Psycho Vegas 2022 Festival Review – Best/Worst Bands & More
I attended Psycho Vegas this past weekend and wrote this show review of the best/worst bands. For those who don’t know, Psycho Las Vegas is a metal festival in Vegas every year in late August. Because nobody reads long blog posts anymore, I divided this article into clickable bits, so you can quickly jump around to the best bands, worst bands, and overall festival review.
Best Bands Psyco Vegas 2022 (Ranked In Order)
- Mercyful Fate: They were the headliner, and their set was perfect, and I’m not sure what could have been done to improve it. Read the full review here.
- Blood Incantation: By far the heaviest band of the entire festival. They shook the floor with their too-early set on day #2. Full review here.
- Carcass: These UK death metal veterans absolutely crushed it on day #1. Full review here.
- Cirith Ungol: This obscure doom metal band that has been around since 1971 delivered a shockingly awesome set to a packed house on a side stage right before Mercyful Fate. See why they still kick ass here.
- Bombers: A Motorhead cover band consisting of members of Abbath not only played Lemmy’s classics to a tee, but frontman Abbath also made the show highly entertaining. Read more here.
- Midnight: These Ohio maniacs delivered an amazing high-energy set bedecked in leather jackets and hoods in the 110-degree heat at Psyco Swim. Some now notorious mayhem in the audience further enhanced the set. Read all about it here.
- MGLA: This Polish black metal band played way too early on Friday for a completely packed house at 2:30 in the afternoon and destroyed. See more here.
Worst Bands Psyco Vegas 2022 (Ranked In Order)
- Primitive Man: This doom metal band was the worst at the entire festival and seem to get booked at Psycho every year. They set the whole doom metal movement backward, one show at a time. See why they suck here.
- Suicidal Tendencies: This once legendary thrash/hardcore outfit is hell-bent on destroying mythical status one cringy show at a time. See why Mike Muir should hang it up here.
- Katatonia: I’m not sure what this band is trying to do, but they are both Hot Topic and full-cringe simultaneously. More here.
- Nuclear Assault: There is a reason Nuclear Assault never made it off the C-list of bands from the Golden Age Of Metal, and their late-night set on Saturday was proof. Read about this disaster here.
Most Overrated Bands Psyco Vegas 2022
While none of these bands sucked, they didn’t live up to the hype and are worth mentioning.
- Emperor: By far the most hyped band of the entire festival, these Norwegian black metal Vets were far from being lame but weren’t life-changing either. More here.
- Rotting Christ: Many people love this Greek black metal band, but they are pretty Hot Topic and play lip-synching to a track. Not impressive at all. Read more here.
- Mayhem: While their set at Psycho was quite good, the legend of Mayhem is cooler than their live sets. More here.
Why Are These Bands Even Here at Psyco Vegas 2022?
One of my biggest complaints about the festival is that quite a few acts didn’t make sense even being at the festival. I’m not sure if someone on the staff was super woke and wanted some diversity, but none of this worked.
- Bone Thugs N Harmony – I did not see this show because I was at Blood Incantation; this booking made no sense. Bone Thugs N Harmony sucked in the 90s, and from what I’m told, they still blow today.
- Method Man and Raekwon – I like Wu-Tang, but they had prime billing and were just mailing it in to a disinterested crowd on Sunday. Horrible. More here.
- Bridge City Sinners – This country/folk act was the first band I saw at Pschofest, and well… Read more here.
There were many other examples of this; I just listed some of the most annoying above.
Honorable Mention Bands Psyco Vegas 2022
- Intronaut – This LA-based prog-jazz-metal band delivered a superb set very late on Saturday night. Read more here.
- No/Mas – Despite having a silly name, these guys supplied a brutal set on Saturday on one of the side stages. More here.
- Mothership – This Dallas-based stoner rock band played a fantastic set in the food court on Saturday despite some technical troubles.
Festival Review Day-by-Day 2022
This is a playlist I compiled from the bands mentioned in this blog post. Click on the right-hand corner of this video to see a list of all bands included.
Here are the details on the bands mentioned in my rankings and everything else I saw each day at Psycho listed chronologically,
Thursday 8/18 (Psycho Swim)
The Psycho Swim took place at the Pool at Ayu Dayclub and was an upsell to the main Psycho Festival.
