Day two of Pyscho Vegas upped the ante (pun intended) in every way imaginable. Today’s roster of talent represented a cross section of nearly every modern formulation of heavy music. The bombast, the horror and the technical were all on display in rare form. Those aching for the glory days of metal’s popular roots (the early ‘80s) were well represented here, but the darker, more sinister offshoots of metal were on display in stunning form.
The jaw-dropping performance of the weekend came by way of Myrkur’s early afternoon performance. The alter ego of Danish singer/musician Amalie Bruun (we knew first as lead singer of indie pop band Ex Cops), Myrkur came on the scene quietly two years ago and has already amassed a considerable following. Here, Myrkur arrived to the stage in almost total darkness. Flanked on both sides by cloaked musicians, she sang in angelic tones on opener “Mareridt” while holding fistfuls of twigs in both hands. Like an elf arriving from a mythological forest, her serene vocals belied beauty rather than the intense darkness mere moments away. “The Serpent” shifted to full black metal fury. As each song unwound, Myrkur would deftly shift from nimble operatic vocals to shrill black metal screams. “Onde Børn,” “Jeg er Guden” and “Mordet” continue this method, with Myrkur occasionally adding extra guitars. While detractors might consider this an offshoot of pagan metal, there’s something really magical with what she’s created here. Some European metal bands will dabble in beautiful passages with female singers, but it’s really rarely more than a taste, or worse yet, while technically there, the singers never really possess the chops to make it stunning. Myrkur has both varieties—beautiful singing and fierce brutality—on a master’s level of skill. It’s hard to believe a frightful howl could come out of a charming statuesque blonde, but there it is. When the songs shift to the non-pummeling moments it’s truly awe-inspiring to hear Myrkur’s vocals sail out over the mix. Here without a small group of back-up singers she typically performs with, she ended alone on piano covering Bathory’s “Song to Hall Up High.” She’s fearless and brilliant, Myrkur without a doubt will be a giant in the world of heavy music in three year’s time.
English giants of extreme metal Carcass also did well on the main stage at The Joint. There was a palpable energy on display as many longtime metal fans evidently boast a connection to some portion of Carcass’ catalog. Lead singer/bassist Jeff Walker brought the crowd to rage and roar on “Buried Dreams” as guitarists Bill Steer and Ben Ash alternated between intricate solos and monstrous riffs. “Unfit for Human Consumption,” “Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System” and “Captive Bolt Pistol” followed, never relenting on the intro’s furious energy. For those metal fans that crave raw power, this might have been the best representative face of it here at the festival. Their delivery is polished and near flawless, commanding energy and outrage all at once.
Celeste, a French metal band, had a late-evening set at the Vinyl stage. Playing a forceful blend of hardcore and black metal, the group’s main gimmick is performing completely in darkness except for tiny hiking headlamps they wear. The effect produces a show where it’s hard to tell what you’re seeing, save for four ominous red lights jerking to and fro.
Legendary former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley was also on hand, giving a fun-loving set of hard rock at The Joint stage. While displaying his renknowned skill on guitar, his group of players helped him cover Kiss staples “Parasite” and “Love Gun.” “Space Ace” as Kiss fans know him, played everything loose with a massive smile on his face. Included here was also “Rip It Out” and his cover of “New York Groove” from his famous 1978 Ace Frehley solo album.
Earthless provided what one could call a typically brilliant showing in the early evening. For the uninitiated, they are a solely instrumental band. The group’s trio Isaiah Mitchell (guitar), Mike Eginton (bass) and Mario Rubalcaba (drums) play in elongated segments. There really isn’t neither any stage banter, nor a sung word to be heard. Just massive, undulating shifts, where technicality and cohesion are all that matters. This set played as basically two long jams, each one an eye-opening and ever-befuddling game of “how more intense can it get” where Rubalcaba kept a frenetic tempo while Mitchell constantly peppered the mix to more frantic heights. This may be metal’s first true “jam metal” band, as while it’s entirely possible their performance was culled from one of their four albums, it’s also entirely possible this was genius musicianship entirely improvised on the fly.
Gojira boasted a giant crowd for their late-evening set as well. Opening with “Only Pain,” the band was the first of the weekend to use a degree of pyro, having four smoke cannons that would shoot out steams of air on tempo. Lead singer/guitarist Joe Duplantier guided the band with precision through “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe,” “Silvera” and “Stranded.” The band wisely has invested a bit in their own lighting array. It’s not over the top, or a massive EDM-style spectacle by any means, but it really goes a long way to make the band look larger than life. On “Flying Whales,” (and let’s face it every other song played here) the acclaim of drummer Mario Duplantier’s skill is proven to be well earned. His level of skill is immediately apparent and scarcely any song happens that doesn’t feature insane fills and tricks.
Inter Arma had an outstanding showing at the Pool Stage outside. Beginning with a standard onslaught of death metal wickedness, the band deceptively changed gears numerous times. At one point they allowed for a clean, sedate breakdown, later finding a triumphant series of interlocking guitar solos. It was a mega song on par with the greatest moments of hardcore band Fucked Up’s catalog. Also supremely fun, the group actually made solid use of one member on theremin. Yup, there was real theremin blasting spooky tones to accompany most segments of this composition.
Labels will fail you when describing Neurosis. While definitively of the doom-y variety of metal, these men play as if possessed by demons. Seven songs were played, but based on their delivery and scope, you’ll feel as if you’ve gone through something as large in scale as the entirety of the Arabian Nights. It’s a sage writ large in ominous tones. Openers “Lost” and “A Shadow Memory” crawl and wind, rather than build and explode. Their power sneaks up on you until either Scott Kelly or Steve Von Till’s vocals stab out and fill you with utter dread. “Locust Star” and “Fire is the End Lesson” continue this methodology as keyboardist Noah Landis sprinkles in samples and other effects. The set ended with “Bending Light” and “The Doorway,” and their culmination was one of shocking rage. Hearing Neurosis live under a good sound system is almost like experiencing the soundtrack to your own nightmares. No one would accuse the members of truly being of sinister intent or actions in real life, but the music they create speaks to the darkest of the dark in our world authentically. It’s a musical hallmark of that moment you found yourself alone on a street where you’re lost and fear for every shadow and sound, even the brief moments of silence are unwelcome.
King Diamond wrapped up a long day of excellence. King comes from the splinter of horror-filled metal famous from the early to mid ‘80s. Never seen without trademark face paint and top hat, here he was flanked by an impressive stage set up. Two vaulted staircases led to a raised platform where two gargoyle statues were placed. King sang with a custom microphone melded on top of a bone of some type. Those familiar with King Diamond know very much what to expect on a set like this, but for those that don’t, he might be one of the few credible singers that often sings with an operatic ‘80s hair metal wail. It’s never off key or cheese-y, how you feel about him largely depends on how you feel about his style of vocals. If there are any fans out there not enamored with his particular style, you wouldn’t know it from seeing the crowd for this set. Legions of fans banged fists along maniacally to ever twist and turn (and every Andy LaRocque guitar lick). Along with other cuts spanning his long career, King Diamond played the entirety of his landmark concept album, Abigail. In the execution of this he also utilized a small company of players (interpretative female dancers and henchmen in cloaks) along with a small array of props. What is super appreciated is King Diamond is a professional, eager to incite the crowd to excitement and unafraid to take extra steps to make the spectacle all the more memorable.