What’s The Rockbrat Listening To Today? Znowhite – Kick Em When They’re Down (1985)

I clearly remember picking this up from the sales bin at Impact Records in Canberra in the summer of 1985/86.  I’d briefly read about Znowhite in an edition of Metallion magazine, a fine publication from Canada, so I was familiar with the name. The sticker on the album jacket that said, “Produced by Metallica Producer Paul Curcio” was the final clincher for me to dig into my pockets and hand over my 8 bucks to Armoured Angel’s Lucy Luck, who worked as a sales guy at Impact for many a year. But before I wax lyrical about the album, a brief history of Znowhite is in order.  Znowhite were a Chicago based thrash metal band who existed from 82-89. The band featured African American brothers Sparks and Ian Tafoya and their cousin Nicky Tafoya. Nicole Lee was on vocals. The band originally performed under the title Snowhite, but later replaced the S with a Z. The band appeared on Vol. 3 of the Metal Massacre compilation, and released a few albums,  namely Act of God and Kick ‘Em When They’re Down, and also an EP called All Hail to Thee. Looking back, Znowhite were very much pioneers, with African American guys playing speed / thrash metal when it was still very much underground. Ian Tafoya was about 7 foot and looked about 200 kg! Sure, bands like Bad Brains and Fishbone etc get a lot of the credit for pioneering the HC scene amongst African Americans – but what about the Tafoyas? Anyways, let’s take a listen to the ‘Kick Em’ When They’re Down’ LP. Man I used to love this. I’d play it over and over again – LOUD! Thrash metal with hardcore overtones, there was a lot to like here. The vocals were somewhat a little underdone, but looking back, they were right for this.  ‘’Live For the Weekend” will still melt your brain. But don’t expect flat out hardcore/speed metal. Nope, the song writing here shows a band that had been listening to Maiden/Metallica and was injecting some nice key changes and subtleties to the pace. ‘Run Like The Wind’ is further evidence of this, and ‘Too Late’ highlight some slick playing. “Turn Up The Pain’ is more melodic, but again, there are some nice changes and the result is a very tuneful song. The album cover art is somewhat stereotypical – the killer heavy metal inside the jacket is far from that. Sheesh, 25 years on, (is it really that many years?) this still sounds great. Go and check out Znowhite.

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