Bridge City Sinners – This Portland-based band played some kind of country folk with violin and banjos, boring the audience. The singer complained about the crowd energy at many points in their set, as if she didn’t understand people had traveled many miles to hear metal, and their low-energy hillbilly music would never connect with this audience.
Elder – Elder sounded great, bringing some heavy Mastodon-style prog metal to the crowd at the pool, only to get rained out two songs into their set.
Midnight – Midnight took the stage at 11 PM. This Ohio-based band is easily my favorite metal band of the last 15 years, whom I discovered at Psychofest 2021. They played one of the best sets I’ve seen from them, clad in leather jackets and masks in the 110-degree heat. During their set, all hell broke loose when a girl threw a drink in my friend’s face. After a bit of arguing, they started fighting, and the girl pulled my friend’s top off in the struggle. After that, topless combat started and restarted thrice as the band played on. Cellphones, wallets, threats, and insults flew everywhere in the mayhem, and the incident went down as the most notorious of Psycho 2022. If anyone has a video of this debacle (and I know someone does) — contact me here. I would love to see it.
Elder (Part 2) – Elder continued their rained-out set inside on one of the side stages. Again, they are a good band but start to sound like a low-rent Mastodon after 3 or 4 songs – a little goes a long way.
Friday 8/19 (Day 1)
MGLA – This controversial Polish black-metal band MGLA (Polish for “Fog”) played in a way-too-early set at 2:30 at the event center. MGLA has been canceled from European festival events because of false claims by German Antifa that they are NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal). Due to such problems, seeing them live is a rare circumstance. MGLA had the Event Center packed early. Nevertheless, MGLA punched above their weight and sounded far better than they do in their studio recordings. Perhaps this is because the touring group consisted of studio musicians who didn’t play on the albums. Regardless MGLA sounded evil as hell and made it onto my list of best bands at Psycho! See them if you ever have the opportunity.
Carcass – Admittedly, I had lost interest in Carcass over the years. I saw them around 2011 and thought they were OK. However, at Psycho, they were unbelievable. Everything about their set ruled — from song choices (mostly 90s material) to the band’s sound, lighting, and energy. I’m not sure what changes the band made over the last ten years, but it’s working! Also worth noting, Bill Steer may be the most underrated guitarist in metal – the guy doesn’t get enough credit for being the savage he is.
Mayhem – I had recently seen Mayhem in LA and wasn’t impressed. Consisting of only one original member (Necrobutcher) – the story of Mayhem is cooler than seeing them live. But, to be fair, the band’s set that day was pretty great, so I shouldn’t judge them too harshly.
Emperor – Undoubtedly, Emperor was the most hyped band of the entire festival because this would be their first US show in 15 years. I have tried to listen to Emperor over the years, and I never got it. I didn’t hate them, but they weren’t anything I went back to either. Maybe it would come together live. I expected the band to take the stage in corpsepaint, but I was surprised to see the singer come out looking like he should be an accountant. The music was well played and quite tight, but it wasn’t life-changing either.
Nuclear Assault – Thrash metal veterans Nuclear Assault was the last big band to take the stage on Friday at midnight. I’m not sure what went wrong here. Maybe the band took a decent amount of money to play the show and never rehearsed, or perhaps it was too hot and late to play outside at the pool, but Nuclear Assault was terrible! John Connely kept making jokes like, “This was a lot easier when we were 25,” which made it even more evident that they were struggling. Nevertheless, it was so bad I left after three songs.
Akhlys – The last band I saw of the night was Akhlys, who was still playing inside. The band sounded OK but played to a track with a lot of prerecorded stuff. Playing to a track was a disturbing trend used by many bands at the festival. I am not a fan of this type of cheating.
Saturday 8/20 (Day 2)
Saturday was the worst day of the festival by far, but there were a few bright spots.
Blood Incantation – I had heard this band a bit before, and they didn’t make an impression on me for some reason. I sell many of their albums, so I decided to check out their live set as work research. On the festival’s second day, Psycho opened the upstairs ballroom and added a stage where many of the bigger bands would play. Blood Incantation played in a packed room and was amazing. They were the heaviest band of the entire festival, approaching Obituary levels of heaviness at times (this is not something I say lightly). Like MGLA, they are even better in a live environment than on records. The singer’s frequent jokes between songs about “Thanks for resisting the temptation to see Bone Thugs N Harmony” won points with me. Blood Incantation was easily the second-best band to play Psychofest, and you should definitely see them live if you ever have the chance.
