One of the most perplexing and hotly debated topics in history (particularly economic) is the tragic descent of Argentina from one of the pillars of the world economy as late as the 1950s to just another South American country fraught with economic and political turmoil. To dive into the history of this country is a tiring task – one that would take multiple books just to cover certain epochs. Yet one period of time continues to scar the national collective – the military dictatorship of 1976 until 1983.
To make a quick summary: Argentina had seen itself engulfed in a wave of political and social unrest during the course of the 1970s, so certain members of the military decided to orchestrate a coup to institute order. On the 24th of March 1976, a military junta overthrew Isabel Perón from office and on the 29th of March declared Jorge Rafael Videla as the new president of the Argentinian Republic. What quickly ensued was a regime of state-sponsored terror and torture, one that would target suspected leftists such as socialists, Peronistas and trade unionists among many others. The torture methods were numerous: dropping suspects from helicopters into the middle of the ocean, pulling teeth, genital mutilation, and the infamous “picana” – an electric cattleprod. All of this was done with the consent of the CIA, who even provided logistical and training support for the torturers as part of Operation Condor; a program instituted to help right-wing dictatorships in South America suppress Communist movements. By the time democracy was re-established in Argentina in December 1983, 30,000 individuals had been killed or disappeared – many of them never to be found to this day.
It was in the midst of this violent and disgraceful climate that V8, arguably the first Argentinian metal band along with Riff, came to be. The band was established in 1978, after a meeting between founding members Ricardo Iorio and Ricardo Moreno who bonded over their un-ending love for Black Sabbath. Between 1980 and 1983, V8 played numerous live shows to a mixed reception. They were well received among many younger audience members, but often scorned by the more conservative rock fandom of Argentina – not to mention the target of beatings by police, who singled them out for their long hair. These early years would see a revolving door of lineup changes, finally settling with Ricardo on bass, Alberto Zamarbide on vocals, the infamous Osvaldo Civile on guitars, and Gustavo Rowek on drums.
Finally, in 1983, V8’s self-titled debut was released. Like many of the South American albums of that epoch, pigeonholing V8 into one specific sound. While only 26 minutes in length, the S/T effort goes through a wide range of influences drawing not just from Black Sabbath, but also 70s hard/prog rock as well as the nascent NWOBHM movement. Given the lack of funds and the inexperience of most producers at the time with this style of music, the production value is very raw. The album opens with “Destrucción”, a quick and straight to the point song bordering on speed metal whose first verse says everything about the tone of this album:
Ya no creo en nadie (I no longer believe in anyone)
Ya no creo en ti (I no longer believe in you)
Ya no creo en nada (I no longer believe in anything)
Porque nadie cree en mi (because no one believes in me)
As previously stated, V8’s sound was anathema to a large contingency of the Argentinian population and the band was perfectly aware of this. Even though the short album length and “Destrucción” might give the impression that you are in for a relentless assault, this couldn’t be further from the truth. V8 does a good job of combining faster and mid-paced sections in many of the songs, with Black Sabbath’s early work always serving as the core foundation for the music here. The album contains plenty of Spanish-speaking anthems like “Brigadas Metálicas”, an ode to heavy metal music and the very relatable “Muy Cansado Estoy” – a song about the grueling nature of day to day work life.
Hippies are one of the main targets for V8 during the course of the album (“Tiempos Metálicos”, “Brigadas Metálicas”), which might sound hilariously outdated to many listeners given that this came out in 1983 – but context matters here. While hippy culture was long dead in the US and most of the Western world, the residue of the movement had been adopted by many members of the Argentinian middle class and domestic rock bands – but stripped of any political/social connotation. V8 witnessed this first hand when they played the BA rock festival of 1982, where bands would profess the importance of love and pacifism, but without condemning the state-sponsored terror and violence against suspected leftists. The band could not stomach the blatant hypocrisy and lack of awareness on display which led to the aforementioned jabs.
If there was one dud to talk about in this album, it would potentially be the third track “Si Puedes Vencer al Temor”. This song is where V8 try to tap into their hard rock roots, giving us a 6 minute track that is equal parts UFO and equal parts Rush with their heavy presence of synths. Not a bad track at all, but one that feels out of place along many tracks that don’t push the 3 minute mark and slightly derails the pace of the album. Similarly, “Torturador” at first listen feels like a sordid account of a victim being tortured at the hands of the Argentinian secret police – only for the real meaning of the song to be Osvaldo Civile’s hatred of going to the dentist. Some interpret is a clever tongue in cheek jab at the dictatorship, but the metaphor is definitely not the best.
Despite its small shortcomings, V8’s first album remains an important milestone in the history of South American metal. If we were to judge it by its musical output alone, the album is a highly enjoyable experience; one of the first instances where heavy metal begins to cross the Rubicon and becomes speed metal. However, when taking into account the context in which it was written, V8 remains a potent sonic reminder of a dark era in Argentinian history. Shortly after the album came out, Argentina transitioned back to democracy and V8 made two more enjoyable albums before calling it a day and springing a whole host of very important bands – Horcas, Logos, Almafuerte and Hermetica. For any heavy metal aficionado, particularly those who enjoy the language of Cervantes, this a must.
Album rating: 87/100
Favorite track: Brigadas Metálicas