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  • LJ DeWitt

50 States of Unsigned Metal: Pt. 1

Over the years, no one has treated us with more kindness, hospitality, and gratitude than unsigned bands. It’s high time we pay it forward with a grand gesture—And trust, wrangling 50 bands together is no easy feat. From vixens to Vikings, doom to death, and hair to hellions, we present our tour de metal of the United States.

Part 1, that is. If you don’t mind spoilers for Part 2 and 3, check out our accompanying Spotify Playlist.



One of the youngest and most mysterious bands on our list, A Fatal Black made their debut at the beginning of the year. A Fatal Black presents a haunting visage of horrifying, vengeful, and lovelorn lyrics, paired with the finest of metalcore breakdowns. Though I try not to typecast scenes, in this list or in general, I certainly wasn’t expecting to find a band like this out of Alabama. Of course, I doubt a band with this much polish will stay ‘locals’ for very long.



While our list includes a few symphonic acts, the Volfgang Twins occupy a spot as the only dedicated Viking act. Perhaps 'act' isn’t the best word for it, as it’s clear the enigmatic majesty and fidelity of the old world follows the twins well beyond the stage. The Volfgang Twins possess some of the highest numbers of any artist on our list, and I’d bargain that being isolated in Alaska is the only thing that’s prevented them from being signed, though operating out of the northern most point of a literal tundra certainly lends itself to their authenticity.



Though Zherra came about in 2017, their sound and aesthetic take me back to a time about 5-10 years before then—A chaotic time in metal when the post-grunge explosion was dying down, hair metal was hitting a renaissance, and social media was far less refined, resulting in an explosion of homegrown thrash bands with a glam look. A new hybrid thrash-glam sound was born, combining the two genres' signatures of relentlessness and slutiness, respectfully. There was something so fun and euphoric about rocking out live to these bands, which is probably why Zherra has made a name for themselves as one of Phoenix’s premier live acts.



There was a comment under one of their music videos that simply said “intros that instigate knees going through ribs” and I couldn’t have described it better myself. You just know a Heldtight pit goes hard, and when you have to limp into work the next day, you’ll be happily telling your coworkers, “so worth it, though.” Heldtight embodies the pure catharsis and unseriousness at the heart of hardcore, all while delivering raw and abrasive aggression.



Beautifully violent and vibrantly scored, One Of Us breathes a breath of fresh air into a subgenre that’s grown stagnant. In all her great expanse of creatives, California could have a whole list to herself, but I’m happy to give it to our dearly talented friends; One Of Us hit the ground running when they debuted in January, and they haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. If you’re the type that likes to say you knew a band before they blew up, hop on these guys before it's too late.



The term ‘female rage’ was invented for the likes of the Blood of Lilith ladies. An all female metal band, they spare no regard for pageantry or delicacy in their pursuit to destroy the gender divide in metal. They couldn’t have picked a better name either, as their sound perfectly embodies a modern day Lilith’s fury and feverish lust for female liberation. Their liberation comes in the form of crass thrash and filthy freedom.



Dialith pushes the boundaries of symphonic metal’s wayward nature, going beyond the genre’s typical Nordic and Tolkien scope to explore a more worldly sound. From the sands of the Middle East to the Siberian icescapes, they take listeners on a journey, fraught with orchestral adventure. It feels like a disservice to reduce them down to little old Danbury, Connecticut, but every epic has its humble beginnings—And trust Dialith is just getting started.



Another band with another terribly appropriate name. Somewhere between the ashes of emo infused metalcore and the vanity of 80s hair metal, you’ll find Ashes To Vanity. Plenty of bands like to say they’re genreless/genre-fluid/what-have-you, then put out ten songs that sound exactly the same, but that is not Ashes To Vanity. This band absolutely all over the map and they make it work. From existential screamo to a doo-wop-y love song, and every grungy grind and hairspray coated lick in between, there really is no pinning them down.



Brutally apocalyptic and down right gruesome, Nailwound is a band with a clearly realized idea of who they are. Unabashedly bastardly, they bring the hate and they do it damn well. With mixes cleaner than a lot of the big fish in the pond these days, it’s almost offensive these guys aren’t massive yet. And, of course, per metal tradition, the more disturbing and brutal the music, the more delightful the members are to work with.



Crawling from the depths of Hell and straight into your beds, I present the demonic degenerates of Fatal Attraction. Though a fairly new band in name, their lineup consists of several well-established Georgian ghouls who’ve banded together in the name of death metal and debauchery. For lovers of leather, rituals, and sacrifice, I invite you to fall victim to these young vampires’ trance. 



The beaches of Honolulu is probably the last place you’d think to look for a hardcore band, but trust that where there is an outlet to plug an amp into, there will be a hardcore band. With that said, the boys in Drop Shot are far from a novelty. Harkening back to the early era of their genre, Drop Shot captures hardcore at its rawest—I mean, the kind of band you swore you saw their logo in the back of zine in the 90s. Through a mix of old school and modern experimentation, they create a uniquely abstract identify for themselves.



To award a single band as the “heaviest” on this list is a difficult and frankly subjective call, but man, the boys in Barn don’t stop for a single breath. Despite all their ridiculous talent and technicality, they don’t take themselves too seriously. They are genuine in who they are and how they play—And they damn well know how to play. (Of course, if you live in Boise, there probably isn’t a whole lot to distract you from getting really good at guitar, but I digress.) If you’d like a technical spectacle of death metal majesty, seek out Idaho’s best, Barn. 



Named from a local cemetery, the beautifully haunted Bachelor’s Grove weaves tales of death and misery, invoking imagery of restless spirits and stammering undead corpses. Dressed as if they just rose from their own graves, they deliver a wild and enchanting live show as well. For all the shock rockers and goth metal bands I’ve seen in my day, none take to the stage quite like Bachelor’s Grove. Their alluring, ghostly ballads completely consume a room, ensnaring their listeners into an otherworldly limbo.



If you heard Coldstate on the radio without any context, it'd be damn hard to believe they were just some smalltime band from Kentucky. Honestly, they need to break out of their scene simply because they’re raising the bar way too high for bands of their size. A poetic mastery of metalcore, Coldstate mesmerizes with melodic journeys through personal strife and honesty; To hear Coldstate is to walk through a lucid dream of self realization, heartache, and human evolution.



Theatrical shock at its campiest and spookiest—Let’s just say it’s very fitting that this band has an Alice Cooper cover in their discography. Both on and off stage, Grave Corps are a Hell of a good time. Their live shows are so magnetic and ridiculous and down right fun, it can be easy to overlook how technical and seasoned these folks really are. Grave Corps has served as a blood-soaked pillar of the Des Moines scene for well over a decade now, but should they ever seek out other cities, they’d leave an undeniable mark.



While I’ve categorized Horned Wolf as ‘stoner doom sludge’ for the sake of having some doom representation on this list, in truth they move in and out of several subgenres. “Experimental, unconventional, and intense” by their own words, their beastly ballads, guttural sludgy screams, and groggy chugs are but a cryptid in the making. One listen of this band and you’d understand if they one day disappeared into the forest to terrorize the occasional hunter.


all photos associated with this article and their respective credits were provided by the artists.

photo credits - A Fatal Black: Ray McClure, Volfgang Twins: Harp Twins, Zherra: Michael Quintana, Heldtight: bc_media479, One Of Us: blackatlantic, Blood Of Lilith: Maggie Flex, Ashes To Vanity: Zakki Blakk, Nailwound: Toddi Babu, Fatal Attraction: Kat Sjogren, Drop Shot: bretfromhi, Coldstate: (editor) Ty Treyhern, Horned Wolf: Harrison Brent


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