Architects - Daybreaker
Record Label: Century Media
Release Date: May 28, 2012 (Europe) June 5, 2012 (US)
Architects is by any means a band that has come a long way – especially when you consider the way the band’s sound has changed since their debut Nightmares in 2006. That being said, it’s easy to be a bit overwhelmed by the process of Daybreaker, a further displaying of the band’s tastes in music of both the atmospheric and melodic nature that brings back a good chunk of the wild riffs and explosive energy they’ve harnessed in the past. Exploratory melodies and a jagged rhythmic attack aside, the hunt for a balance of the two makes to be the life and death of this album, as often neither element quite steals the spotlight long enough to leave the other forgotten. Forging a path not quite dismissing their last batch of cuts, Architects’ drive to re-assert their heavier influences makes for a back-and-forth slug match that draws on a little too long at points – yet is still memorable enough to keep you coming back for the highlights.
Finding a common ground between strong songwriting and tricky time-bending riffs is never easy. Rather than try to do both at once, Sam Carter and company pick their shots wisely when it comes to choosing a sonic target. Carefully placed throughout the tracklisting, and in songs themselves, are purely atmospheric layers of sound, lending themselves largely to electronica-tinged swells of vocal passion and gorgeous backdrops harkening memories of Underoath – albeit in a different way. Opening with such a track, “Bitter End”, sets a mood that whispers of familiarity with wispy synth lines and toned down percussion. It also gives a very open yet tension-harnessing lead-in to the rest of the album by showing flashes of just about everything Daybreaker is about.
It is in the unleashing of such tension where Architects succeed in their now only occasionally mathy riffs and relentlessly paced songwriting ("These Colours Don't Run"), barely leaving us room to breathe before unleashing a powerful chorus (“Alpha Omega”, “Outsider Heart”). The insertion of such elements, including programming, huge melodic bursts and much more concise breakdowns makes sections of the record sound very familiar to anyone quite fond of Underoath’s later, less straightforward songwriting. It’s not a carbon copy, but the influence is certainly there in “Daybreak” and perhaps even a bit of “Even If You Win, You’re Still A Rat”. Stray From the Path’s Drew York provides an extra bite to the frenzied “Outsider Heart”, adding an extra degree to the seemingly unstoppable nature of this track. The noodling chorus of this track isn’t shabby either, although the shift to a nearly completely stripped down drum and keys portion feels like the track’s lost its train in the process of progression. It’s a shame really, because at points these much more epic sections really capitalize on what these guys do otherwise (“Devil’s Island”), yet other times they just suck the energy right out of the song.
Carter’s balance of clean and gritty vocal lines again makes for a critical point of the album, with his cleans sounding rather airy in the mix – for better or for worse. His screams on the other hand come through feverish and defined almost to the point of monotony. The balance of the two is slightly leaned one way or the other depending on the track – breakdowns give for obligatory throat-shredding (“Daybreak”) while the bigger cleans sweep in and out of a grandiose, electro-drummed backdrop in “Behind the Throne”. His singing fits the mood well when conjured, yet one can’t help but ask for more of the screaming variety in some of the more defining moments of this record.
This isn’t to say Daybreaker is disappointing considering the release is barely 18 months removed from their previous effort The Here and Now. The mixed feelings of The Here and Now pulling further away from their extremely mathcore roots might still sting fans a bit, but Daybreaker finds a pretty reasonable middle ground – making for an often enjoyable, unpredictable record. If there’s anything Daybreaker proves, it is that experimentation is inevitable in music, but learning to find a balance with what you already do is certainly a continual process.
I think you hit this album right on the head. It seems to be more balanced and natural than The Here and Now. While Daybreaker is certainly going to be dismissed by many who insist on a return to the band's sound on Ruin, this is not a record to be ignored. It's a very solid album that remains enjoyable and catches the listener's attention all the way through, though the closing ballad seems somewhat bland and repetitive as it follows ten much more varied, engaging tracks. All told, you gave a very well written, thoughtful review that highlighted the strengths of this album while remaining cognizant of its faults. Your comparisons to Underoath surprised me at first, but seem surprisingly appropriate at points.
Other than the section about the vocals, I agree 100% with this review. I personally think Sam's screams on this record vary more than they do on any other record they've released. You wanna talk monotony in his screams, look no further than Hollow Crown. I've always wanted the cleans to be a little grittier in this band, and I think they accomplished that on some of that in some parts on this album; but overall I've just come to terms with the naturally smooth tone of Sam's clean singing.
Like I said though, other than the part about the vocals, this review is fucking spot on. They are great at putting together airy, atmospheric parts into their songs, but in a lot of the songs on this album, they tend to drag on for way too long. "Outsider Heart" is so promising until about halfway through, where it really just falls apart. Despite my like for The Here And Now, I'm happy this band has returned to a heavier sound again. I just wish they'd bring back some more of those classic mathy riffs of their earlier days. I want to like this album, but I have a feeling the lasting value will not be very long with it (for me, anyway).
EDIT: Not really sure where all of these Underoath comparisons are coming from though, I'm not hearing that at all.