the band have ever put together, beginning with a Gojira-esque tech-metal stomp, transitioning through a lofty chorus and quickly errupting into a pummeling beatdown which features Simon Neil from fellow technical-post-hardcore-cum-stadium-filling-rockers Biffy Clyro absolutely shredding his vocal chords, of all people, abosultely shredding his vocal chords like he was a pre-Fever333 Jason Butler or something. The band bring similar levels of intensity to tracks like “Discourse is Dead”, “Impertinence” and even the stomping “An Ordinary Extinction” – which is the next closest thing on the record to “Animals” – and the pulsating, largely electronic-based “An Ordinary Extinction,” which culminates in a driving beatdown reminiscent of a track like “These Colours Don’t run” or even “Early Grave”. In fact, there’s a general sense of aggresison and heaviness that remains pervasive throughout the record, so that it sits more in line with something like Parkway Drive‘s Ire (2015), which injected a hefty dose of traditional heavy metal into their sound without doing away with its metalcore basis, rather than the complete departure of something like Bring Me the Horizon’s That’s the Spirit. Make no mistake, For Those that Wish to Exist is a metal record, and Architects are still very much a metal band.
Moreover, the band often excel when it comes to the album’s accentuated melodic aspects as well, just not on the parts they’ve chosen to foreground. How the hell a track like “Giving Blood”, with its infectious chorus and (BMTH) “Throne”-esque electronic hook, is not a single completely beats me. Likewise, “Little Wonder”, which features some superb call and response work from Sam Carter and Royal Blood‘s Mike Kerr that’s literally been custom built to shake stadiums.Perhaps its telling that most of For Those that Wish to Exist‘s highlights are built around high-profile guest spots, but, as this song just goes to show, Carter and the rest of Architects manage to keep up with them every step of the way. Surprisingly, it’s the most “fittng” guest spot on the album that is also its weakest. When Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall shows up at the end of “Impermanance” – answering Carter’s “Do yo really want to live forever?” with “Because those afraid to die will never truly live!!” as it plumets into a Thy Art is Murder-style breakdown– it’s suitably iconic. However, I can’t help feeling he would have been better employed delivering the line “Where were you when the Gods clipped the wings of the Phoenix?” at the end of “Black Lungs”.
The problem, over and over again again, with this album is that it constantly distracts from and dilutes its strongest material. All of Architects’ previous records have clocked in at around the 40–45-minute mark, making For Those that Wish to Exist their longest outing by a good twenty-five minutes. It can be tough to get through it all in once sitting, especially when so many of its tracks seem superfluous. The eminently stoppable “Do You Dream of Armageddon?” is surely one of the most unnecessary intro tracks of all time and a lot of the other often (re)tread similar ground. There’s no reason for both “Dead Butterflies”, “Flying Without Feathers”, “Libertine” and “Dying is Absolutely Safe” to all be on the same album, especially when Architects already perfected this style of song on The Here and Now with “Year In Year Out/Up and Away” (Others might argue “Memento Mori” but I’m sticking to my guns).
Ironically, for all its (largely undeserved) fan backlash, For Those that Wish to Exist is an album that’s likely to cement Architects as stadium headliners, when they’ve spent the better part of a decade recovering from a record that was far more focused, consistent and, some might argue, genuine seeming than the sudden, if not unprecedented shift in styles shown here. Hopefully the inevitable success of this album will inspire people to go back and rediscover The Here and Now – an album I have always adored and continue to count among Architects’ best three or four records. If that last statement just caused me to loose all credibility, then this album’s probably not for you either. Still, it’s worth checking out, not only for the sake of giving it a fair assessment, but because the album is so unsure and unfocused that, (here’s that word again) ironically, almost all of the bands fans are sure to find a lot to like about it. It just probably wont be all of it at once, nor the same parts as anyone else.
There’s a lot to like here, but For Those that Wish to Exist is clearly a transitional record. It’s unlikely to derail their ascent for a second time. However, hopefully when Architects next return, its with a far more focused and decisive offering.
For Those that Wish to Exist is out now through Epitaph.