"Entertain Your Force of Habit presents Betzefer at their beefiest: a seasoned yet rejuvenated band that is still hungry and has progressed with a leap of faith."
- Andreas Schiffmann -
It has been quite a ride for Israeli groove metal stalwarts Betzefer since their humble beginnings on the outskirts of Tel Aviv 20 years ago. Now with three successful studio albums, numerous high profile tours and shows at international festivals behind them, it is time to open up a new chapter of their career.
The band turns the page on a turbulent period, although not at all due to the ever-troublesome political and social situation in their home country, which guitarist Matan Cohen-Grumi says is “just a lot of background noise”. In fact, the group’s very existence was threatened when singer and founding member Avital Tamir left for folksier pastures after their latest effort The Devil Went Down to the Holy Land. “We felt a painful void at first, as he had been with us since the very beginning,” Matan explains. “Yet I’m glad to say we parted in good terms, and he told us to definitely carry on because throwing everything away we have built up for ourselves would be a shame. That was a nice gesture.”
Nevertheless, Betzefer found themselves undecided for quite some time. “We did not know if we wanted to keep going but invited Aharon Ragoza to sing at our rehearsals, saying we were not sure about continuing and would try him out just for the fun of it. When he entered the picture, we were blown away by his energy. Everything sounded so right. All of a sudden, things started to happen again, and that’s what drove us to bang out these ten songs.” Whereas the new front man wrote a large part of the lyrics for Entertain Your Force of Habit in order to deal with personal issues, Matan’s are “mostly about being a musician for 20 years and the stuff we went through as a group. The artwork picks up on the thought that the very same thing can evoke different feelings. It mirrors the contradictions I talk about; the life of an artist is often extremely uplifting and amazing, but can also be so hard that you question yourself.”
Such subject matter is pretty evident in songs like ‘Ain’t No Party Till You Hurt Somebody’, which places the old Exodus adage of “good friendly violent fun” into a sweaty Southern Metal setting, the Sabbath-y seesaw that is ‘Dying Man’ or the closing track ‘The Last Song in the World’ with its moody midsection. All in all, Entertain Your Force of Habit is classic Betzefer, albeit with a rabid roarer at the mic. “Our sound hasn’t changed that much throughout the years,” Matan concedes. “From the first album on, it was straightforward metal with this rock element, which became more and more prominent. Entertain Your Force of Habit is the peak so far in this respect: massive but still angry rock ’n’ roll, and we’ve never had that much fun playing.” These traits are condensed in the album title – stand for what you are, strengths and weaknesses alike, without pretensions.
Eventually, what defines the band today for its six-stringer is “a balance between fun and earnestness, . there was a long period of time where we didn’t enjoy it as much as today due to the pressure we often felt. The older and more experienced we get, the better we understand not to overthink things and keep ourselves happy. Aharon took us back to our beginnings since he is about ten years younger than the rest of the group, a fresh version of ourselves, so to say.” This rings true from the very first notes of opener ‘One Way to No Way’. By once more entrusting the mix to Tue Madsen (Behemoth, The Haunted), the quartet maintained its signature sound to focus follow a newfound purpose. “Tue knows us best and compliments our songs in exactly the way we hear them in our heads. Work with him was quick and fun, easy and very precise. Hearing him say this is our best material ever gave us a lot of confidence.”
Now with the complete record in their hands, the members are chomping at the proverbial bit to get it out and hit the road. They have stopped infiltrating the pop-heavy media landscape of Israel with their own weekly MTV show in favour of “what a band is actually supposed to do: concentrating on their own music,” but will go on expanding their devoted community, whether by recording fans chanting live or inviting them to video shootings. After the stop motion clip for ‘The Devil Went Down To The Holy Land’ went viral, the band feels indebted to give their audience more eye candy. “It sounds A bit cliche, but we would not be where we are without the listeners. They are what keeps us moving in the first place.”
Therefore, their fans play into the musicians’ aims for the near and distant future. “We get mail from all over the world, even places where we have not performed yet, so these countries are on our list now. Other than that, we simply want to go on making great music – the best we can – and reach the right people with it.” This should be no problem with a new label and an accomplished album like Entertain Your Force of Habit presenting Betzefer at their beefiest: a seasoned yet rejuvenated band that is still hungry and has progressed with a leap of faith.
'Entertain Your Force Of Habit'
'The Devil Went Down To The Holyland'