I Went to Psycho Las Vegas 2022 and All I Got Were Some Awesome T-Shirts (and Hopefully Not COVID)
Unlike last year’s Psycho Vegas, I actually made it to the 2022 edition in one piece. You can see my coverage in the November 2021 Decibel, but long story short: I ate shit in the airport on the way to the show and didn’t realize that I had fractured some ribs and jacked up my rotator cuff until I got there and got to spend some quality time in a Las Vegas emergency room. NOT RECOMMENDED. That experience set a low bar for me. I’m pleased to say that this year cleared that bar easily!
Psycho Vegas 2022 found the United States’s biggest metal festival (non-hair/death-specific) moved to its third location, the Resorts World Las Vegas complex. That move expanded the fest to six stages: two at the Dawghouse and Redtail bars, one in the “Rose Ballroom” (really just a big conference room), one at the Famous Foods food court, one at the Ayu Dayclub pool, and the Event Center main stage in a character-less perma-tent out in a parking lot. The pool stage didn’t open until sundown each evening – probably a good thing since it was still at least 90° after dark. That meant the bulk of each day was spent gambling that I wouldn’t get Covid in the indoor venues.
Day 1: Friday
Despite the lack of physical self-harm, I still had to burn Friday afternoon taking care of some hotel bullshit that nobody else cares about. That meant I didn’t get to watch any complete sets until Carcass in the Event Center at 5:30 PM. I’m told that the sound for the preceding act, Wolves in the Throne Room, completely sucked, but thankfully they dialed it in a little for Carcass so the sound only kinda sucked. The surgically precise death metallers did their usual thing, which is to say they fucking killed it. Mayhem followed, and while their robed garb and Attila Csihar’s maniacal stage presence indicated they were having a good time, the muted guitar feed meant that I cut out early and went to watch Escuela Grind at the pool. I’m glad I did. You can probably guess what kind of music they play (synthpop) but they got the small crowd whipped into a frenzy. Keep an eye on them.
Following that: Emperor, 15 years after their last US show and without the guy that committed the hate crime. You can’t argue with 75 minutes of stone-cold black metal anthems, and the hour-long set change (and probably Ihsahn’s perfectionism) meant that they sounded as clear as the welkin at dusk. The highlight of the day’s black metal offerings for sure. After that: collapsing on my bed for an hour. After that, Nuclear Assault, whose selections from their crossover classics made the pool look like it was filled with sharks during a feeding frenzy. Their singer pointed out that they didn’t know they’d be playing Psycho until a month before, but he had planned to be there anyway to watch Mercyful Fate on Sunday night – just like everybody else. Carpenter Brut closed out my night, but unfortunately their danceable darksynth got derailed by technical difficulties and I returned to my room to pass out partway through their delayed set.
Day 2: Saturday
After an overpriced breakfast, I started Saturday getting yelled at by Indian in the Rose Ballroom, an energizing beginning to be sure. Frozen Soul followed and delivered one of the fest’s highlight sets – their Texan death metal left me cold on record but they turned up the heat considerably live. Partway through their set, singer Chad Green gave a heartfelt speech about how he lost his younger brother Cory two weeks before and that playing for the enthusiastic crowd helped inspire him to go on, along with a plea to seek mental health help if you need it (GoFundMe for Cory’s funeral expenses here). A friend then dragged me to get tacos at a place across the street. Music festival pro tip: do not do that.
I took my destroyed stomach back to the Rose Ballroom to get destroyed by the otherworldly death metal of Blood Incantation. They kept the stage banter to a minimum, although at one point Paul Riedl quipped that their technical difficulties were due to being too close to the Luxor pyramid. Then the stage lights turned green and they ripped into the 18-minute epic “Awakening from the Dream... (Mirror of the Soul)” off modern masterpiece Hidden History of the Human Race. Blackwater Holylight wound up being the only act I caught in the Event Center that day due to the packed schedule, but their slow psych doom provided a nice recharge after the death metal. I watched a little of Litvrgy, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s shrieks just as impressive in person. By then the Dayclub had opened with a special treat. Apparently Psycho’s organizers flew out the legendary Abbath to perform – but not with his eponymous solo band. No, he was there with Bömbers, his long-running Motorhead tribute act. To his credit, he has his Lemmy impression perfected, even down to the grumbled stage banter. The maniac moshers in the pool appreciated the chance to splash around to some of the best rock ‘n’ roll songs ever written.
The first of the evening’s two impossible overlaps followed. I hoofed it to the Rose Ballroom to watch Tribulation, and every time I wanted to leave the children of the night queued up another vampire metal banger. I finally wrenched myself away from their dark embrace to head back to the pool for Gatecreeper and their groove-infested death metal. At one point, frontman Chase Mason announced that he wanted to see two things: a circle pit and somebody jump into the pool fully clothed. The willing crowd took him up on the former, while one brave soul bellyflopped into the water, battle jacket and all.
Here’s the fun thing about a music festival in a casino: other people are also in that casino. And the Redtail bar was literally across from Resorts World’s big hip nightclub, Kouk. Which meant that I got to watch a bunch of hip clubgoers waiting in line to grind against each other get blasted with grinding death metal by a band called Warthog. It’s the little things.
