This review will begin with a little History lesson to explain what this band is and what it means.
Riff is an Argentinean Hard Rock/ Metal band, formed by one of the most recognized and famous guitarists of this country, Norberto Napolitano (commonly known as Pappo). Being one of the pioneers of rock music in Argentina, Pappo has achieved something truly unique, making music for fun. He is sort of a legend for his incredible charisma and of course, his guitar playing.
The Argentinean Rock scene (referred as Rock Nacional) began to emerge in the 60’s with artists like Sandro and Luis Alberto Spinetta and his band Almendra. It solidified in 70’s with many talented new artists and band, such as Charly Garcia and his bands Sui Generis and later Serú Girán, among others, and it reached to its culmination point in the 80’s with some groups expanding the sound to heavier music and reaching high levels of popularity within the country, and even the continent. Some of these are Virus and Las Pelotas, and on the heavier side there was Riff, along with Rata Blanca (Walter Giardino’s band), V8, Hermética and even Malón.
Before Riff, Pappo had worked on some solo efforts, but more orientated to a Blues sound. With Riff, Pappo creates his more popular project, and establishes as one of the legends of the Argentinean musical scene. Why? Because they ruled. They spread the Metal throughout the country, and people from all social levels or cultural approaches were touched by his music.
This album, VII, is probably their most solid and coherent studio effort, even though it is usually forgotten, since it does not have the original line-up (Pappo, Boff, Peyronel and Vitico). Both Peyronel (drums) and Boff (rhythm guitar) were replaced by Moro and Jaf.
Pappo was an excellent guitarist and musician himself, and always liked to sing, and managed to sing his best here. Nothing outstanding, but still decent. But Jaf took the vocals on some of the songs, which configured an incredible improvement, adding variation and giving an interesting and exquisite feel to the music. Moreover, the guitar work is really interesting, mainly because Jaf is a really focused guitarist -rather better than Boff, I daresay-, and Pappo’s lead guitar on this album is some of his best ever, execution wise and on the creative side too. Very good riffs, with a great sense of distortion are applied on the album, some of them heavy, others softer, but most of the time interesting. This is most noticeable on Dios Devorador
, which features one of the most recognized riffs ever (in Argentina at least). Melodic elements are also supported by a more mature Vitico with his decent bass playing, and also by Moro, whose interesting fills never let down, especially taking into account that he is replacing Michel Peyronel, one of the front-men of the band.
Another positive aspect of this album consists of the songwriting. The structures of the songs presented on this album are very well thought, and helps the album flowing naturally. Moreover, the songs are varied and interesting on themselves, and do not tend to drag or feel overwhelming at all. Even when the album is quite consistent, there are some songs that stand out. La Espada Sagrada
, an excellent opener, is the perfect short metal song, with a nice fast riff and a melodic lead, culminating with a great solo. Arañas y Ratas
, which is a Thrashy song, and Dios Devorador
, which flows perfectly with a weird intro to the monstrous riff, is one of the best songs by Riff, featuring flawless guitarwork. The last highlight has to be none other than Elena X
, the longest and slowest of the songs, where Jaf’s vocals are at their best.
As I mentioned earlier, VII is Riff’s more mature album, and one of their bests, if not their best. Even if most of the fans will choose “Contenidos”, from their classic era, or their debut, this one gets a bit ahead of them. This is essential material for every self-respected metal lover in my country, and should transcend that barrier, because is an all-round record, combining the best of both Hard Rock and Metal. This album deserves more recognition in the Riff catalogue, and will always be an enjoyable listen.
VII line up:
Norberto Napolitano “Pappo”: Vocals, Lead Guitar
Juan Antonio Fernández “Jaf”: Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Victor Bereciartúa “Vitico”: Bass Guitar
Oscar Moro: Drums
R.I.P. Pappo (1950-2005)