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Toked Up: Seven Essential Bands Playing Psycho Smokeout 4/20 in Los Angeles

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Psycho Las Vegas, America’s haziest and most sweltering metal gathering (our 2018 coverage), has grown continuously larger and more elaborate with each passing year. Psycho Entertainment, the team that annually presents the festival, seems to be exceptionally well attuned to its fanbase, striking an impeccable balance between eclectic lineups and the gleeful aesthetic of psychedelic hedonism. Taking this sense of intimate familiarity with their audience to even higher levels of involvement, this year marks the first-ever expansion of Psycho’s mind-altering cultural phenomenon to the choicest date in April: the aptly titled Psycho Smokeout 420 in Los Angeles (tickets).

Conceived in partnership with stoner/doom/heavy-psych label RidingEasy Records, the inaugural Smokeout will see Psycho return to its original home of southern California (where the event was originally held before its move to Las Vegas) and will be hosted at multi-room venue Catch One in LA’s Mid-City neighborhood from noon to midnight on Saturday, April 20th.

Though the fest is rooted musically in the low-and-slow sensibilities of doom, stoner, and sludge metal, its relatively succinct lineup incorporates a diverse range of styles from metal and beyond, with tinges of black metal, prog, vintage 1970s classic rock, and even afrobeat rhythms. Despite this seemingly miscellaneous arrangement, one central commonality among all of these groups is their trance-inducing, luxuriously psychedelic texture, each having crafted a sound that will appeal to the cosmic explorer within all of us. Every group present will undoubtedly conjure up a psychoactive atmosphere, with each utilizing various different techniques and methods to achieve this.

Dangling enticingly just over the horizon for months now, Psycho Smokeout 420 has garnered increasing levels of buzz and hype among many corners of the metal community since its announcement last year. Now less than four weeks away, this glorious lineup will soon descend upon our unworthy human skulls — representing major highlights from across Smokeout’s inclusive spectrum, the following seven bands showcase some of the many delectable flavors that will be served at this crushingly fuzzy banquet.

psycho smokeout

Belzebong

Devoted fans of stoner doom were undoubtedly thrilled when Psycho announced the return of one of the genre’s most internationally renowned entities. Hailing from Kielce, Poland, this group stands as one of Europe’s heaviest, most cannabis-infused stoner outfits, each of their albums chock full of demonic riffs and bong-worshipping breakdowns. Undeniably straightforward yet inimitably consistent, Belzebong is one of the world’s most faithful disciples of Sleep’s weedian creed, though they have successfully pioneered their own niche within a niche by moving beyond derivative imitations of their influences into their own distinctively epic realm of stoned glory.

Amenra

Fresh off an expansive north American tour in support of Yob, Psycho veterans Amenra are now deeply entrenched within the tour cycle of their latest full-length Mass VI. Formed in Kortrijk, Belgium in 1999, Amenra is one of post-metal’s longest running and most innovative outfits. With their uncanny combination of post-hardcore, sludge, and doom metal having now reached their most extreme levels of potency and soul-wrenching heft, they are poised to ensnare those present at the Smokeout within their enthralling sonic catharsis.

Bonus: Check out our interview with Amenra frontman Colin H. van Eckhout from last year.

Uada

A relatively young group from Portland, Uada eschews the melancholic environmental themes of their PNW contemporaries to instead focus on a pummeling, riff-driven, death-infused brand of black metal. Making their Psycho debut last year in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s Vinyl stage, Uada’s atmospherically immersive live performance attracted one of the most packed, fully enraptured audiences of the entire weekend. Standing as the only fowardly black metal group of the Smokeout, their set will surely once again draw one of the gathering’s largest crowds.

Bonus: Check out our premiere write-up from last year’s release of Cult of a Dying Sun.

Dreadnought

Though much of their sound is rooted in doom metal, Dreadnought’s progressive approach and eclectic aesthetic range give their material a fascinating sense of whimsical novelty. Incorporating blackened riffs, folksy post-metal stoicism, and unconventional instrumentation featuring piano, saxophone, and flute, Dreadnought defies convention in all categories, with a sound tied together by frontwoman Kelly Schilling’s haunting vocals which fluctuate between gentle melodic cleans and a harrowing shriek. After stunning audiences with the intrepid longform compositions of their 2017 full-length A Wake in Sacred Waves, the group is now set to follow-up with their fourth full-length Emergence, dropping May 10th.

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Here Lies Man

A jazzy, upbeat, and utterly weird musical entity, Here Lies Man combines elements of afrobeat, psychedelia, art rock, and stoner metal into a lavish and incredibly wavy textural concoction. Arguably the most unique group of the entire Smokeout, the outfit took incredible strides forward into their uniquely bizarre territory with their second full-length You Will Know Nothing released last year. Bursting with funky grooves and infectiously danceable percussion, Here Lies Man will inevitably have every individual within the walls of Catch One grooving to their viral rhythms.

CHRCH

With their sizzlingly ethereal brand of doom metal, CHRCH will be one of the darkest, heaviest bands to appear at Catch One this 4/20. Formed in Sacramento in 2013, their uniquely conceived brand of metal is defined by droning, contemplative riffs and gorgeously forlorn melodies from vocalist Eva Rose. CHRCH’s set will undoubtedly include performances of material from Light Will Consume Us All, their latest venture into vats of deeply psychological contemplation and anguish, with compositions as long as 20 minutes.

Toke

Who better to round out the Smokeout’s chief-tastic lineup than North Carolina’s sludgy marijuana enthusiasts Toke? With their crunchy, thunderous, white-knuckled stoner riffs and molten, utterly righteous solos, Toke is the quintessential ganja-themed band. Their set at Psycho’s Thursday Pool Party last August was one of the most captivating of the entire weekend, as the group kicked the festival into gear festival with unrivaled aplomb. Their appearance at the Smokeout will be one of many dates on their seemingly endless tour schedule, with dates across the US coming up this spring.

Bonus: Check out our interview with CHRCH guitarist Chris Lemos.

From crushing stoner doom to virtuosic prog to frostbitten blackened majesty and everything in between, the first annual Psycho Smokeout is set to be a hazy, mind-bending trip into the unfathomable void for all true weedians across the land. Follow the event on Facebook. Additional details here.

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