Introducing: Acolyte

Strap yourself in for a progressive metal rollercoaster ride with Australian rockers Acolyte. The band have honed a progressive metal sound that drops you into melancholic, ambient troughs and picks you up with dramatic climactic peaks that they describe as “epic, emotive and powerful.”

The Melbourne quintet first formed back in 2016 and, after a few lineup changes, the current formation of Morgan Leigh Brown (vocals), Jason Grondman (bass), Chris Cameron (drums/percussion), David Van Pelt (keys/synthesisers)and Brandon Valentine (guitars) has been in place since 2019. They released a debut album in 2016 then toured relentlessly, before heading into the studio in 2018 to work on a second record, which is being released in May, and signing deals with Incendia Music Management, Blood Blast and Wild Thing Records last year.

After three years in the works, you can expect their new record to be even bigger and better, from a band that already specialises in offering powerful, exploratory musical experiences that combine theatrical melodies and moments of ambience with crushing riffs and engaging synths.

As David explains: “Our sound is very unique and comes from the filtered blend of our individual musical influences. If you took the analog ambience of early Pink Floyd and mixed it with the progressive rock elements of recent Opeth releases while adding a healthy dose of Steven Wilson to taste; all with a theatrically trained female singer at the helm, you would get close to the core of our sound. It is dramatic, powerful and continues to evolve! We want our music, and indeed our live show, to envelop the listener and take them on a musical/emotional journey.”

Our latest reminder of this is the absolutely epic 11-minute-long new single Clarity, which was released yesterday. It opens up with light keyboard over a plodding bass and light drums, which are eventually joined by growing instrumentals, including a light guitar lick then dramatic stabbing violins. Male vocals enter over an increasingly dramatic musical backdrop then more really cool stabbing violins, as Morgan’s vocals come in. They engage in a dramatic call and response chorus of “You will grow, I’m not sure I will survive, You will learn, Teach me how to find my way, You will grow, Walls closing in I won’t survive, You will learn, Teach me how to find my way.”

It soon intensifies with booming guitar riffs, which continue under Morgan’s stunningly powerful vocals. A searing synth solo takes over, alongside dark backing vocals and driving guitars, then drops into powerful guitars and crushing cymbals and big rolling drums, a dark section of vocals “I can’t let it go” that flows into another dramatic chorus. That flows into a more ambient section that’s topped off with a mellow, meandering guitar solo that gives way to the delicious violins and a light outro.

Clarity is an absolute masterpiece of musical brilliance, but our words don’t suffice in expressing just how fantastic it is, so check it out for yourself in the lyric video here:

And if that hasn’t whet your appetite then previous single and equally epic Entropy weighs in at 10 minutes long – which makes it easy to see why the album took three years to record! It starts out faster with a wall of violins and stabbing guitar chords, which drop into a brooding opening verse led by Morgan’s expressive vocals. A funky little synth takes over supported by lively guitar chords, and feeds into heavier vocals then impressive pre-chorus vocals lead into a huge chorus.

Heavy guitars take over and give way to a dramatic verse of powerful vocals over light instrumentals, which give way to a delicious guitar solo that drops into an even bigger chorus. Stabbing guitar chords take over and drop into a light ambient section that gives us time for breath, and continues with a wandering synth solo.

A darting guitar lick and brooding bassline, which continue under light vocals, then rolling drums under a searing synth sound give the sense that it’s gearing up for something huge. It gradually builds up with repeating vocals “If you want me to breath, I will If you want me to live, I will If you want me to fear, I will If you want me to see, I will If you want me to love, I will If you want me to hate, I will.” The vocals suddenly intensify with a huge backdrop of instrumentals, then booming guitar chords and rolling drums bring it to an impressive ending. Give it a listen below:

Both of these impressive tracks come from the upcoming album, also called Entropy, which is released on 14 May. On the album, David told us: “I would say that the new album is like album one on steroids! We like to call this next phase of our musical journey Acolyte 2.0. Musically, I would say that this new album is a lot darker, heavier, and more dramatic than the first album. 

“Since the first album was recorded and released, new members have joined the Acolyte family and have brought their own song writing skills and specific instruments to an already well-established song writing team. As such, it is only expected that things will sound different to the debut album. Don’t get me wrong, I love the debut album, but I am very happy with the direction this new album has taken and believe it embodies a natural musical progression for the band as a whole.”

Unsurprisingly, Acolyte’s music is born out of myriad influences, from various progressive rock, jazz and fusion bands to melodic metal and 70s hard rock. It blends influences from Steven Wilson, Pink Floyd and Opeth through to Stratovarious, Nightwish, Deep Purple and Rainbow to form their unique, powerful sound.

And on what inspires them to write music, David says: “Anything and everything! Morgan was struggling with some health issues during the writing phase of album two and her lyrics encapsulated her experience beautifully. Themes of breaking down and rebuilding permeate through this album and the dramatic musical score only amplifies the intense, raw emotions echoed in the lyrics.”

Shamefully, we’ve only covered one Australian band since June 2020, so we asked David for his thoughts on their local scene. He told us: “It has been tough, very tough! Melbourne endured the longest and most restrictive lockdown of all states in Australia and that really decimated the live music scene. To be honest, I think COVID-19 took a greater toll on musicians and those in the arts industries than most people realise. However, things have started to improve as restrictions have been eased and it is very pleasing to see live music make a return to the once thriving Melbourne music scene.

“Are we at pre-pandemic gig numbers? No. But the scene is rebuilding and I hope music lovers and fellow bands make the effort to support one another and help rebuild what is arguably the greatest live music scene in Australia. I am confident that they will. Despite the plethora of challenges associated with COVID-19, we have received fantastic support from numerous radio stations who have played our music and given us time for interviews. We are incredibly thankful to all who have shared our film clips and supported us online. I am very hopeful that we will get the opportunity to share our music with Australian audiences as the scene continues to recover.”

With that in mind, Acolyte have a very busy 2021 in store, with plenty of activity ongoing to support the release of their second album Entropy on 14 May. If Clarity and Entropy are anything to go by, then you absolutely will not want to miss out on this album and it’s available for pre-order here.

You can follow Acolyte on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and check out their music on Spotify, Bandcamp, Apple Music and YouTube.

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