Betzefer (Hebrew: בצפר) is an Israeli groove metal band, originating from the communal settlement Maccabim-Re'ut. The band was formed up in 1998 and was signed to Roadrunner Records from 2005 to 2007. Betzefer is notable for becoming Israel's first heavy metal band to have released its debut album on a major heavy metal label.
Betzefer's biggest influence is Slayer, while Pantera and Sepultura are also credited as being major influences. The band's latest album was produced by Down producer Warren Riker.
Early years (1998-2004):
Betzefer was formed in 1998 for a one-off high school gig. This fact is the origin of the band's name, which is an ad lib translation of the Hebrew term "Beit Sefer", meaning "school". The original lineup included singer Avital Tamir, guitarist Matan Cohen, drummer Roey Berman and bassist Menashe "Mashy" Hazan. Following the usual gigs as a cover band and several replacements of the bass players, Betzefer started their own songwriting. 1999 saw the release of their first demo followed in 2000 by the EP, Pitz Aachabar ("Pitz the Mouse"), a parody on a popular Hebrew children song. In 2001 they released the EP Some Tits, But No Bush and later in 2003 the EP New Hate with new bass player Evil Haim (Haim Binyami), all self-financed and self-released.
Not long after the release of the EP, Evil Haim left the band, and stayed only to work as the band's soundman, additionally for the new band he formed after the departure from Betzefer, Whorecore. Rotem Inbar replaced him as the bassist.
Down Low, signing and departure from Roadrunner (2004-2007):
In June 2004 the band took off to Belgium to record their first full-length album, Down Low, with producer Kris Belaen to whom they were introduced by Sven De Caluwe of Aborted and Whorecore. They eventually recorded the album with Belaen, while the final mixing and mastering was done by Danish producer Tue Madsen. During the recordings, the band was offered by Fear Factory to tour with them as their supporting act. During their performances the band was noticed by the major label Roadrunner Records who signed the band to a 4 album contract. After the signing, the band came back to the studio to finish the recording.
On May 19, 2005, Down Low was released independently in Israel, and then on June 6, 2005, it was released internationally by Roadrunner, after which the band toured Europe intensively to promote it.
Beginning March 2007, They toured with Sepultura supporting their Dante XXI tour, supporting Lamb of God and Soulfly on their German tours and Chimaira on their UK tour, and through 2007 performed in such events as With Full Force festival in Germany and Planet Music in Austria. They were joined by Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser a few times for a performance of "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC. On July 2, 2007, Betzefer opened for Megadeth at the Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In December 2007, Betzefer parted ways with Roadrunner Records, stating that the record label doesn't fit anymore for what the band is looking for, although various sources has stated that the band was dropped by the label due to personal issues with the band. At the time, the band also stated they have already written most of the material for the upcoming album, which will not be released by Roadrunner.
Freedom to the Slave Makers (2008-2011):
On March 10, 2008, Betzefer opened for Machine Head at the Theater Club in Tel Aviv. At the show, the band performed all the songs from their upcoming second album. A few days later, the band entered the studio to start recording the new album.
On May 21, 2008, it was announced that Betzefer's upcoming 2nd studio album won't be mixed and produced by Tue Madsen after all as previously announced, and that it will be instead mixed and produced by Grammy Award winner Warren Riker, who has produced albums for Down, Santana, Lauryn Hill and more. The band has commented that as much as they liked working with Madsen, they decided to work with Riker instead, since they have the option, because they do not want the new album to sound like the latest one, and they hope Riker will bring the new sound they look for. The band stated that their new songs will combine the old elements of the band's music along with new experimental material.
On May 25, 2008, Betzefer finished the recording of their second studio album and announced that the album is in its final mixing stages. They then performed at the Hellelujah Open Air, a donation heavy metal festival in Herzliya, Israel, on May 30, 2008, in which they said they were recording the crowd for a new song called "Doomsday" in which vocalist Tamir stated they needed to have people shouting gang vocals of the word "Day" in the chorus, for the record. At the show the band also played two new songs: "Doomsday" and "Best Seller". It was then announced that the current title for Betzefer's second studio album is Freedom to The Slave Makers and that the album will be released in September 2008 and not July 2008 as it was said before. Yet, since then, the album was delayed once again, this time to an unknown date in 2009.
On April 24, 2009, the band played at the 2009 edition of the Hellelujah Open Air in Herzliya, Israel, which was the band's only live performance for 2009. During the performance, the band has announced that the album was once again delayed to an unknown date in 2010 since it was not mastered yet, and performed a new song, entitled "Heavensent", along with Tomer Jones of Whorecore.
In May 2009, it was announced that the album will go into the mastering stage between May 18-25, 2009, at West West Side Music Studios, in New Windsor, New York by Alan Douches, who previously worked with such bands as Through the Eyes of the Dead, Beneath the Massacre and A Life Once Lost.
