Written by John Angel
Hello to all the wonderful, underground theydies and djentlethems! Today we’ve got a new edition 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-Lister band. Mainstream music journalists say liking this band is elitist?? Oh baby, that’s the most Z-List of all! Our Winter 2022 edition of The Z-List column features two fantastic Texas bands, a dissonant death metal couple from Vancouver, and a prog-y one-person outfit from St Petersburg. Let’s dive in!
Crown of Madness – The Void
Dissonant death metal from Vancouver, BC
Releases March 25
Countless spousal duos perform music together but very few do death metal. Crown of Madness are one such couple frolicking together in the fields of deathy riffs. Sunshine Schneider (guitars/vox) and Connor Gordon (drums) met in 2008 on World of Warcraft and bonded over a love of fantasy gaming and heavy fuckin’ metal. Both were in Vancouver-based symphonic tech death band Arboreal before starting work on The Void in earnest following the onset of the pandemic. Crown of Madness deliver a beautifully haunting form of dissonant death metal that leaves you teary-eyed at certain moments before dropping a gnarly riff of mosh-inducing goodness on you right after. Schneider’s guitar work is complex and technical yet restrained enough to let an atmospheric beauty shine through in the music. Gordon’s drumming perfectly matches the aesthetic lead of Schneider and complements the overall vibe with tasteful complexity. The EP features guest performances on vocals by Kaija Krimson and piano by Claine Lamb (who should maybe go ahead and make a husband/wife project with her spouse Dean Lamb of Archspire) I also want to point out that the happy couple recorded, produced, and mixed the album themselves which definitely endears them to my Z-Lister heart! If you like dissonant death metal then do yourself a favor and give The Void by Crown of Madness a spin. If you also like cute couples stories then even more reason to give a listen!
BALLISTA – BALLISTA TERRITORY
Death metal/hardcore from Dallas, TX
Released February 15
Our last entry features the blending of death metal and hardcore that seems to happen at an ever quickening pace these days. BALLISTA and their new record BALLISTA TERRITORY are an excellent example of the merger of these two styles. Vicious riffing mixed with grooving breakdowns is the sure fire way to get my blood pumping. BALLISTA delivers on this mixture with aplomb and draws on many different subgeneric tendencies. They’ve got dissonant death metal riffs, some slower, sludgy numbers, and even some moments that would make a tech death fan blush. As the Macho Man Randy Savage so eloquently put it, “the cream always rises to the top”, and BALLISTA have made their case as the cream of the crop in the vast expanse of Texas death metal.
Egor Lappo – Naturealism
Prog rock/metal from St Petersburg, Russia
Releases April 8th
Egor Lappo is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and producer based in St Petersburg who is on his 4th LP with his latest release Naturealism. Making bright and upbeat prog rock/metal records, Lappo takes his inspiration from the lighter side of the prog world. His arrangements are filled out with detailed synth parts and driving guitars that lay down a dark, tasty riff when needed. Add some perfectly complementary drum arrangements makes for an excellent backdrop to Lappo’s catchy, pop-inflected vocal melodies. Varied textures abound on this record as the talented Russian moves between bright, prog rock anthems, softer, synth driven ballads, and moments of heavy riffing that will get any battle-jacket clad ‘head standing at the back of the venue with their arms crossed nodding along to the beat. Naturealism sees lyrical exploration of Lappo’s fears and phobias, making for a deeply personal and introspective album. And of course I admire the diy ethos exhibited here through Lappo taking on writing, recording, mixing, and mastering of this ambitious and well-written record with just a little help from his friends on guest spots. Definitely check out Naturealism and Lappo’s earlier work if you dig that bright prog sound!
Enhalo – The Great Dying
Instrumental prog death metal from Dallas, TX
Releasing April 8th
So much quality death metal is coming out of Texas these days. Is there something in the water? Probably it’s that the state is the size of France and has lots of cheap land where one can outfit a practice space easily. Nevertheless, Enhalo is another fine example of quality Texas death metal. The Great Dying, their debut record, showcases a prog-forward brand of death metal that comes with lush string section meanderings, rhythmically disjunct sections featuring oddball phrasing, and, of course, some sweet fuckin riffs. Nick Nicoletti, the musical brain behind Enhalo, has an interesting voice in his guitar solos; his phrasing slips and slides over the angular rhythms he has supporting him and he’s not shy about laying down some shred. Nicoletti is joined on the album by Rashaan Lacey who is credited with mixing, bass, production, and additional guitar duty. The arrangements the duo have produced are fantastically creative however the mix could use some more polish. But y’all know I love the DIY spirit of taking on the mixing within the band and y’all know that just makes my Z-Lister heart burst with pride! If you’re a fan of extreme instrumental music with some delightful intricacy then you need to check out The Great Dying by Enhalo!