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Psycho Las Vegas is Absolutely Stacked This Weekend, and We’ll Be There

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Arriving now in the hazy, sweltering dog days of mid-August, we stand at the precipice of one of the holiest of holy ceremonies in the weedian tradition: lovers of stoner metal, doom, sludge and all things psychedelic will gather in the hedonistic sands of Sin City for the fourth annual Psycho Las Vegas, a festival that grows stranger and more expansive with each passing year. We’ll be there on the ground to cover it all.

Preceded on April 20th by the inaugural Psycho Smokeout, a stoner doom-centric event held in the festivals’ ancestral home of Los Angeles, the full version has expanded far beyond the restrictions of size and genre under which it had operated in the past. Ever steadfast in their commitment to unpredictability, Psycho Entertainment have moved the gathering from its 2016 to 2018 location at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (now Virgin Resort and Casino) to the luxuriously massive Mandalay Bay, stacking this year’s lineup with enough bizarre and eclectic twists and turns to entice enthusiasts of extreme metal, rock, punk, and beyond.

Psycho Las Vegas 2019 has not only expanded itself in scope, but also in the diligence with which it has picked its artists: from the headliners to up-and-coming acts to random picks from genres only peripherally similar to metal, each selection seems to mesh perfectly together into one kaleidoscopic and Dadaist mural of musical styles and sounds.

With the goal of helping you navigate Psycho Las Vegas 2019’s labyrinthian lineup, this breakdown highlights three categories of acts present at this weekend’s festival that you should strongly consider checking out: 1) the can’t miss legends, 2) the outstanding newcomers, and 3) the stylistic outliers.

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The Can’t-Miss Legends

Triumph of Death

The newly resurrected incarnation of the short-lived, mythically iconic first-wave black metal group Hellhammer, Triumph of Death is a brand-new entity formed earlier this year by the latter’s original frontman Thomas Gabriel Fischer, also of Celctic Frost and Triptykon renown. Intended as an outlet for live performances of Hellhammer’s original material, Triumph of Death’s members were assembled from a group of Fischer’s close friends as to emulate his first project’s final lineup. In Fischer’s own words, “Hellhammer will never return and will never be reformed. It is absolutely impossible to reform a band so closely linked to a very specific and unique period in time. I never considered it, no matter how substantial the offers that were pitched to me over the years. But Hellhammer’s music exists, and it is an extremely important part of my life’s path. And I would like to play it onstage before my demise.”
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Opeth
One of progressive metal’s most enduring and indefinable acts, Swedish prog-death juggernaut Opeth, helmed by the legendary Mikael Åkerfeldt, will undoubtedly serve up one of the most passionate and musically diverse sets of the weekend. As an individual who holds Opeth very near to my heart, I cannot recommend their live performance earnestly enough; whether you prefer the blackened, contrapuntal compositions of their 1990s records, their Steven Wilson-produced gothically tinged middle era, or the throwback prog-rock stylings of their post-Heritage years, Opeth will include something for you in their set. With an immense 12-album discography spanning 25 years (and a 13th coming out next month), Opeth never cease to enthrall audiences with deep cuts and surprise picks from across their repertoire.
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The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

Predating The Misfits (the second-oldest band on the lineup) by an entire decade, psych-rock pioneer Arthur Brown first assembled his Crazy World back in 1967. The outfit then released their only chart-topping radio hit “Fire” one year later and soon faded into obscurity, despite the extremely groovy and forward-thinking material on their debut record. However, thanks to an incredibly persistent cult-following, the group made their return in 2000 and have since toured in support of their old material and new albums alike. Clad in satanic, circuslike costumes and body paint, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown display a decidedly 1960s sense of psychedelic creativity, and put on a timelessly entertaining performance with a vintage yet bizarre sound. This year marks Arthur Brown’s second appearance at the festival, having made his Psycho debut in 2017 as a main headliner.
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The Outstanding Newcomers