Primitive Man – These guys were my pick as the worst band at Psycho Unlimited. If you took a guitar and bass, put them on stands, allowed them to feedback at an annoying volume while walking around in a circle and kicking them intermittently while occasionally hitting some drums at 60 BPM and screaming like you’ve been constipated for two weeks you would be able to recreate their sound perfectly. This isn’t a slam on the funeral doom genre because bands like Bell Witch and Mournful Congregation play this same style of music 1000 times better. Yet, somehow these guys get booked every year at Psycho and given decent time slots. I wasn’t the only person who felt this way, as you could see many leaving the room in droves.
Liturgy – I could only watch about a minute of the girl-fronted black metal band. As soon as I heard the vocals, I knew it wasn’t for me.
No/Mas – After a quick exit from Liturgy, I went back downstairs to check out No/Mas, who is a brutal hardcore-infused death metal band. They had some excellent breakdowns. The guitar player’s rhythm playing is awe-inspiring. I will definitely be looking for more from these guys.
Bombers – Bombers is a side-project Motorhead cover band featuring members of Abbath and was unbelievable. Frontman Abbath not only recreates Lemmy’s vocals/bass flawlessly (it’s a lot harder than it looks), he even nails the between-song banter and copies all of Lem’s mannerisms exactly, never breaking character for a second. He does all of this dressed exactly like him with some fake facial hair and English prosthetic warts affixed to his face. They also picked an excellent selection of Motorhead tunes that made this rare show even better. If you ever have a chance to see Bombers, you absolutely should.
Suicidal Tendencies – Easily one of the worst bands of the festival; pretty much everything about their performance was 1000% cringe. Sole original member Mike Muir didn’t have heavyweight musicians like Dave Lombardo in the band anymore. Mike’s never-ending cheezy rants before the annoying extended 10-minute versions of the songs just worsened it. Muir ran around the stage doing his signature suicidal dance, but the now older Muir didn’t look like he could move his neck anymore and looked profoundly comical. Add to the fact that many of the songs don’t stand up anymore (some, not all) make me think Suicidal should hang it up and hang on to their legacy.
At The Gates – I didn’t catch At The Gates because the pool hit capacity. They are far from my favorite band anyways.
Elder (Show #3) – Elder is OK, but I had my fill by show three. I left after two songs.
Dance With The Dead – Some raver DJ crap with a guy playing guitar. Horrible. I’m not even sure why these guys got booked.
Intronaut – Despite having a 1:45 AM time slot, LA’s Intronaut pulled a decent crowd at Redtail. Honestly, I’m not a massive fan of their brand of Jazz/Prog metal, but they do what they do so well you can’t help but like it. The band manages to walk a tight line between Mastodon-style heavy parts fused with odd-time jazz passages, with bassist Joe Lester’s flawless playing being the glue that holds it together. The arrangements are clever enough for the band to switch gears like this without alienating any die-hard metalheads with the jazz passages. The band had not played live in almost two and a half years; another reason Intronaut made my list of honorable mentions. You should definitely consider catching them live.
Sunday 8/21 (Day 3)
Katatonia – I don’t know anything about these guys, but this Swedish Goth act is cringy and cheesy as fuck. I couldn’t even make it through two songs. Horrible.
Paradise Lost– This veteran English goth rock band is Type O Negative minus the cool. I’m not saying they were terrible because they weren’t. Fun Fact: The band has been the same five guys in the lineup since the early 90s, which is super rare and neat.
Geneva Jacuzzi – Horrid, electronic DJ synth-pop band whose music is best suited as the soundtrack for a gay bar. I have no idea why these guys got booked at a metal festival. Truly vomit-inducing.
