-- 23 Acez gets shredded --

Stijn Daneels
This year I celebrated my country’s national holiday (July 21, 2018) the best way possible; by going to a gig of a great Belgian rock band (in this case 23 Acez), gulping down on Belgian beer (in this case Westmalle) and eating a ton of fries (in this case from the local friterie)! And what’s even better was that the entire gig took place in the chapel of an old monastery that recently turned into the newest base of operations for Lokeren’s youth club ‘T-Klub’. Who says metalheads don’t like churches? Anyway, after a very memorable performance from the band, I met up with Benny “Zors” Willaert and Tom “Tee” Tas to talk about the band’s latest album ‘Embracing The Madness’, their improved and heavier sound, the live recordings they did during this night’s show, and finally we discuss Tee’s two unique side projects.

BMS: Hey there! I had a great time seeing you here tonight in this unique venue. I feel your band successfully manages to play easily listenable melodic hard rock but with some healthy metal pepper added to it, especially in your songs from ‘Embracing The Madness’, your most recent release. The older songs, on the other hand, have more of a pop rock vibe and remind me of Bryan Adams.
Tee: Thanks Stijn, it was great fun playing here! And as you know, we recorded the entire performance. We’ll be using that footage to create at least one music video to promote our new album. Likely we’ll make a video for the track ‘Evolution.’
Zors: That’s why we asked photographer Andy Maelstaf (who works for Rock Tribune, Musika and Rock-Pix.com) to come along with his cameras; we can’t wait to see the end result!
BMS: How did you end up playing here in this church, turned concert stage?
Tee: The youth bar ‘T-Klub’ has been a popular meeting place in the Lokeren community for many years. Originally, T-Klub was located in a bar near the train station, but the place was in dire need of renovations. Luckily, they were allowed to move their activities over to this old monastery; they now use the courtyard as a summer cocktail bar and terrace and the chapel itself as a concert stage. Last year I visited this place for the first time as an attendant and a few months ago I played a gig here with the local band Quantum Fantay, having a major blast on both occasions! So when we were contacted by Leandro D’hossche, who wanted to organize a gig here for us along with a first try-out show for his own band ‘The Secondary’, we certainly didn’t refuse!

BMS: And you and Leandro can be very proud of the end result today! Now, let’s talk about the production of ‘Embracing The Madness.’
Zors: A couple of years ago we began writing material for this album. It took longer than we originally planned because we had to change drummers shortly after the release of ‘Redemption Waves,’ our second album. Still we kept on writing and improving the songs that we were going to put into this third album, and after we recruited Louis Van Der Linden on drums, ‘Embracing the Madness’ was ready to enter production! We managed to handle a lot of the recording stuff ourselves. The guitar and bass tracks were recorded at Tee’s and Mundez’ houses respectively while the drums and vocals were recorded in a dedicated studio. Then our album got mixed and mastered by Simone Mularoni, guitarist of Italian progressive metal band DGM. He did a masterful job at making ‘Embracing The Madness’ sound exactly the way we wanted it to! Harder, faster, louder and heavier, but without losing sight of 23 Acez’ main elements, which are catchy, sky-soaring vocals and melodic guitar work.
BMS: And for my money you’ve succeeded! You know, your pre-Madness material has a joyful and very laid-back feel, while the songs on this new album are more headbang encouraging! But I agree that the core 23 Acez’ vibe is still as vigorous as ever!
Tee: Truth to be told, we were a bit disappointed by the lack of overall progress we made during the period after we put out ‘Redemption Waves’. The record label we were signed to back then didn’t put much effort into promoting the band and we didn’t do a lot of gigs. At the gigs we did play, we often got the response that we sounded a lot better on stage than we did on our albums. So we decided to go back to the drawing board and, as Zors said, put a great emphasis on replicating our live, on-stage power in the studio.
BMS: Yeah, that’s something I notice often with upcoming bands. They have a lot of energy and ferocity on stage, but when you listen to them on record they sound much less powerful.
Tee: Exactly! We also wanted to make our style more consistent. Our earlier releases featured a lot of “patchwork” – some songs had double-bass drums and heavy, down-tuned guitar riffs, but other tracks then transitioned to pop/rock with prominent keyboard parts, which kind of diluted the overall experience. So we trimmed the excess fat and now we’re pleased to present a true metal album to the world!
BMS: Now that you’ve got this great metal gem out, what are your upcoming plans?
Zors: We’re going to put all our energy into promoting our new album, especially by doing many live shows. That way we hope to get invited to play some festivals or to play as a supporting act for bigger bands. I feel the time is here for 23 Acez to take action and claim its place in the metal scene!
BMS: I wish you good luck! So, what other things you’ve got in your lives?
Zors: I’m an English teacher. Some kids that were present here tonight are actually former students. It feels special to know that today they had the chance to review my vocal and guitar skills, rather than having me reviewing their language skills!
Tee: I’m also a teacher but my subject is guitar playing. Until recently, I played guitar in the iconic Belgian metal band Ostrogoth, but currently I’m doing guitars for Thorium (which consists of two other ex-Ostrogoth members) and I also got a few solo projects going, such as ‘Entering Polaris’ and ‘In Motion’.

BMS: Tell me something more about your Entering Polaris project. Especially about the CD you just released for that project, named ‘Godseed’.
Tee: Entering Polaris and its debut release Godseed are actually one part of a two-sided project. The other is called In Motion, whose debut album will come out this November, entitled ‘Thriving Force’. Both projects have a unique style and personality and function as polar opposites to one another. Entering Polaris has an uplifting, progressive power metal style while In Motion is much darker, inspired by melodic thrash and death metal though also with progressive influences. One element that both albums have in common is that they feature nine songs, sung by nine different vocalists! On the Entering Polaris debut, singers like Björn Strid (Soilwork), Thomas Vikström (Therion), Arno Menses (Sieges Even, Subsignal), Georg Neuhauser (Serenity) and Fabio Lione (Angra) are featured.
BMS: That’s a very ambitious endeavor; I’m working on a review for the Entering Polaris release and I’m looking forward to hearing In Motion’s first album as well. That being said, is there anything else you wish to say before we take the pic?
Zors: It was a pleasure talking to you, Stijn!   Tee: I’m honored and happy to having finally met you! And I’ll see you in December for the Thorium gig in Oosterzele!
BMS: That day I’ll be putting you on the Shredder table one more time, Tee!
Tee: Already looking forward to it, Stijn! Cheers!

23 Acez - Where Do You Go