Betzefer – Freedom to the Slave Makers (AFM Records)

Thursday, 21st March 2013
Rating: 6.5/10

Hard to picture a band from Israel not channeling the sounds of its homeland, but give credit to Betzefer for this: they don’t sound a thing like Orphaned Land. On their third album Freedom To the Slave Makers, Betzefer parlays the stripped-down modern metal sound that the likes of Soufly and Ektomorf have made a living off of, just without some of the brash extremity the above pair are sometimes privy to.

The band’s no-frills approach runs out of steam right from the word “go,” which may or may not be tied how simplistic and raw both the riffs and production job is. When the groove-laden “Bestseller” and “Backstage Blues” get settled in, it’s easy to latch onto what Betzefer is trying to do, and it’s probably just rock out. There’s no messing around here, but on the same token, there’s nothing to suggest this would be a better alternative to the throes of bands that have given groove metal an honest run.

Singer Avital Tamir has a discernible bark, perhaps the Middle Eastern equivalent to Pro-Pain’s Gary Meskill or a less raspy Max Cavalera. Once he settles into his comfort zone, there’s little to get him out of it, although the balls-out rock (and groove) of “Feels So Right” and tightly-wound thrash of “Heaven Sent” allow the man to test different waters than his preferred bark.

Once signed to Roadrunner for a brief period of time, Betzefer now must make the gradual climb up the ladder once again. Freedom to the Slave Makers probably won’t be the album to do it, for it fails to make the seismic ripple needed to land on the groove metal map. Then again, bands from far-reaching lands such as Israel tend to get more than a passing glance, perhaps giving hope that someone can latch onto these grooves more than Blistering did…

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