Cirith Ungol – Ventura’s Cirith Ungol has been around since 1971 and is a band I never thought I would get a chance to see live. But, despite their advanced age, these guys killed it. Honestly, I would have moved them even higher had they stuck to only classic material; they featured at least two or three new songs in their set. None of these songs sucked; they just were not what I came to hear. I would have been thrilled to see them play the King of the Dead album in track order. A guy can wish. Nevertheless, the band plowed through several classics like “King of the Dead”, “Black Machine”, and “Atom Smasher”. Of note is how shockingly awesome Tim Baker’s voice still sounds, almost better than it did back in the day. New guitarist Jim Barraza is a beast and is so good he makes virtuosity look easy! I must say I was very impressed with the show and would see these guys again for sure.
Mercyful Fate – Possibly the most important extreme metal band of all time would be the headliners on the festival’s final day. I felt they would be good despite having only two original members, King Diamond and Hank Sherman, but they over-delivered. Their set looked incredible, and the band opened up with “The Oath.” Everything about the show was first class, and I don’t think anything could’ve been improved. King Diamond’s voice is still top-notch, as was the band. The Setlist consisted of all songs from the first EP and two albums, plus one new song that the band tested on the audience. Highlights included “A Dangerous Meeting,” “Corpse Without A Soul” and “Satan’s Fall.” Mercyful fate was by far the best band of Psycho.
Mercyful Fate Setlist
- The Oath
- A Corpse Without Soul
- The Jackal of Salzburg
- Curse of the Pharaohs
- A Dangerous Meeting
- Doomed by the Living Dead
- Black Funeral
- Come to the Sabbath
- Satan’s Fall
Method Man and Raekwon – I was not sure why they were booked. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against hip-hop, and during the 90s doldrums of metal, I was listening to rap almost exclusively. The Wu-Tang Clan was one of my favorites; I still listen to them occasionally. However, Redman and Raekwon were mailing it in, they didn’t seem like they really cared about the show, and we’re just playing bits of songs and fucking around. What is even crazier is the stellar timeslot they got. Again, one of those bands that didn’t need to be there.
Rotting Christ – this Greek black metal band would be the last band of the festival. I included this band in my list of overhyped bands not because they suck; I don’t get what they do. The entire show is on a track. Many of the drums and vocals aren’t even performed live. When you get to this point of playing to a recording, you are lip-synching and are black metal Milli Vanilli. Rotting Christ is Hot Topic black metal, and I am not a fan.
Overall Psycho Festival Review
All in all, Psycho Vegas 2022 was a great time. Was it as good as Psychofest 2021? No, it wasn’t. Two big things stick out in my mind for this.
One is the change of location from Mandalay bay to Resorts World. Resorts World is a newer hotel which is basically three crappy older hotels on the ghetto end of the strip (Crockford, Conrads, and the Hilton) joined by a casino area and re-branded. For several reasons, it’s a big step down from Mandalay Bay.
Among the problems is the way Resorts World is thrown together. Many of the bands were playing in converted sports bars. The only dining in the hotel consists of the food court area, which is consistently terrible, no matter what restaurant you go to. When you are at an all-day show, eating there makes a lot of sense, and none of the choices are good. To add insult to injury, it’s expensive. If you are going to Vegas and want to complain about money, it is not your town, and I get that. The difference between Resorts World and Mandalay Bay is if you spend $30 on lunch, at Mandalay Bay, you could be eating the finest bowl of jambalaya at House of Blues. At Resorts World, you’re spending $30 on some barely edible hamburgers and french fries.
Also, the staff is quite disorganized and inexperienced. Going from show to show is a constant trip through various metal detectors and security protocols. Some venues allow you to bring alcohol from other places at the show. Some don’t. Some prices at bars are pretty reasonable by Vegas standards, and some are ridiculous and seem to fluctuate depending on who’s serving you. Mandalay Bay is much more professional and upscale; hopefully, the organizers will move it back for 2023.
The other problem with the festival is that it seems like one of the bookers is force-fitting bands that don’t belong on the bill. I’m not sure if some woke staff member is trying to include some diversity in the show with hip-hop acts, but I can assure you it is not working. Just inside the metal genre, it is already highly diverse with countless sub-genres, and tens of thousands of bands worldwide would cut off their left arm to play this festival and do it for nothing. Hopefully, they will keep it to what people are paying their ticket prices for next year.
Overall, I feel like I got my money’s worth from my $450 ticket and look forward to going again next year. Hopefully, the organizers will read this review and iron out some of the hiccups before 2023.
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