Written by John Angel (Z-List Musician)
Celebrating the Underground of the Underground
Hello to all the wonderful, underground theydies and djentlethems! Today I’m bringing you the first installment of The Z-List, a column dedicated to bringing some much deserved attention to the underground of underground music and celebrating the people that make up our small community. We’re after the smallest, most obscure bands and projects that lack institutional support. No label? That’s Z-List. One person band? Z-List. Mainstream music journalists say liking this band is elitist?? Oh baby, that’s the most Z-List of all! Our first entry in the Z-List column features some one and two person projects of diverse genres as well as the swan song of an Ohio band. Let’s dive in!
Note from editor: The term Z List Band was coined by a metal journalist/shithead elitist while criticizing people for promoting underground bands. He was subsequently laughed off of twitter entirely for this foolishness and other forms of intolerance. In response, a couple of the Noob Heavy writers have decided to dedicate their time to finding the most underground music available to promote while also making fun of sycophants who only cover the Big Bands.
Gabe is a Unit – Gabe is a Unit
Released April 9, 2021
Experimental metal from Wales, UK
Gabe is a Unit is a self-described “loud, destructive Welsh two-piece beast.” They released their eponymous EP on April 9th and their view of themselves is an accurate one. Lead single, “Stressful Evening”, starts out with a nice, lilting guitar lick and gentle drums before melting into a crushing riff that is, well, loud and destructive. Lyrics for this song consist entirely of
“Stressful evening, a stressful evening babe, fucking stressful”
Watching the video for the single definitely gives me stress. When not playing amidst what I assume are Welsh ruins the band dons rubber horse and duck heads, sailor suits, and wrestle each other. It’s quite an experience.
Gabe is a Unit make a really interesting literary reference on their debut EP. “Dinas Vawr” is the name of the third track and it shares that name with a fictional fortress from The Misfortunes of Elphin, a 19th century novel by English author Thomas Love Peacock. This track features spoken word that happens to be a reading of “The War-song of Dinas Vawr”, a poem featuring Welsh men discussing how much they love stealing sheep, written by Peacock and included in the aforementioned novel. I have no idea what the band intends by the poem’s inclusion but I like to imagine that the program of this EP is a 6th century Welshman arrives home after stealing sheep, remarks to his partner how stressful the evenings activities have been (“Stressful Evening”), gets drunk (“Pissed God”), reads his favorite poem (“Dinas Vawr”), and then decides it wasn’t so bad after all (“I’ve Had an Absolutely Marvellous Evening Babes”)
Gabe is a Unit defies categorization. Although alternation between clean, pretty moments and big riffs seems to be their default, they weave spoken word, electronic elements, and somewhat psychedelic moments into their sonic tapestry to keep you on your toes. They know how to groove and how to keep it weird. Gabe is a Unit is quite an intriguing debut by this Welsh duo and I’m super curious to see what they do on a full length!
Winterleaf – Leaves of Winter
Released March 22, 2021
Melodic death/doom from Thessaloniki, Greece
Winterleaf is a one person melodic death/doom band out of Thessaloniki, Greece, and the brainchild of Elias from EphemeraL, a Greek melodeath group. Leaves of Winter, the project’s debut EP, released on March 22nd and features some tasty atmospheric, down-tempo grooves. I love the clean guitar in “Leaves of Winter” that both gives us a melodic hook for the track as well as a beautiful texture. The track has so many beautiful layers and textures in the lead guitar and orchestral elements to contrast with the inevitable drive of the drums and crush of guitars and bass. Elias is even so kind as to give us some djenty chugs in the songs bridge that serve as the backdrop for a soaring, melodic guitar solo.
“Brave New World” continues in the same vein as “Leaves of Winter”, delivering more beautiful atmosphere in it’s orchestral sounds and layered guitars. A bit more energy is present in this song as the riffs are busier and the drums more complex, even featuring some blasting under the guitar solo, but, overall, the vibe of the song is still an unrelenting, inevitable grind towards the finish. “Darkest of My Days” closes the EP as another down-tempo bruiser with an inevitable drive.
All the songs on Leaves of Winter have a melancholic air about them. Beautiful yet bleak. It’s a great sonic setting with which to ruminate on winter landscapes and their sublimity. I’m interested to hear more from Winterleaf and will definitely be checking out EphemeraL.
no sky can blind us – this is not for you
Released April 2, 2021
Avante-garde/experimental from Califonia
this is not for you is the debut record for one person experimental project no sky can blind us. Released on April 2nd, the record is conceived as one 34-minute song that deals with themes of mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, and the chaotic internal struggle that many with the condition feel. Erick Bieger, singer and songwriter for the genre bending indie band West of House, is the creative force behind no sky can blind us and has delivered quite a mesmerizing, thought-provoking piece of music. Bieger instructs the listener about how to experience the piece:
This album was specifically intended to be listened to in one sitting through higher end headphones in a dark room. It is meant to be experienced. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be enjoyed.
Now I must apologize to Erick because I haven’t done this but I have imagined the effect of doing so and I do believe it quite the experience. this is not for you is a sonic tapestry full of mesmerizing and hypnotizing musical textures. Oscillating from aggressive, grinding guitars banging out an incessant rhythm to ambient electronic moments, this piece of music has a range of captivating passages.
My favorite movement from the piece starts around 13:15 and is a totally a capella movement featuring only Beiger’s voice. He layers voice upon voice upon voice that just totally envelops you in the texture. I’m listening to it as I write and it’s much more compelling than continuing to type this senten
MoonBurial – The Cosmic Menace
Released January 8, 2021
Death metal from Cleveland, Ohio
Lastly, we have an absolutely filthy death metal band out of Cleveland, Ohio. Now unfortunately this group has decided to part ways and focus on other projects but they gave us one last sonic offering in their EP The Cosmic Menace, which was released on January 8. I’m bummed about it but what could be more Z-List than a defunct band? Bands are breaking apart and forming all the time and even though MoonBurial will no longer put out music it’s still worth celebrating the unique artistic output of these humans during their time together and learning about their other projects to support and sustain the underground music community. They still deserve recognition and love and who knows, maybe if we all buy the EP they’ll get the band back together.
Anyway, let’s talk about this slab of blistering metal! Everything I love in a death metal record is present here, great riffs, crushing groove, and enough prog and melodic flourishs to keep me coming back for more. One device utilized across all four tracks of The Cosmic Menace is a brutal and abrupt rhythmic modulation from a fast, hectic riff into a super groovy riff with a heavy feel. Nothing gets my stink face out quicker than having my rhythmic expectations subverted to by punching me in the face with a super brutal riff.
I found MoonBurial by perusing the Free Bandcamp Wiki here at Noob Heavy (check it out, its a wonderful resource of “name your own price” releases on Bandcamp), and soon after I got my first stink face from this EP and decided to write for it in this column I learned it was their last release as a band. But honestly, that just makes me that much more excited to check out their other projects and if you like this record then you should too. Paradox Rift, Heroic Dose, and Prodigist Media are the bands and companies the members will now put their efforts into. We will celebrate the humans that make up the communities creating the bands and music we love in this space. We will relish in the fleeting beauty of the underground here. Thank you for reading The Z-List.