-- 23 Acez --
|■||Benny 'Zors' Willaert||Vocals, guitars|
|■||Tom 'Tee' Tas||Guitars, backing vocals|
|■||Louis Van Der Linden||Drums|
[METAL SHREDDER REPORTING]
I first laid my eyes and ears on 23 Acez last March when Hardlife Promotion informed me of their newly released album and lyric video. A few months later I met 23 Acez in person during a gig in Lokeren and I had a great time there! So now it’s time for me to shred through their latest brainchild!
[THE SHREDDING BASICS]
Embracing The Madness is the third full length release of the Belgian hard rock band 23 Acez and is their first album released through the Dutch record label Freya Records. People who are familiar with 23 Acez’s earlier material will be in for a surprise. While the band’s previous material had a feel-good pop rock style that reminded me of Bryan Adams, this new 23 Acez album has a significantly heavier, metal-influenced sound. Just go check out the band’s YouTube channel and listen to both the songs The Bigger Picture (from their second album, Redemption Waves) and Where Do You Go (from their current release) and you’ll hear what I mean. This time 23 Acez’s guitar riffs sound faster and harder (while still keeping everything very virtuosic) and Benny’s voice sounds rawer and more powerful (but it maintains an operatic quality).
Although I certainly enjoy listening to 23 Acez’s earlier work (especially The Bigger Picture, it’s a true gem of a track) I do very much welcome this musical change. It better plays off the band’s strengths (which are the epic guitar work and the catchy, soaring vocals) and the more aggressive style gives their new material a much better pacing. At its core, 23 Acez’s latest gem still is a hard rock album just like their earlier work, but this time with a progressive space rock feel, lyrics with plenty of metaphors and all spiced up with a ton of metal! It also nicely balances off fast and heavy parts with extended melodic sections and some occasional samples. It’s a long album, clocking in at 54 minutes of playtime, but for the most part it does manage to keep you engaged throughout its 4 to 6 minute tracks. Personally I think the band would be better off with slightly shorter songs, but that’s my opinion. I’ve never being a huge fan of overly lengthy tracks, although I do have my exceptions, such as Nightwish’s 24-minute epic The Greatest Show On Earth just to give you a “quick” example.
[THE SHREDDING VISION]
The front cover shows a meteor flying their space, engulfed by a bright blue light that gives the rock the shape of a skull. And if you keep the cover at a certain angle you’ll see a line of gears going from one end of the image to the other and straight through the asteroid skull! Maybe the gears represent the “madness” that we have to embrace as 23 Acez claims. And the album’s themes show off several kinds of madness. Soulless materialism, social media addition, the rat race and other first world problems. For instance, I love this phrase from the second track Cellbound.
Cell down… you got meSpellbound…
Cellbound… not me
Personally I interpret this line as the narrator refusing to take his cell phone to check his Facebook or Instagram accounts just like so many people do during their spare time. Very contemporary stuff.
[THE SHARPEST SHREDS AND BLUNTEST BLADES]
I gave the big win to the fifth track called Where Do You Go? It’s an awesome sonic rollercoaster of a song! Tight pacing, badass beats and roaring vocals. It’s 23 Acez perfectly showing off their best creative assets! And like any great rollercoaster, I just want to jump right back in for several times in a row! Another favorite of mine is the album’s penultimate track, Evolution, because of Benny’s amazing vocal performance. He feels both desperate and determined, commanding and begging you to take him home and make him beautiful. Who can say no to that?
As for the weak spots, well, as is always the case when a great album with awesome guitar work enters my eardrums I really wish for a lengthy instrumental track. Sure, the tracks Re- and Catch 23 are instrumental, but they function as short introductory tunes to Animation and Numb respectively so they don’t count. Hopefully the 23 Acez crew will bring up the courage to unleash one such track in the future. They sure as hell have the talent to pull it off! And now it’s time for me to give this album…
[THE SHREDDER SCORECARD]
8,5 space skulls out of 10! Embracing The Madness is a gem of an underrated hard rock band that I can recommend to both old and new school rock and metalheads everywhere! Enjoy the beautiful guitar solos, the operatic vocals and the blood-pumping rhythms! 23 Acez has left the summer of 69 behind and has now embraced the madness! Here's the album's fifth track, Where Do You Go! Enjoy the ride!