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All Hail to Thee is one of those releases which dwells in that gray area between the LP and EP, and there are undoubtedly those that consider this the first Znöwhite full-length, but in light of its short length (under 17 minutes) and 7 songs, I'm going to consider it an EP for the purpose of this review. Either way, it's the first 'official' release from perhaps the most underrated band ever to hail from Chicago, and a scorcher. Mind you, this is not the crunchy, brutal apocalyptic thrash of their brilliant album Act of God, but a filthier street-level entity with some of the best female vocals of US metal in the 80s (Nicole Lee). The band was a 3-piece here, with Ian Tafoya playing both bass and guitar, and Sparks on the drums.
Several of the tracks here are pretty short, below 2 minutes in length. One gets the impression the band likened themselves to some sort of crossover punk-thrash band, but in truth these are some of the better pieces here. "Sledgehammer" is gutter level thrust thrash with a memorable chorus vocal, wild if simple lead, and then gone in a flash. Like good, hot sex. "Saturday Night" is like a Midwest, female fronted Motörhead, with Lee's air raid vocals elevating it just beyond and one of the other band members gettin' wicked in their with a brief monologue. "Do or Die" is the the shorted, but sweetest as far as frenetic speed/power thrash with a raunchy bite to the riffs and piercing vocal melody.
As for the rest, I'm a little mixed. "Somethin' for Nothin'" has a killer tone, and a decent little breakdown with a descending, muddy thrash riff, but I don't exactly enjoy how Lee's vocals function over the crest of the guitar. "Bringin' the Hammer Down" is actually pretty nice, with a raw, roiling tone and some of the better 'fixin' for a fight' vocals, including some melodic backing from the band. The solo here is pretty cool, as are the little NWOBHM melodies that soar through the violent thrashing. "Never Felt Like This" is probably the closest Znöwhite has ever come to a ballad, really just a slow, straightforward metal tune, but once again, the vocals just aren't that intriguing and the riffs very boring. "Rock City Destination" is another swarthy, blues-rooted bar metal anthem like "Saturday Night", and it's a good closer for the EP.
Nothing this band recorded prior to Act of God would truly prepare me for the crushing wasteland that would ensue, but both the All Hail to Thee and Kick 'Em While Their Down EPs have charms of their own. The kind of charms that resonate from late nights of broken glass, rattling trash can lids, dumpster diving and graffiti from the waste of an inner city. You could consider this a 'Chicago before the bomb' scenario, whereas Act of God represents that period 'after the bomb'. A perfect little Cold War chronology. If it is obscure, raw American speed and thrash that you seek, you could do worse than to check out this band's back catalog.
The first Znowhite effort is a classical speed metal so well done in the early 80’s. Great. I like it because it’s very speed, spontaneous and genuine. This EP, like the following one, has become a sort of a cult in the underground scene because at the period was not well distributed and now, with the following re-recorded version for a small label, it continue to remain almost unknown. This EP is simply very good.
The first song is called Sledgehammer and begins with a noise of broken glasses and a cry, after the song is very fast, almost “punkish” and on the other side very influenced by the early heavy metal scene. This one, like the most of other songs, is very short and fast. With the following Saturday Night the speed is always fast, with raw guitars and the voice still immature of Nicole Lee.
Surely the best track of this EP is Somethin’ For Nothing, with a great raw and at the same time, evocative riff and a great refrain. Here the speed is a bit lower, giving more importance to the melody of its great solo and chorus…. Very nice.
Bringing The Hammer Down is still fast, with the bass drum in evidence and a great chorus, with Nicole Lee vocals that go very high. Do Or Die song is one of the fastest in this EP, 1:30 minutes of very aggressive speed metal. The vocals are still very aggressive, while the most introspective and obscure song is surely Never Felt Like This. I this case the vocals are less screamed in the beginning, where there is also a small acoustic guitar part. This song is always well balanced between the slow, melodic parts and the suffered melody of the refrain.
With The final song, Rock City Destination the most hard rock side of the group is showed for a while before the speed influences takes the command again. Perfect song, with a good solo, to change a bit after the sad Never Felt like This song.
This was one of the first step of a great band, that would have been “famous” for their raw thrash metal. This is just the beginning, but I think that speed metal done like this in the 80’s will not come back again, so enjoy it!
First off, I have Alll Hail To Thee, Kick 'Em When They're Down, and Act Of God. All bad ass, though, All Hail To Thee is the one that mainly sticks out. Although there's a female on vocals, Nichole Lee keeps up with the fast/hard riffs and has a nice range of highs and lows.
Sledgehammer - the name says it all, starts out with sounds of destruction, then the nice shreaks of Nichole Lee with nice speed/thrashy riffs. Drumming also keeps up with everything, keeping it together.
Saturday Night - I wish my Saturday nights were as aggressive as this, though the riffs and such aren't as complex in this song, aside from the mini-solo, they're catchy just like in every other song.
Somethin' For Nothin' - A some-what slower song, could be faster like most Znowhite songs, but it's just fine in my book.
Bringin' Down The Hammer - this has to be my favourite song, much faster than the rest, much more complex...vocals are louder, and more memorible.
Do Or Die - Nice speedy riffs in the beginning, great vocals, though doesn't stand out as much as it should in my opinion.
Never Felt Like This - okay, if it weren't for this song, I'd give this album at least a 98, but it's too cheesy, too slow, and flat out boring. I always skip this song.
Rock City Destination - here's another song that sticks to you, fast fuckin' riffs, but the vocals leave something to be desired here, and the riffs get a little generic later on through the song.
Overall stand out songs:
4. Bringin' the Hammer Down
7. Rock City Destination
Great album, I'd recommend it to any avid collector.