Album Title: Entropy
Label: Blood Blast Music
Date of Release: 14 May 2021
The stream of high-quality music coming from Australia shows no sign of abating, with the latest export being to pique my interest manifesting itself in the form of Acolyte, a quintet from Melbourne. Formed a number of years ago, the band released their debut album, ‘Shades Of Black’ in 2016 and then went on a live spree, becoming an important figure within the Australian live music scene. 2021 sees them now releasing their sophomore full-length, ‘Entropy’. If it hadn’t been for their recent hook-up with Incendia Music, I may not have come across this new record truth be told, so it’s another feather in the cap to Lulu and her team, spreading the Acolyte message far and wide, in this case, to the sleepy and rural environs of East Anglia in the UK.
There’s an awful lot to take in on ‘Entropy’ too, as ‘progressive’ just doesn’t really cut it without a lot more exploration and subsequent description. Put it this way, I’m glad that I have had the benefit of listening since March, because otherwise I’d have struggled to put something cogent together.
Firstly, ‘Entropy’ is a full-on concept album which, in vocalist Morgan-Leigh Brown’s own words:
“Entropy is a fully realised conceptual record exploring the early stages of ‘loss’. Presented like diary entries, the record ebbs and flows through an array of actions, feelings & emotions that are commonly experienced when trying to ground ones self all while carrying the early weight of trauma.”
As you can imagine, listening to ‘Entropy’ is no laugh-a-minute’ experience. It’s not a light-hearted romp that provides an instant hit of saccharine enjoyment. But it is a thoroughly engaging and immersive album that puts human emotion, atmosphere, and depth of sound at the heart of the music. It isn’t just the concept and the associated lyrics that ebb and flow, the music does too. At times, we’re treated to something very quiet and minimalist. At others, we’re knocked off our feet by an explosion of sound, be it through muscular riffs from guitarist Brandon Valentine, an Earth-rumbling bassline from Jason Grondman, a commanding drumbeat by Chris Cameron, or indeed a combination of all three. Then there’s the synths and keys of David Van Pelt that are almost ever-present in some guise or another, either as a subtle embellishment, or a bolder injection of sound and texture.
In fact, texture is an important ingredient of Acolyte full stop, as well as a very clever and masterful blend of old and new, taking modern heavy music ingredients and blending them with more ‘classic’ sounds. Press releases and commentary in the press leading up to this release recommend ‘Entropy’ to the likes of Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Rush, Voyager, and whole host of others besides. But the one band I rarely hear mentioned is Riverside, who I think occasionally loom quite large within the Acolyte sound. However, I’ll leave you all to make up your minds, as you listen. The key thing though, is that you do listen, because it’s a crime to not check this band out to some degree or another.
One of the biggest strengths to the Acolyte bow has to be the aforementioned Morgan-Leigh Brown behind the microphone. Her path to the band wasn’t what you’d call conventional, but her involvement with the National Girls Choir from the age of seven, and then her involvement with musical theatre and the theatre scene in general has paid massive dividends. Brown possesses a larger-than-life character perfect for the frontperson role in a rock band but, more importantly, has the voice to match. Happy in both a more subtle role, or belting out the lyrics with attitude and emotion, you cannot fail to be impressed by her technique, ability, and presence across ‘Entropy’.
In terms of the tracks themselves on ‘Entropy’, there are nine in total and, without wishing to sound ‘too Genesis’, they can be split into the long songs and the short songs. Four of the nine weigh in at over nine minutes, with the remaining five songs occupying the one-to-five-minute territory. I like this balance, because it allows the quintet to explore, without boring the listener to tears with 90 minutes of drawn-out material. As it is, ‘Entropy’ sits at just under an hour, but it uses all of the time to their advantage, with rarely a moment wasted.
Given the subject matter, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend anything other than listening to the album as a complete package, from start to finish. When done so, the whole thing feels ‘right’; it has a pleasing flow to it, and to coin the cliché, it does take us on a journey that makes much more sense when followed chronologically and in full. Nevertheless, I do have my stand-out moments that are worthy of comment.
After a minute long intro piece, the title track assaults the ears with style, panache, and quality oozing from every pore. As the lead single, it’s likely you’ll have heard it already, so I won’t go into great detail here. However, what I like about it are the initial synth-drenched driving riffs that give way to a pulsing, rhythm-heavy affair enhanced by subtle melodies and a mesmerising performance from Brown, full of passion whilst executing an impressive vocal range. The smattering of 70s synth sounds are very cleverly injected. But for me, it’s when the song opens up to deliver the sprawling chorus that the song goes from very good to excellent in a heartbeat. Nice leads, dextrous musicianship, extended instrumental passages and a wonderfully smooth flow only add to my overall enjoyment which gets greater with each passing listen.
‘Resentment’ is one of the shorter compositions and it’s very different to the title track. As its title suggests, there’s palpable anger and frustration layered into the song, which is underlined by a greater sense of urgency, prevalent from the opening moments when heavy guitar notes and forthright riffs are blended very deliberately with some very bold 70s-inspired synths. Another killer chorus emerges, although admittedly, it does take longer to seep under the skin than others on the album.
The bass playing really comes to the fore within clarity, as it sets a pulsing, hypnotic heartbeat for the song, another possessed by really irresistible rhythms. The song also features male and female vocals that work well together. Both are clean and softly-delivered, Brown showcasing her more ethereal, delicate style. I love the way that this song builds, not dissimilarly to the likes of Tool, only for it to actually open up at the halfway mark into a heavy, melodic wave of sound that’s entirely satisfying. Tool, take note. The fact that it then spends the remainder of its time gently deconstructing itself, only makes the whole thing more intriguing. This is a really great song.
Equally beguiling is ‘Idiosyncrasy’, the longest song on the album, weighing in at over eleven minutes. The cinematic feel of the song is hard to ignore, as they are genuinely very well done. I also really enjoy the clear Middle Eastern influence that is woven into the song, complete with authentic-sounding percussion and other instrumentation, alongside a sympathetic vocal performance from Morgan-Leigh Brown. The guitar and bass playing within this song is nothing short of brilliant either, as both provide moments of magic, be it via some excellent lead embellishments, or via yet another pulsating, insistent rumble that creates a great foundation upon which those cinematic soundscapes develop. Double-pedal drumming is a nice touch when it arrives, albeit briefly, but I cannot help but again return to the melodic, hook-laden chorus as my overall favourite part of the song. I’m a complete sucker for big melodic riffs drenched in powerful synths, so I’m bound to enjoy these bursts of beauty when confronted by them. Mind you, the progressive riff upon which the track begins to depart is worthy of mention too.
It may not seem like it but given how much there is to discover within this album, I feel like I have been about as succinct as it is possible to be. And yet there is so much more that I haven’t mentioned for fear of boring everyone to tears. Great performances litter this album, from start to finish. Great songs lurk around every corner. Strong melodic sensibilities are never far away. Passion, authenticity, and belief courses through the material, telling me that Acolyte are a band that are completely and utterly invested in the music that they have created here. I have grown more and more fond of ‘Entropy’ with each rewarding and entertaining spin, to the point where I have a hard job removing it from my stereo. Anyone who has even the most cursory interest in intelligent and progressive music needs to hear this record. ‘Entropy’ will not disappoint, I can guarantee you that. Trust me, I know my onions…I think.
The Score of Much Metal: 93%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: