Hailing from Melbourne, Acolyte now figure prominently in the Australian music scene as a powerful and exploratory blend of both classic and modern progressive metal. They have an impressive number of achievements for what is still a quite young band. They were nominated for “Best Heavy Album” at the 2017 Age Music Awards (with Shades of Black); “Best Live Performance” at the 2017 Oz Independent Music Awards and winning the “Best Music Video” at the Oz International Film Festival in 2018, (the Space & Time single). After touring extensively, they’re now back with their second album Entropy.
Musically they blend classic 70’s synths with modern metal riffs; the psychedelic soul and power of Janis Joplin and Blondie merged with the musical spirit of Deep Purple and Rush (again with a modern prog metal twist), the band are now a mainstay of the Melbourne and Australian rock scene.
The definition of the scientific term ‘Entropy’ relates to a state of disorder, randomness or uncertainty. As an album, Entropy lives up to that, it is quite a dark, raw, emotional production. Produced at Melbourne’s Sing Sin Recording Studios by award-winning team Prasheen Naran and Forrester Savell, it features some thick, heavy soundscapes and music with aggressive undertones which create a strong blend of progressive rock and musical theatre. Much of this is down to vocalist Morgan-Leigh Brown
“I knew quite early on that I wanted to tell stories through song”, offers Morgan. Joining the National Girls Choir at the age of 7, she would later be called upon to perform the National Anthem (acapella) and ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ at a sold out stadium event in Melbourne – at just fifteen years old! She’s dabbled with musical theatre in Melbourne, and used this experience to tell stories with pain, aggression, subtlety, melody, angst, torture, torment and tension… she loves being able to create that repertoire of emotional outpouring. Turning to the material of Entropy, Morgan says: “This is the most vulnerable, relatable and passionately raw I have been artistically”. Commissioning critically-acclaimed and national award winning artist Liz Gridley, the artistry of Entropy extends beyond the music alone. Guided by Acolyte’s visions, Gridley produced three original oil paintings for use with the new album.
Entropy has nine tracks, each of which feels like a different “state of being”, as the titles imply, including the 70-second short opener Prelude. You’re then walloped with the ten-minute opus that is ‘Entropy’ the title track. This is a statement composition that aims to paint a vivid picture of an emotional battle told by Morgan. At ten minutes, that’s a very ambitious release as a single, and it creates a vibrant musical landscape of theatrical melodies, crushing riffs, soaring leads and exemplary technical musicianship. The core of the song is a monochromatic relentless riff, but there’s so much else crammed into this! I particularly love the bass solo half way through, but the clarity and maturity of the arrangement and sound-mix is very impressive.
It’s followed by Resentment, an altogether different number that is soaked in Hammond-like keys, the same retro 70’s blend of Jethro Tull and Uriah Heep created by the Italian band Witchwood that we at Velvet Thunder have been drooling over. Whereas Entropy was about ‘the hard truth’ and an adventure full of power and discovery, Clarity is a more mournful entry in this diary that Morgan-Leigh describes as ‘Rock Bottom’. “Clarity provides warmth in our darkest hour. I wrote this song from the point of view of someone at their very lowest point, not knowing where to go, what to do or who to turn to. On the bathroom floor, broken; alone; after staring into a mirror, and not recognising the reflection they see any longer.” Musically it’s another epic, nearly eleven minutes of slowly building power; hard, clean guitar and tribal percussion creating a darker ambience. Somehow the hypnotically developing riff reminds me of that old Wishbone Ash classic jam from There’s The Rub called FUBB – there’s a similarity of sound, space and pace that certainly works for me! Resilience is a complete contrast, a pastoral ‘folk-tune’ featuring acoustic guitar, flute and gentle vocals. Beautiful!
Idiosyncracy follows, its the longest track on the album, over 11minutes. An intriguing intro sounds very middle-eastern before a signature Acolyte riff rumbles in. But the Arabian ambience lingers in the background, even when the electronics get ramped up. ‘Toureg’ percussion, flute and synths all combine to create a real sense of ‘Arabia’ that continues to flow through into a dreamlike bridge sequence in the middle. Even the later fuzzed guitar work and frenetic keys section retain the magic of the desert. Fascinating, the lyrics aren’t obviously desert-like as in Zep’s ‘Kashmir’ but in every other sense you’re out there, on the caravanserai! My fav track of the album for its breadth of vision.
Solitude is a short sequel, it still has the same sense of wide-screen cinema, it’s essentially two minutes of electronic wind sound-effects and, as seamlessly as it came in, it then blends with Recovery – another deceptively simple, beautifully realised and produced instrumental. I’m again surprised and impressed by the maturity of the song-writing, arrangements and musicianship of these young performers!
The ambience of the ‘suite’ again flows through into Acceptance, the album’s closer and final epic,weighing in at nine and a half minutes. It’s only on this last track that the similarity between Morgan’s singing and Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt finally hits me – they share the same cadences, tones and sense of poignancy, delicacy at times, raw power at others. The track feels like it’s a kind of mirror image of the title track Entropy, completing the circle of riffs, sounds and emotions. This is an accomplished record, that should appeal to all forms of rock fans!
Morgan herself is conscious that Entropy represents herself and the band at their most vulnerable, relatable and passionately raw. It explores the various stages of ‘loss’, ebbing and flowing through an array of actions, feelings & emotions that we all experience at some point or other. Aggression, subtlety, torment, torture and tension are all key ingredients. Entropy feels like an all-encompassing work and, although sometimes dark and cold, it never fails to impress and entrall.
Morgan-Leigh Brown – Vocals
David Van Pelt – Keys and Synths
Jason Grondman – Bass
Chris Cameron – Drums
Brandon Valentine – Guitars