ZnöWhite's ZnöWhite, Blind Illusion's The Sane Asylum

Thrash-metal also-rans run free a couple decades later

Poison's undeniable hits aside, it's really too bad that when people hear the phrase " '80s metal," they think of Bret Michaels. Poland's Metal Mind Records is bestowing a great gift on those who know better, reissuing classic thrash albums in lavish, fully remastered, 2,000-copy editions. Some are by bands that thrash fans have long worshipped; others are by also-rans getting a final moment in the spotlight before oblivion descends.

Chicago's ZnöWhite—three black dudes and their white female singer—fit into the latter category. The early EPs (two studio, one live) compiled on this single disc are fast and furious, like the Bad Brains fronted by an unholy combination of Kathleen Hanna and Cherie Currie. The first EP, 1984's All Hail to Thee, is all headlong and berserk (seven songs in under 17 minutes) until the token power ballad, "Never Felt Like This," which could have soundtracked a TV movie about a teenage runaway in the big, bad city. The follow-up, Kick 'Em When They're Down, is nastier and less punk/more metallic, with ZnöWhite throwing some Plasmatics into their sound. The live tracks are inessential but interesting—they sound like they were recorded in the back room of a pizza place.

Almost-forgotten Bay Area pioneers Blind Illusion are best-known for being Les Claypool and Larry Lalonde's band pre-Primus. Don't expect off-kilter funk or quirky lyrics, though—The Sane Asylum is a progressive thrash disc with some almost jazz-fusion instrumental interplay, particularly on the astonishing "Kamakazi." Claypool's playing makes it clear why he was Metallica's first choice to fill Cliff Burton's shoes; fortunately, he wasn't allowed anywhere near the mic or the lyric sheet. Both these discs come with well-researched liner notes (ignore the occasional ESL mistake) and fill gaps in history, which is what should be the impetus behind reissues, after all.

 
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