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Very, VERY underrated. - 70%

maverickvkz, March 15th, 2008

So, we find ourselves back in 1997, when the Argentinian mainstream seems to have lost all interest on national heavy metal bands. Mario Ian, who was the band's vocalist for the album "Entre El Cielo y El Infierno", is not part of Rata Blanca anymore. So, this is how Gabriel Marian, a new young and talented singer is called to fill Ian's shoes, so he can venture on something simply named as "VII", the seventh full length album of Rata Blanca, one of the most influential and important bands in Heavy Metal history.

Let's get something straight. If you haven't heard this album yet, and you wish to find fast, power-metallish songs, along with epic atmospheres, or stories about wizards, fairies and dragons, watch out, 'cause you may be disappointed. Don't even think that any of those lyrical themes is included here. Also, if you're one of those narrow-headed people who don't see Rata Blanca without Adrian Barilari's voice, and are afraid to listen something completely different, and be part of a band's evolution, then stop reading this, and go to listen "Magos, Espadas y Rosas", or "Guerrero del Arcoiris" instead.

"VII" is a hard rock album, less aggresive than "Entre el cielo y el infierno", more radio friendly, but the band's classic sound, which made them so famous back in the early 90's still prevails in a couple of tracks like "Madame X", and "Rey de La Revolucion" (King of The Revolution). I also see it as the continuation of "Entre el cielo y el infierno", featuring lyrical themes of modern society, romance, friendship, and rebellion. The result? A mature and enjoyable album, which, probably doesn't have what it takes to beat any of the band's previous (And further) releases, but it still catches our attention, it has its own magic, and doesn't let go so easily.

Gabriel Marian does a good performance in most of the songs like the wonderful and emotional ballad "Ella" (She), the powerful and catchy "Heroes", the melancholic "Vuelo Nocturno" (Nocturnal flight), or the fierceful "La Caja" (The box), which all show why Marian was chosen as the new frontman of Walter Giardino's band. His voice can remind you a little bit of Bon Jovi, but Marian has his own personal touch and takes his singing skills to the limit. You can even feel the empathy among the musicians. One low point is that Walter Giardino doesn't focus at all on his spectacular guitar solos, so he can center more the attention in his writing skills instead, but we can find a few moments of glory on tracks like "Rey de la Revolucion", the strong and mid-paced "Anarquia" (Anarchy), or the astounding instrumental ballad "Libranos del Mal" (Free us from evil), which closes the album. If you still doubt of Marian's ability on the mic, there are many bootlegs on the web, which prove that he can sing any of Rata Blanca's most classical songs without showing any sign of weakness, and giving them, instead, a fresh breath of air ("La Leyenda del Hada y El Mago" and "El Ultimo Ataque" are two great examples). So, what many people say about Marian and his "lack of talent" is a complete BULLSHIT. They should stop whining and grow up.

The reason why this album has been so brutally attacked by the media, and by any Rata Blanca's die hard fans since it came out, is something that I shared in the beginning. I mean, when you listen to a few songs like the cheesy "La Canción del Sol" (The song of the sun), or the hilarious and punkie "La Historia de Un Muchacho" (The story of a young boy), songs which can be easily performed by any average Hard Rock band, you cannot believe that Rata Blanca has taken such a weird direction, so far away from their original sound. It's hard to accept, when your ears listen to the lazy "Vieja Lucy" (Old Lucy), or the forgettable and boring "Mr. Cosmico" (Mr. Cosmic), that you're listening to that one Heavy Metal band which blew you away in the past with classic and powerful songs like "El Sueño de la Gitana", "La Leyenda del Hada y El Mago", or "Abrazando el Rock And Roll". It's just unbearable and very difficult to understand... At first.

However, and with all of the above being mentioned, this doesn't mean that "VII" is a bad release. Not at all. It's just NOT Rata Blanca, and the first time you play the album, you may think you're listening to a brand new young Hard Rock band. It's nice to experiment, to try new sounds and to not stay doing the same stuff over and over again. But, when you change the whole concept so drastically from one album to another, then we may have a problem, especially with the old school fans who are the ones who have blasted this album since the very first day that it came out. If you also add its lack of promotion, its poor sales, and the little interest that the media showed to the band a couple of years prior to the release of this album, we can conclude that "VII" came out at the wrong place in the wrong time. This was why (Among other reasons) Rata Blanca decided to split in 1998.

Rata Blanca's seventh studio album was definitely, the weakest point in their musical history, having its "ups and downs" (Musically speaking), but pretty good, after all. The lyrics are well structured (As it has always happened with this band), the musicians do a great performance from the beginning to the end, and young Gabriel Marian shows that he can step aside former Rata Blanca singers Mario Ian, Adrian Barilari and Saul Blanch.

It's very easy to blame a band when they don't "attach to their roots", or when they try to do something different and aren't affraid to innovate, but always keeping their essence intact. Sometimes bands get a good response, but sometimes the fans react in a very negative way. The latter is what happened to Rata Blanca. It has happened with some of the greatest Heavy Metal bands of all time, (Helloween, Angra, Iron Maiden), and Rata Blanca, which is surely among them, suffered the same fate with "VII", although t is a very recommended album, but ONLY for the open-minded people who are sick of the same epic stories about "Jimmy, the Knight, and his quest to beat the evil dragons of the land".

Highlights: "Rey de la Revolucion", "Ella", "Vuelo Nocturno", "Heroes", "Madame X".