After the crushing disappointment of Witchcraft’s failure to arrive for their headlining slot Friday, Day Two of Psycho Vegas doubled down on the more eclectic sides of heavy music. Just about every corner of what can be considered on the metal music map was represented here. And in an unusual twist for any music festival—not just this one—one of the first band’s of the day appeared to have the largest attendance of any band on the day. That’s right, a mask-wearing troupe of Polish shredders named Batushka had a line wrapping around the Hard Rock Hotel before the main stage was even opened.
Thus far (much like Ghost when they first started) the identities of the eight performers in Batushka are unknown to the public. Set to look like monsters decked out in ancient period Eastern Orthodox priests, this set was as enrapturing as it was curious. There were no statements or “thank you” moments to the crowd. The group’s lead singer, a massive man covered in an even more massive cloak came towards center stage swinging a smoke-emitting censer. He took his place behind an ominous alter adorned with skulls, hard-to-decipher paintings and candles. Flanked on one side by a guitarist and on the other by a choir of three chanting singers, this was a bizarre and attention-capturing confection, as much church-like throat chant as it was lightning-speed, blast-beat black metal. Whether this was meant as a critique of religion or merely a smart use of the religious imagery is hard to say. Though one thing is for certain, it’s likely the illusory characters of the band and the abstraction of it all will likely draw in legions of fans (like Ghost or in pop circles Gorillaz), as any abstraction always invites more space for the imagination to fill in the void.
Doom metal supergroup With the Dead came later at The Joint. Unfortunately, the group’s members Lee Dorian, Leo Smee and Alex Thomas had to play as a trio as main guitarist Tim Bagshaw was not able to attend. It was not clarified why Bagshaw did not make the performance, but With the Dead get an A+ for effort for soldiering on and finding a way to modify their sound using the players available for them. Instead of guitars, bassist Leo Smee played bass alone alternating a regular bass sound and processing through a separate stack with bass distortion. Bass, drums and vocals were all With the Dead used, and somehow, it still managed to trudge and stomp, filling the room with a thick, grungy sound. For their finale, Scott Carlson joined the band for a cover of Cathedral’s “Ebony Tears.”
Boston, Massachusetts’ hardcore, five-piece All Pigs Must Die played a late afternoon set at the Vinyl stage. With a packed crowd in the smaller of the three venues at this festival, the group’s singer led the band with ringmaster-like energy, shrieking and growling through furiously fast numbers. This is the place where the lines between hardcore and death metal blur considerably and explains All Pigs Must Die’s appeal amidst metal fans.
Monolord—another in a seemingly endless parade of stellar trios at this year’s festival—wowed the audience on hand at The Joint with a focused and powerful approach to stoner rock. Featuring Thomas Jäger on vocals and guitar, Mika Häkki on bass and Esben Willems on drums, Monolord concentrated on musicality, using vocals only sparsely, peppering a few lines amidst endlessly intricate fretwork. One song, in particular, stretched on to staggering lengths, recapitulating the establishing melody several times to great effect.
Swinging far from the other bands thus far on the day, another legendary band took to The Joint in the early evening—UK industrial metal innovators Godflesh. Operating only as a duo, Justin Broadrick (guitar/vocals) and G. C. Green (bass) performed solely their instruments, opting to allow all their song’s electronics and drum machines to be triggered from a laptop. What the pre-configured backing tracks may have lacked in human energy was more than made up for by Broadrick’s possessed performance. This was industrial metal in the classic sense of the term, a simple but forceful rhythm accompanies by a nimble bassline, all the while repetitiously sticking like glue to the beat and riffs at the onset. Magically though—like all industrial music—somehow the nuances allow the songs to never veer into monotonous boredom.
Over at the Paradise Pool, eyehategod was well under way as a voluminous crowd filled every nook and cranny of available space. Frontman Mike IX Williams (looking in excellent health by the way) screamed his trademark shrill vocals with menacing energy. At one point after referring to the fans present as “kids” he briefly started a call-and-response à la Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America,” chanting “We’re the kids in America” and then prompting the audience to “Whoa-oh!”
From one extreme to another, back at The Joint, Italian horror movie soundtrack masters Goblin performed an alluring and immaculately orchestrated set. Featuring four early era members (Massimo Morante, Fabio Pignatelli, Agostino Marangolo and Maurizio Guarini) the group of venerable, super skilled performers masterfully performed a slew of their classic soundtrack numbers, leaning heavily on the band’s dual keyboard players for creepy and beautiful melodic interplay. Some tracks had just the right layering of power chords, but mostly it was the intricate and not overwrought interplay of all the players that made this special. The balance between each instrument and the fact that their sound is angling for artfully dark in a way that cinematic music rarely aims for without being cheesy is why this feels so special and vital. Near the set’s conclusion, they played their theme from the 1977 Dario Argento film Suspiria as well as a somewhat recent song (relatively speaking) “In the Name of Goblin.” It’s easy to see how mxdwn all-time favorite Secret Chiefs 3 likely found inspiration for their Traditionalists sub-identity from Goblin.
And from sublimely cinematic to sludgy beyond all comprehension, Primitive Man played late in the evening at the Vinyl stage. This was Doom-y with a capital DOOM. Like, holy crap doom metal doom. So doom-y its bass-heavy resonance was enough to inspire legitimate feelings of dread.
Not to be forgotten, Danzig headlined the evening with a performance of Danzig III: How the Gods Kill. As far as performance, Danzig seemed eager and driven to put on an enthusiastic show. Instead of performing the classic album in originally sequenced order, he instead led his band to jump around through the song’s cuts, apparently by his preferred order of importance. It wouldn’t be a Danzig show without some degree of odd behavior as the man himself took time to complain about people on the Internet (apparently some writer incorrectly indicated the last time one of this album’s songs was last played) and seemingly yelling at an off-stage soundman since the stage monitors for hearing their own instruments weren’t working correctly. Still, the massive crowd in attendance was more than happy to see this performance close out the night.
All photos by Raymond Flotat