On August 27, 2010, the band played their first show of 2010, at the Heavy Metal Tel Aviv as their alter ego band HC/DC which features the band members, with additional guitarist Alex Schuster, though the band played strictly AC/DC covers, and not any songs from Betzefer. Alongside the band played such acts as Sabaton, Tim "Ripper" Owens, Nightmare and Almana Shchora.
On September 28, 2010, the band performed as part of Ozzfest, taking place in Israel for the first time, alongside Ozzy Osbourne, KoЯn, Soulfly and Almana Shchora. The band has played the whole new album at the show and has also hinted on a possible soon to be announced release date for the long delayed album.
On October 24, 2010, the band has announced on its Facebook page that artwork for the album has been completed. It was done by Shahar Hemo and Nir Doliner, with photography by Gal Hamo.
On November 3, 2010, it was finally announced that the band has signed a new record deal with AFM Records, who will release the band's second album Freedom to the Slave Makers worldwide in February 2011. On January 5, 2011, it was confirmed that the album would be released worldwide on February 18, 2011, with a special release show at the Barby club in Tel Aviv, Israel, to follow on March 3, 2011. On January 6, 2011, the band revealed the album's artwork and tracklist. On January 10, 2011, it was announced that the album will be released in the US on February 22, 2011, through E1 Music.
On January 20, 2011, the band released the song "Nothing But Opinions", the first single from the upcoming album, for free listening through such Israeli sites as Walla!,Nana 10 and Musicspot. On February 16, 2011, the album was uploaded for free streaming on the band's Facebook and Myspace pages.
On June 16, 2011, Betzefer went on their first European tour in support of Freedom to the Slave Makers, and their first international tour since 2007. The tour included some headlining dates as well as supporting slots for Cavalera Conspiracy and GWAR, and a slot on the With Full Force festival, on which the band haven't played since 2005. The tour ended on July 2, 2011.
The Devil Went Down to the Holy Land (2012-present):
On May 30, 2012, the band played as the support act to Lamb of God, while the later played the Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
On August 11, 2012, the band announced on their official Facebook page that they have finished recording their third album, which will contain 13 tracks and will be called Suicide Hotline. The band started a campaign through the website Indieagogo to raise money for them to be able to mix and master the new album, which is planned to be mixed by Tue Madsen in September.
On September 2, 2012, Avital Tamir and Matan Cohen flew to Antfarm Studios in Aarhus, Denmark to mix and master the album with Tue Madsen, who mixed their first album Down Low, as well as some additional recording. Mixing and mastering was finished on September 9, 2012.
On April 13, 2013, the band shot a music video for their upcoming new single "Sledgehammer" at the Galit skate part in Tel Aviv, inviting fans to participate in the shooting.
On July 29, 2013, the band announced they have signed a new record deal with known German label SPV/Steamhammer Records, a label that served as a home for many acts such as Sepultura, Kreator, Motörhead, Whitesnake, Judas Priest and more.
Oמ August 13, 2013, the band played as a support act to Anthrax, who played in Israel for the first time, at the Barby club in Tel Aviv.
On August 31, 2013, the band unveiled the cover art for the their upcoming album The Devil Went Down to the Holy Land, announcing it will be released on October 28, 2013.
On October 24, 2013, the band announced that their third studio album The Devil Went Down to the Holy Land, will be released on November 25, 2013, and not on October 28 as previously announced, with a special release a few days earlier on November 22, in Germany, through Steamhammer/SPV.
Musical style and Influences:
Betzefer's musical style is mostly regarded as groove metal and thrash metal, influenced by bands such as Pantera, Slayer and Sepultura, although on an interview with an Israeli extreme sports magazine, vocalist Avital Tamir also stated Guns N' Roses and Metallica, as influences, additionally to Pantera.
They are described by many as metalcore, groove metal, thrash metal, post-thrash and even alternative metal and nu metal, but the band disproves any labeling on their genre and vocalist Avital Tamir stated in an interview that their genre is purely rock or alternative rock, and that they see themselves mostly as part of the Israeli alternative rock scene, and that no one of the band members even saw himself as a metalhead before, and the connection between the band and metal music is simply because the music is fast, heavy and harsh.
In another interview with Avital Tamir and Matan Cohen, they stated AC/DC, Aerosmith and Black Sabbath as their rock-rooted influences. They also mentioned they have influences ranging from hard rock and heavy metal, through punk and even blues.
Slayer is thought to be the band's biggest influence, since in their biggest hit single "Down Low" the last verse of the song praises Slayer's album Reign in Blood as "the best damn fuckin' album ever". They also play the opening riff of the Slayer song "Raining Blood" in almost every concert, as a finish to their song "Down Low".
Avital Tamir - lead vocals (1998-present),
Matan Cohen - guitar (1998-present),
Rotem Inbar - bass (2003-present),
Roey Berman - drums (1998-present),
Evil Haim - bass (2001-2003),
Menashe "Mashy" Hazan - bass (1998-2001)