I skipped Suicidal Tendencies in the big tent to rest up for the evening’s second impossible choice. Boris brought their gong to the Rose Ballroom, focusing on their heavy rock hits for the first half of their performance before getting into the weirder experimental stuff. Unfortunately, I had to leave at that point to get into the at-capacity pool stage for At the Gates. Although they promised a full-album set of Slaughter of the Soul, they teased the audience by running through some recent singles first. Then, the backdrop changed and the riff that launched a thousand metalcore bands rang out. The entire audience shouting “GO!” at the start of the title track sent chills down my spine. A legendary performance of a legendary album by a legendary band: the perfect way to end the evening.
Day 3: Sunday
The final day started… Late. I chose to treat myself to the breakfast buffet at the restaurant downstairs from the Conrad Hotel where myself and a bunch of the bands were staying. I’ll be honest – I very rarely geek out over musicians. Like, it’s cool to ride in an elevator with Bill Steer, but I wasn’t going to bother him. I discovered that my coolheaded reserve did not extend to Boris, who were also enjoying brunch in the same restaurant. After completely, embarrassingly fanboying out at my table, I worked up the nerve to ask the coolest fucking band to ever blast blessed feedback from the heavens above for a photo. I realize I’m scum but it sure made a lot of people on Twitter jealous!
First up for the day: Portrayal of Guilt in the Rose Ballroom, whose raw metallic hardcore certainly shook me awake. Amenra’s punishingly slow death-doom in the Event Center then knocked me out again. Thankfully, Undeath woke me right back up. The knuckle-dragging New York death metal act’s singer, Alexander Jones, had some of the best stage banter of the entire weekend: “I have a five cent redemption ticket in my pocket, I’m not broke anymore!” “This next song is about how our hotel room smells right now, it’s called ‘Chained to a Reeking Rotting Body!’” “We’re Undeath, we have merch fucking somewhere.” Fellow Decibel scribe Andy O’Connor informed me that if I didn’t watch Fugitive next he’d have words with me. I’m glad I avoided his wrath: the Texan dirtbag death metal supergroup proved one of the highlights of the day, even with only an EP’s worth of filth. Witch Mountain followed on the same stage and brought the darkness from south of Salem (despite the tennis match visible on the giant television behind the blackout screen at the Dawghouse sports bar). The 25th anniversary show, featuring classic vocalist Uta Plotkin, cemented their status as one of the most exceptional unsung traditional doom bands in the biz.
I grabbed a quick, delicious bowl of pho and a chance to watch Mothership lay down the stoner thunder (and good-naturedly deal with technical difficulties) at Famous Foods before heading back to the Event Center to watch Paradise Lost’s first US show in a while. Unfortunately, delays meant their set got cut down to 45 minutes and they struggled with subpar sound for a lot of it. The band themselves were in peak form, with Nick Holmes’s gallows humor in full force and a setlist that ranged from classics like “Eternal” to modern classics like “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us.” Thankfully, the sound was perfect back at the Dawghouse for a wrecking ball of a performance from old-school mutant metallers Cirith Ungol – and I’m not just saying that because bassist Jarvis Leatherby asked me to. The packed crowd treated them like the metal gods they should be. Apparently I missed quite the clusterfuck at the Rose Ballroom during Drain’s set – the powers-that-be not only left the lights on but cut the set short when the crowd got too violent. Death Valley Girls were the opposite of violent – they had a literal dance pit going for their groovy psychedelic go-go. The crowd was sparse in the Dawghouse during their set, but for good reason: Mercyful Fate were about to perform their first show on US soil in 25 years.
The Event Center was packed full. Thankfully, they sorted out the technical issues. A backlit Baphomet, an upside down neon cross, a satanic altar – and the King himself. King Diamond, along with original guitarist Hank Sherman and some very qualified ringers, tore through a set of their diabolical greatest hits ranging from their very first song (“A Corpse without Soul”) to the still-in-progress “The Jackal of Salzburg.” In between, they hit all the big classics from their debut EP and first two records, closing with an epic take on “Satan’s Fall.” With multiple costume changes, an intense light show, and a vigorous performance from Diamond that rivaled any of the singers a third of his age, they did not disappoint. Nuclear Assault’s Danny Lilker rocked the fuck out next to me the entire time.
With that, I called it a night. How do you top that?
There are a lot of advantages to a festival inside a casino. Bathrooms. Air conditioning. Easy access to (overpriced) food/toiletries. Bathrooms. Easy to grab a nap back in your room. Places to sit not covered in dirt. BATHROOMS. Unfortunately, it felt like they were still working out some kinks – the festival was plagued with technical difficulties (especially in the Event Center), there were inconsistent security requirements to get into each venue, and this particular pool stage was too small to fit some of the acts they had booked in there. The venues were also flatter, making it harder to get varied sightlines. I think I still preferred the Mandalay Bay setup.
Still, you can’t argue with the variety or quality of acts offered at Psycho Vegas, and this was another killer lineup that more than made up for the bumps experienced last year when they couldn’t get any European acts over. Definitely worth checking out next year – just make sure you don’t trip at the airport and get a confirmation for your hotel room when you book it. Also, please wear a mask so we can keep having shows like this without them being a biohazard risk.
Keep scrolling for more photos from the festival.