For this very first Heavy Hump Day post, I thought I’d start with an album recommendation from one of my personal favourite bands: Architects. This is a metalcore outfit from the UK currently signed to Epitaph Records who is known for changing their sound with every new release.
“The Here and Now” (2011) is their fourth album, and it is one that probably received the most mixed reviews from their fans, because it was their most different sound change yet. They drifted in more of a post-hardcore direction with a lot more cleans (regular singing) and a lot less screaming than they’d ever used before.
Now, let me preface this by saying the following: I totally understand why this one caught people off-guard at the time and I’m trying to invalidate those feelings – if you know their earlier material, you know what I mean.
For comparison, here’s something from the previous album, “Hollow Crown” (2009):
And here’s something from “The Here and Now”:
Yeah, not quite the same. Sure, I picked a drastic example because “Early Grave” is heavy as fuck and “Red Eyes” is almost just cleans, and of course there’s more variation in both records. Still, though – I think it makes sense that their fans didn’t love this abum.
My experience & why you should listen
This was actually the first Architects album I ever listened to. I’d been told by a friend to give them a shot, and so a few years back, I went on their Spotify page and just clicked on the album with the cover art that caught my attention the most.
I’m beyond glad that this is the Architects album I started with, because I went in with no preconceived notions as to what this band was “supposed” to sound like – and the reality is that this is an amazing post-hardcore record.
Unlike many fans, who through no fault of their own were let down because of the expectations they had for what this project was going to sound like, I believe that I got to hear it in an unbiased manner. To be clear, I’m not trying to say that I heard it better than anyone or that only I possessed some kind of weird listening skills to hear this record “right” because both of those things are wrong and would be ridiculous to believe. I’m just saying that personally, I think my lack of knowledge about the band’s previous sound enhanced my listening experience in a way that I might not have gotten had I listened to Architects’s older material first.
Let me preface my experience by telling you this: on my very first listen, I could not point out a single weak song on this album. That’s still the case now, two-and-a-half years after I first heard it – and trust me, I’ve listened to this record a lot. That tells you about its quality, because sometimes when we’re excited to hear an album for the first time, we don’t necessarily hear its flaws; I certainly speak from experience that. Sometimes, also, songs don’t age well. Neither of those things is a problem for “The Here and Now” though, because it’s simply such a solid record from front to back.
As I mentioned earlier, this album is highly melodic and because of that, it better fits the label of post-hardcore than metalcore. This means that “The Here and Now” is generally more likely to feel accessible and be appreciated by someone who maybe doesn’t listen to heavy music on a regular basis (which is part of the reason I picked it as my first Heavy Hump Day recommendation). It’s definitely heavier than any radio rock, but it’s just mainstream enough that non-scene music fans might like it.
The quality of the lyrics on this album is worth mentioning. They cover a wide range of topics and emotions, and in many cases, are incredibly uplifting, in a way that I don’t think I expected from a metalcore band; often when we think of anything with “metal” attached to it, we think of aggression and anger. While this album certainly has some of that in its lyrical content, it also provides really powerful, positive words of hope, such as these, from one of my personal top three favourite songs on the album:
“Every time they pushed us aside“Learn to Live” – Architects
We got back up again
Yeah, we made it through the rain
Just to live another day without them
Pick yourself back up
And learn to live”
There’s a reason this song (and this record in general) stick with me, and it’s refreshing lyrics like these. Something about the way he sings those first four lines, then screams the last two always gets me, in the best way.
I think another thing that makes “The Here and Now” so great is that while there are lots of cleans for an Architects record, it never feels like they’re forced in places where screams should have been – many of these songs were written to be sung at the top of your lungs. Similarly, despite the instruments being maybe a bit less heavy than would be expected in parts featuring unclean vocals, the screams don’t feel out of place.
And we need to talk about Sam Carter. This man can pound out brutal screams and smooth cleans, and can transition seamlessly between them within a single song. It’s especially impressive in “The Blues” and “BTN” but it occurs all throughout the album.
On a slight tangent, Carter also has a very unique ability to inject melody into his unclean vocals – in other words, he can essentially sing within a scream.I’m not talking about a slightly grittier belting voice, but I won’t pretend to know anything about the specific mechanics or the difficulty of this vocal technique. What I can definitely tell you, however, is that I have personally never heard anyone else able to do it. This technique appears very little in this album (I think only once, in “An Open Letter to Myself”), but it’s really worth checking out in lots their recent material, where Carter uses it regularly. Here’s an example (live!) of a song from the newest Architects album in which it’s used lots (to hear it really clearly, watch 2:10-2:32):
I think this is a selling point for Architects in terms of getting new listeners and introducing people to heavy music. The screams are in a way “softened” to ears not used to hearing screaming in music, because there’s that melody to listen to in there. Like I talked about earlier, this doesn’t really feature in “The Here and Now” but with over half of the album being clean vocals, I would never call this (or any Architects) album inaccessible just because it doesn’t feature this specific sound.
I have to give a special mention to “An Open Letter to Myself” which is the album’s fifth song (and one of my top three favourites). This highly experimental rock song is heartwrenching in the best way. The vocal melody is absolutely stunning and the percussion is extremely unique. I won’t say anything else about it other than if you only listen to a single song from this album, make it this one.
On a final note, the drums and guitars are really to die for, for anyone who even remotely enjoys rock or punk. Yes, there are big, chugging breakdowns (they are primarily a metalcore band after all), but there’s really cool and catchy fast-paced punk stuff all throughout too. As select example among many, the riff in the first verse of “Day in Day Out” and the opening riff of “Delete, Rewind” are both awesome.
The consistent quality of the instrumentation also helps the record feel very cohesive.
If you’re not the type of person to listen to anything remotely heavy or with screaming, my advice is to 1) go in with an open mind, and 2) listen to “Heartburn”, “An Open Letter to Myself”, and “Red Eyes” first, in that order – this will ease you into it. Then try something like “Learn to Live” to get a feel for the heaviness and the unclean vocals.
If you are the type of person to listen to heavier music, go right ahead from the start and listen in order – I personally like the order of the album as is. If you’re more the shuffling type, I recommend you at least leave “Year in Year Out/Up and Away” for the end; it’s long and was definitely meant to be a closer.
In conclusion, I think you should listen to this record for the following reasons:
1) Its repeat value and longevity are massive;
2) It’s relatively accessible for those who don’t listen to metalcore on a regular basis;
3) It’s very solid lyrically;
4) The individual instruments and riffs are excellent.
Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts, especially if you listened to the album!