Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Luchando Por El Metal

Here is something I (Stuart) wrote about the greatest Argentine heavy metal band, V8, whose first LP I picked up in Buenos Aires during our visit. This piece was originally published on Bidhardcore, a site dedicated to quick reviews of records that are on auction at the moment on eBay. It's directed toward the record-collector audience of that site.

V8 was the first true heavy metal band from Argentina and arguably the first from South America. Like the classic Argentine punk band Los Violadores, V8’s first LP was released by the independent label Umbral in 1983. “Luchando Por El Metal” is a landmark record, and it’s a shame it is not more well-known outside Argentina. It’s such a classic in Argentina that one can hardly walk down the street without encountering headbangers pledging allegiance to V8 (pronounced VAY-OH-CHO).

The online heavy metal archive site Encyclopaedia Metallum is full of effusive praise for V8, as is the South American metal history site Metaleros, which includes a great history of the band and Argentine metal in general. To really understand where the band was coming from, you need to know about Argentine guitar god Pappo, whom I’ll get to in a minute, but this riff-driven LP really just sounds like a mixture of Motörhead and Judas Priest, with a dash of Black Sabbath. It’s not NWOBHM, it’s FWOAHM. Some of the faster (and better) songs even have a feeling akin to metal-influenced UK hardcore of the early 80s, unfortunately minus Discharge’s drumbeat. Think GBH. (Fans of Canada’s Inepsy would probably love this record.) The production is perfect for this type of music, without any fancy embellishment: guitars prominent, bass drum and vocals next in line.

“Luchando Por El Metal” is not particularly rare because thousands were pressed, but it had zero distribution outside Latin America when it was released as far as I know. Also, Argentines do not have much of a collecting culture, meaning “mint” in Argentina is quite different from “mint” here in the land of Puritanism, and the flimsy stock used for the jacket doesn’t lend itself to durability. In addition, one listen to this LP will demonstrate why it tends to be in “partied-on” condition. It’s a ripper.

Like Los Violadores’ first LP, “Luchando Por El Metal” includes a printed inner sleeve with lyrics. And what lyrics they are! True headbanging fanatics will derive great pleasure, if not goosebumps, from songs like “Brigadas Metálicas,” “Tiempos Metálicos” (lyrics: “Basta de hippies / basta de rogar / estalló el tiempo del metal”), and “Hiena de Metal”—yes, Hyena of Metal! About that last one, which closes the album, V8 collaborated with their hero Pappo on this one (he plays the solo), which I found surprising because it’s the shortest and fastest tune on the record. It actually reminds me of Chelsea’s guest solo on that one Selfish song, if that helps: the whole band concept was inspired by this virtuoso and when he collaborated with them on a song, he threw a curve ball, unlike anything he’d done before. Anyway, the lyrics, as far as my rudimentary grasp of Spanish tells me, combine the dumb dark “poetry” typical to metal since Sabbath with cheeky irreverence, as in the song about a visit to a torturador known as the dentist! (In a country where people were actually being tortured and killed by the military dictatorship, such a joke probably came across as tasteless to both sides.)

To digress on Pappo (né Norberto Napolitano), who died in a motorcycle crash in 2005, this guy was without peer. He was a hero to millions, especially those who saw him as a working-class rocknroll outsider type, the perpetual underdog. He released over a dozen LPs and even more singles throughout his career, which began in the late 1960s. His group Pappo’s Blues, which released seven albums in the 1970s, was a pioneering hard-rock/psych/heavy blues-rock act. In 1977, he formed Aeroblus, another heavy blues-rock band. And in 1980, influenced by AC/DC, he formed Riff, which is the band of greatest interest to me. (I haven’t heard all of what he released, but Riff seems better than either of the previous bands.) Veering more toward heavy metal, away from blues rock, Riff is a band quite worthy of its name. Fans of riff-centric rocknroll would do well to check them out (obviously). I saw a few copies of their records in Buenos Aires; the first, “Ruedas de Metal,” is pretty cool. Don’t pay much more than US $20 for it because thousands of copies were pressed. Psych collectors seem to think that Pappo’s Blues Vol. 3 is the most desirable of his 70s albums, but it doesn’t move me much. Vol. 7 from 1978 was recommended to me as much heavier than Vol. 3, but this one seems to have some sort of “Southern” rock influence, with a bunch of slide guitar. It’s got some cool, slow riffs, but overall it’s not really heavy or ballsy in comparison to what was happening in the UK or Australia at the time. Headline: “Southern rock meets the southern cone: Scumbags rejoice, ride motorcycles, drink maté.” Oh yeah, most Pappo’s Blues songs are instrumentals. You’ve been warned.

Anyway, if you’re not ready to delve too far into Argentine 70s–80s rock, the only records you need from this site’s perspective are V8’s and Los Violadores’ first LPs. “Luchando Por El Metal” is on eBay relatively frequently for buy-it-now prices around $80. That’s too much, in my opinion. But I say you ignore this record at your own peril. One listen and you too will become a hiena de metal.