Betzefer: Freedom to the Slave Makers

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Betzefer: Freedom to the Slave Makers
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Betzefer: Freedom to the Slave Makers
Groove Metal, Metalcore
AFM Records
February 22nd, 2011
Release length: 39:29
Myspace
Website
Betzefer formed in 1997 in Tel-Aviv, Israel, and chances are good that may be all you happen to know about these guys. In the years before signing to Roadrunner Records UK to release their debut full-length, Down Low, the band issued a few independent EPs and a CD Single, all of which never saw light in the United States. Down Low was eventually issued through Roadrunner in 2005, and a lot of people didn’t quite know how to take the effort musically. Six years later, the band finally follows up Down Low with their second full-length release, Freedom to the Slave Makers, and that right there is reason to worry, as nine times out of ten, when a new band takes forever to issue a new CD, especially their second full-length, then chances are good it’s gonna suck. Luckily, that isn’t the case here.

Mixing Metalcore and even Hardcore with Groove Metal is nothing new in this day and age. There are plenty of bands out there that manage to do it well, or manage to just take Meshuggah‘s simple yet technical Groove Metal signatures and slap some breakdowns on it to call it original. The same goes with Pantera anymore, as many bands move in that direction. Betzefer doesn’t use the old Meshuggah dynamic of Groove, but does seem to pull a lot from Pantera and other such Southern Metal acts, as there is a strong distinction among the albums, mostly in atmosphere, and the rhaspy vocal approach coming off like something one might expect more from a Southern influenced Metal release. Musically, the band isn’t bad, but some tracks just aren’t the most interesting at times, such as “Backstage Blues”, which just sounds a little generic for the Groove Metal scene laced with Southern sounds. It’s just odd to hear from a band that hails from Israel, but in no way does their region make it a bad choice for them.

Of course, not all songs really have that kind of atmosphere to them. “Diamond Director” actually has a slight Pantera-like vibe here and there, but there’s also a strong Killswitch Engage presence to the song as well that can be felt mostly in the chorus, and there are moments where the music speeds up and feels like the band is attempting a blend of Thrash into the mixture as well. Either way, the addicting Groove chords bring an in-your-face attitude that will have you banging your head in no time in rhythm to the song while the rhaspy and screaming vocal styles vary throughout and just make you want to haul off and break something. The attitude starts to cool down a bit following it on “Nothing But Opinions”, which really seems to cool things down, using rhaspy harmonizations in the vocals that really bring in a Southern Rock sound, leaving some Groove, but distancing themselves from the Pantera vibe of some of the songs for a heavier Ted Nugent sound, just not as catchy.

There’s nothing really bad about the release other then some of the music isn’t the greatest out there and feels a little more rough around the edges then it should be. “Doomsday” is a good song with plenty of energy and really focuses ont he band’s Metalcore sound. The problem with that is the song goes at a slower pace with the more Southern style Groove chords that honestly just start to get a little boring, not really being anything new or even remotely unique to the style. While the breakdowns on this track feel fluis and work, sometimes they wind up sounding forced, and it leads to a whole other set of issues. Other then that, Freedom to the Slave Makers is a decent album, but while the band tries to capture the Southern sound on their recording, it just doesn’t really carry the respectable atmosphere. The music is solid and the vocal approach is spot on and very energetic, the music feels empty for the kind of bands the group is trying to emulate, and it just winds up leaving a bland taste in the material at times, though sometimes the pure energy of the group is enough to really carry a song, such as on “Song for the Alcoholic”. This, however, is actually kind of rare on this recording. This is also another track that seems to have a slight Thrash input to it as well. The last thing si the closing track, “Heaven Sent”, which basically throws everything the band set up before it out the window with a pounding, heavy, energetic track that takes on a Sepultura sound that was present on the previous album, but absent here. While this definitely messes with the flow of the album, it’s far from a bad thing, and in fact is the most impressive track on the whole recording, though the gutteral style incorporated doesn’t quite reach as deep as you would hope.

So, for what it is, Freedom to the Slave Makers is an enjoyable album, but it really lacks the essence and soul of the Southern Rock/Metal approach that they are trying to bring to life. Yes, some of the lyrical themes are there, but there’s more to it then that, and that’s mostly in the true atmosphere and power in the performance, and that often is not here. Some tracks sound like the group tried to paint-by-numbers and reflect the vibe, but just didn’t really do it. Some of the songs have some slight Thrash influence in them, and those are fantastic to listen to. Either way, for a band trying to pull this off and originated from Israel, it’s still impressive to hear, but as a regular Metal fan who didn’t know this about the group, chances are good they’d put the album down and walk away after the first listen. It’s worth checking out, but it’s just nothing too impressive, so don’t walk into it with your hopes up.

01. Best Seller – 2:57
02. Backstage Blues – 5:06
03. Feels So Right – 3:57
04. Diamond Director – 3:53
05. Nothing But Opinions – 4:20
06. Doomsday – 4:11
07. Empty Magazine – 3:48
08. Perfect Lie – 5:09
09. Song for the Alcoholic – 3:12
10. Heavensent – 2:56
Overall Score: 9/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by AFM Records via Earsplit PR.