Review: ‘Shades of Black’ by Acolyte

Shades of BlackWithout doubt one of the most impressive and instantly ‘bolt-upright-and-pay-attention’ efforts to come out of Australia in quite some time. Acolyte’s Shades of Black only has one downside – that there’s not another 10 tracks on it..

Oozing with atmosphere, the opener Monolith acts like a haunted little prelude to the coming musical storm. And, I suppose, that’s the best way to describe this scene setter for the Melbourne based quintet. From there it launches into the grand and operatic progressive rock of Perceptions, a song that drips with discipline, creativity and technical prowess. Think a psuedo-Evanescence style with a deeper appreciation of song construction and you’ll be on your way to where this sits.

The exploratory and melodramatic structure of The Message gives knowing nods to legends like Dream Theater as it dreamily weaves its narrative. The dancing riff work set against an atmospheric lulling melody certainly leaves an impression.

There’s little doubt that Tool are a major influence in Acolyte’s work and nowhere is that better displayed than in the thumper Chakra. Thumping, pristine and artful progressive rock… and that smashing drum laden outro… Shiver inspiring stuff..

In This Life plays on it’s octave driven hooks and multilayered vocals, delivering an emotionally charged deep groove. Deceptively stripped back in moments, then doused with crunch and a lingering menace, it’s a commanding cut on the album.

Closer Space & Time clocks in at just over 8 minutes and is a melodic dance of a trick. From it’s sweet note picking opening phrases, it builds into the epic swansong that Shades of Black deserves before drifting off into a beautiful piano finale.

Vocalist Morgan-Leigh Brown is as dynamic and dramatic as the riffs she overlays. It’s a powerful and distinctive presence, in turn operatic and intimate, and certainly sets Acolyte apart. Pete Borzęta’s ax handling is truly impressive stuff, with the jumps from crunch to acoustic, chords to notes, solos to riffs, all supremely polished and clean. Jason Grondman’s Bass earths the tracks and never gets lost in the sounds, as does Chris Cameron’s work on the skins. They both drive the tracks yet have their own character (which, in some bands, tends to get lost for bassists and drummers). Supplementing all of it is David Van Pelt’s keys, they round out the songs and, whilst in some tracks seem subtle, as a complete whole it works beautifully.

As a 6 track debut, Shades of Black is one hell of an announcement piece for Melbourne’s Acolyte. Operatic, bold, full of prowess and creativity, I was left wanting more and begging to see them play it live..