Tomb Mold

In the remarkably short span of two years, old-school death metallers Tomb Mold have grown from a well-respected underground act into one of the most daunting and awe-inspiring forces in the modern metal arena. The posterboys of 20 Buck Spin’s old-school revival, their sophomore record Manor of Infinite Forms was consistently mentioned among 2018’s top releases as a near-perfect blend of ethereal Lovecraftian horror and twisted, 1990s-inspired gore and grime. Arriving straight off a tour supporting their latest album Planetary Clairvoyance, Tomb Mold’s set will be one of the most filthy yet technical slabs of death metal obliteration at Psycho Las Vegas this year, a can’t-miss set for fans of the most extreme.

Bonus: check out our full review of Planetary Clairvoyance.
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Dvne

A group displaying the daring tendencies of both stoner/sludge riffs and dazzling progressive compositional structures, Scottish outfit Dvne have drawn comparisons to acts such as Mastodon and Elder, though they create material infused with their own special sound. With a thematic focus on the ari landscapes conjured up in the work of Frank Herbert, the Las Vegas strip is the perfect setting in which to experience their intrepid interstellar sonic quest. In an incredible stroke of luck, Dvne has been scheduled to play the same stage as Tomb Mold in the slot immediately after, so stick around the House of Blues early Saturday afternoon to catch some of the weekend’s best sets back to back.
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Power Trip

Considered by many to be the sole worthy torchbearers of modern thrash, Dallas heshers Power Trip left a formidable impression on the underground metal world with their second full-length record Nightmare Logic last year. Unforgiving and razor-sharp riffage along with wonderfully pissed-off 1980s style vocals help define the band as potent proof that the classic marriage between hardcore and speed meta functions well. With their hardcore-influenced crossover thrash approach, the group will present one of the weekend’s speediest and most physically participatory live experiences, so bring your sweatbands. The only disappointing aspect of Power Trip’s set is that it occurs during the exact same time slot as Opeth. If you are willing to hop between sets, I venerate you. If not, this difficult decision must be made by you alone. Choose wisely.
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Stylistic Outliers

Mogwai

One of post-rock’s original acts, Scottish outfit Mogwai formed in 1995 just as their genre began to establish itself as a distinct style. From there, the band began to build an incredibly committed following thanks to their entrancingly sprawling compositions and organic, fluid soundscapes. Allowing themselves room to experiment and improvise in a live setting, their hypnotic stage presence can be a remarkably cathartic experience as massive orchestral passages swell into warbling walls of effects-driven guitar tone. Their set will undoubtedly provide the Psycho Las Vegas audience with the opportunity to reflect and meditate on the immensity of our shared reality, offering an interpretation of heaviness that is radically alternative to metal’s approach.

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Beach House

Hailing from Baltimore, this ambient, synth-based dream pop duo create downtempo, spaced-out compositions that unfold florally within their highly stylized live presentations. Equipped with a massive arsenal of keyboards, drum machines, and digital synthesizers, Beach House bathe the audience in a wonderfully mellow yet somber aural bath of melting fluid tones. The duo will provide one of the weekend’s most relaxing sets, providing the necessary ballast to counter the higher volume of extreme metal on this year’s bill.

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Perturbator

With an extensive background in several different black metal bands, French musician James Kent has achieved a marked shift in style with his dark industrial synth project Perturbator, first started in 2012. Having achieved considerable acclaim with his soundtrack for indie PC game Hotline Miami, Perturbator will fill the pop culture-relevant synthwave niche this year at Psycho, a niche filled last year by Stranger Things composers SURVIVE. Let’s cross our fingers that Kent won’t encounter the insane technological difficulties endured by SURVIVE last year, which delayed their set by almost 30 minutes.

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Sadly, Oranssi Pazuzu had to drop off due to visa issues, but Sumac have taken their place on the lineup that also includes another Aaron Turner band, Old Man Gloom. As of this writing, no word on who will be replacing Rotting Christ who also ran into visa issues.

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