Back when I previewed Alpha Riff’s Digital Champions, all that I really knew was that the album would be set in a cyberpunk world. That alone was intriguing, given that I was a huge cyberpunk fan back in the ’90s (and I still enjoy it today, if I can find it). Add in that it was Alpha Riff, and I had a distinct feeling that it would be great. Turns out I was right, as evidenced by the fact that it made my favorites of 2014 list. And now it’s time to get to the review.
The album tells the story of Alpha Riff and his AI companion, MZ. They are bounty hunters who have discovered a computer virus that’s destroying their world, Digitalia. Along the way they encounter various friends and foes, most of whose roles are performed by other nerdcore rappers like Zilla Persona, Aramis, MC Ohm-I, and 1-Up (among many others). The guest list adds to the epic quality of the narrative in addition to making it easier to follow the story since different voices perform different characters.
Since the album contains one narrative throughout, it’s difficult to pick out specific favorite tracks, but there are some particularly cool moments along the journey. For example, the appearance of Death on “Code Demons” features a really cool vocal performance by Matt Mead of Kingdoms Burn. Not what you’d expect from a nerdcore album, but quite fitting nonetheless. Or there’s the awesome battle in “Flight to the Gates of Fire Wall” with Nyte as Crimelord B. Net and Zilla Persona as Fate. In “Riddle Me This,” Jollimus as Harbinger poses “riddles” that Alpha and MZ have to solve, which they do with ease.
I won’t spoil the fun of the story by giving away too much more, but suffice it to say that the ending feels quite satisfying. So, as the Shakespearean-style ending chorus on “Pixel to Blood” states, “Throw your hands up if you like good guys / And throw them up again if you like bad guys / Throw them up a third time if plot is your thing / And last time’s a charm, it’s the credits, so sing.” In other words, if you’re a fan of cyberpunk and / or a good story, then you should really check out this album.