Sunday, 28 August 2016

Live Review: Betzefer/Sinnery @ Barby, Tel Aviv [17th August 2016]

As a youngster growing up in the UK, I didn't come across many Israeli bands when flicking through magazines and the TV channels. Useless ID came up now and again and Rabies Caste was on a compilation CD. However, it was the band Betzefer that I was the most aware of when doing street teaming for the famous Roadrunner Records. They had really hit the big time getting signed to them over in Europe, although I was somehow less interested at the time and never got into them.
Now, the band are back with new frontman, Aharon Ragoza (Shredhead), and new material. To celebrate their return, many metallers across the country have come together at the Barby, Tel Aviv for their comeback show; their first show in 3 years.


Sinnery are one of those bands whose name I've seen posted around town and on Facebook but whom I still hadn't seen. I think I assumed, based on other Israeli bands, that they might be the same as the others and not interest me. Boy, I was wrong!
  I enter the Barby just as the band finish their first song. That one song on its own makes me realise that these guys are different. The band are set up with the drummer on the side of the stage instead of the drum platform, leaving all members stood in a line. This immediately makes their performance more intimate. As the band play on with their Pantera-meets-Sodom style thrash, they do it professionally and effortlessly. Whereas some metal bands act like parodies of the genre, overdoing the theatrics and on stage banter, Sinnery, especially guitarist and lead singer Alon, do it more casually. There's still the requests for a circle pit, fist pumping, an attempted wall of death and general hype phrases, but it somehow seems more necessary.
  The music itself has just the right mix of straight forward old school thrash with added elements of groove and even progressive bits. As I watch and listen to them, I actually felt like I was watching a touring band. If they haven't done so already, they are definitely going to do well overseas.



On to the main act. With the Barby pretty full by now, Israeli metal legends Betzefer (a version of the word Beit Sefer - "school") arrive on stage to the playback of Eminem's Without Me. This is apt due to the "Guess who's back" line, signifying the band's return. As the crowd cheers and applauds, the band start off with brand new track, Never Been Away, the video of which has already been doing the rounds online. The song's sentiment makes it a good opener for a "comeback show". The band certainly have the stage presence and talent that proves they haven't lost it. Even new frontman, Aharon, seems to have filled the position effortlessly, comfortably taking control of the song and the crowd. Those already familiar with the track are bopping their heads away and joining in a little bit, but it's on next song, Running Against, where things really get going. Coming from their debut full length and only Roadrunner album, Down Low, we start to see some pit action and many people singing along. Although sounding a lot like Hatebreed, zooming along in a hardcore style into a crushing chorus, this is still classic Betzefer

The music just keeps flowing, with the band playing the bouncy Copkiller (not a Body Count cover) and the hard hitting CashAharon gets into the spirit of things by spitting and chucking some water onto the crowd (cliché, but metallers love it!) before announcing "FUCKIN' ROCK N ROLL, BAYBEHH!" A mental pit ensues for Fuckin' Rock N Roll, with one failed stage dive from one of the show-goers. He basically just fell in between people. Nice try, though.

We eventually get some interaction as Aharon addresses the crowd. He praises opening act Sinnery whom he tries to point out from the crowd. After realising they're not actually there, he jokes about them being a shit band. You got to love friendly banter! The show then continues with two brand new tracks, Light Away and Hand In Hand To Hell, before someone dressed as Satan, all red with horns and in a suit smoking a cigar, comes on stage. This cleverly leads into one of the bands more sleazy, Southern metal number, The Devil Went Down To The Holy Land from the album of the same name. The song itself and the theatrics work together perfectly, making it an excellent performance. Whoever was dressed as the devil played him pretty laid back and cool but still pretty menacing, throwing his cigar into the crowd at the end. I'm sure that's considered a fire hazard, isn't it?

The band stay with the last album, playing the head banging Sledgehammer (not a Peter Gabriel cover) and thrashy Suicide Hotline pt 2, before Aharon remarks that this is his first proper live show with Betzefer and thanks both the band and former singer, Avital (now in OSOG, which I was totally unaware of before.) After two new songs, Crash and Truck Leaking Gasoline, drummer Roey is left on stage for a bit of a drum solo. It's not the best or most creative solo I've ever witnessed, but anyone who has the strength to do that while having already beaten your heart out on the kit for almost an hour gets my respect. The solo leads into an instrumental jam before they jump into one of the band's earliest tracks, Buddah. You can tell it's an older track as it has a more nu-metal vibe compared to the rest of their repertoire.

After playing Cannibal, the heaviest, most death metal-like track of the night, and the brooding Black InsideAharon introduces an audience member who has come from Sweden, apparently especially to see them. That's hardcore! The guy gets the opportunity to stage dive at the start of Doomsday, which sees the place bouncing and joining in on the chorus. The band then finishes the night off with 2 classic tracks from Down Low, Early Grave and the album's title track. At this point, an extra pit has opened up in the back half of the dance floor and things just look amazing from where I am standing.

For my first time seeing Betzefer, I am certainly impressed. The material, both old and new, might not be anything original compared to other bands, with it all floating in between the likes of HatebreedPantera and Hell Yeah!, but it's still enjoyable. Aharon even has a Phil Anselmo look and presence about him. Because of his work with Shredhead and having duetted with Betzefer in the past, he took to his new role like a duck to water. Anyone who didn't know he was a new singer would easily mistake him for someone who has been there from the start. That's a good sign! I wish them all the best of luck from here on in.


Photos courtesy of Sharon Shapira

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