Live Review: Psycho Las Vegas Friday, 08.17.18

Posted in Features, Reviews on August 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

psycho las vegas

08.18.18 – 5:00AM – Saturday – Hotel room

Gluttons for punishment, unite! Cast off the chains of your dayjobs and journey to a druggy boozy place where you can smoke indoors and piss away your head-earned on, well, potentially, someone else’s hard-earned. You never liked those brain cells anyway, and what good have they done?

Me, I prefer my brains melted or otherwise obliterated with fatigue. Dripping out my ears, either way. But I see some folks around here going nuclear, and hey, I get it. Safe environment, plenty of support, nothing to lose. It’s self-directed cruelty more than anything else that keeps me sober. I don’t deserve the good time everyone else is having. Kablooey.

It was an early start for a busy day. 12:30PM. I’d imagine there were people who hadn’t gone to bed yet. But DVNE were not to be missed, so, I didn’t miss them. A lot of back and forth early and not really much staying-put later makes for a hell of a time, but everything is right there around the corner and everyone here is very nice. At least the people who’ve said hi to me. I’m sure just by simple population-sample math there are one or two jerks running around, but none I’ve run into.

Witchcraft didn’t make it. That’s a band I’ve dug on some level or other for more than a decade, but wasn’t gonna cry over it. Plenty to see besides with three stages open: The Joint, Vinyl and the Pool.

And like I said, early start. Went like this:


dvne (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Good band. That’s what I wrote in my notes. Direct quote: Good band. Pro shop. For DVNE‘s first appearance on a US stage — and sizable US stage at that, in The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino — they hit it like absolute professionals. Crisp in their sound, intense in delivery, every bit in command of the room, from “go” onward. With full lighting and production behind them, CO2 canisters firing and lasers behind and their logo blasted on massive stage-side screens, the Edinburgh progressive post-metal four-piece certainly seemed to be made to feel welcome on what to them was foreign shores. Killed. Just nailed it. They have a new record out next year following up on last year’s righteous Asheran, and playing beneath oranges and reds that echoed that album’s cover art, they delivered a set that quite frankly, unless they break up tomorrow, I sincerely doubt will be their last time on an American stage. In other words, they seem ready to hit the road in a we’re-a-full-time-band-now kind of way, and more power to them. It’ll be worth keeping an eye out in 2019 for when they come through supporting their next full-length, but in the meantime, this set was basically serving early notice of a significant arrival.

Night Horse

Night Horse (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Sure, it’s been eight years since L.A.’s Night Horse released their second album, Perdition Hymns (review here), but what the hell? The double-guitar five-piece — one of those guitarists happens to be Justin Maranga from Ancestors — took the stage and quickly warmed up their classic your-dad’s-rock-was-better vibe that, with added charm from vocalist Sam James Velde introducing them by saying, “We’re Integrity from Cleveland, Ohio,” was a total blast. I’ll admit it’s been a while since the last time I had Perdition Hymns or their 2008 debut, The Dark Won’t Hide You, on for a spin, but even though Maranga forgot his slide and no one seemed to have a beer bottle to use instead, they definitely made it work. With guitarist Greg Buensuceso and bassist Nick D’Itri holding down the other side of the stage and drummer Norm Block swinging away in the middle, they were way more locked in than one might think for a band who haven’t really kicked around all that much in at least a half-decade. Velde stepped over the barricade and into the crowd during the last song and asked everyone to sit with him on the floor — a proposition that I’d imagine would be way stickier later in the day — while he told the story of the song, and it made for a special moment, as almost everyone actually did it. He got back up and they rocked to a finish, but if you ever needed to know how much Night Horse owned that room, they literally sat it down to give some background on their material. He could do that at every show for all I know, but it was something special here anyway and I felt lucky to see it.

The Munsens

The Munsens (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Denver trio The Munsens posted a new single earlier this week called “Dirge (For Those to Come)” as a preview of their upcoming full-length, Unhanded, and with it, gave a first look at a notable change in direction, pushing more into the territory of extreme sludge than even two years ago found them on their Abbey Rose EP (review here). With guitarist/vocalist Shaun Goodwin and bassist/vocalist Michael Goodwin welcoming drummer Graham Wesselhoff, the shift is easy enough to place, but a corresponding turn to harsher vocals and more grueling fare would seem to be at hand. Most, if not all, of what they played in Vinyl was also from Unhanded, and they unfurled an onslaught of tone and noise that seemed to bounce right off the back of the room and make a wall of death with the next riff cycle. It was brutal, and not as given to crust as Dopethrone, but seemed to be somewhat of that spirit. Delivered with a likewise visual assault of strobe, their time went quick — unless I passed out from all the flashing lights — but was well enough to get the point of the evolution they’ve undergone. I don’t know if I’ll be ready when Unhanded, hits, but at least I’ll see it coming.

Temple of Void

Temple of Void (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I don’t know whether Temple of Void are the doom of death or the death of doom, but fucking hell they’re heavy. The Detroit five-piece released their second LP, Lords of Death, last year on Shadow Kingdom, and they’d only dip back once to 2014’s Of Terror and the Supernatural (review here) for “Examinate Gaze,” while everything else was from the new album. Fair enough for the significant assault factor of their death metal plunge. They took the stage to the Lords of Death intro “The Charnel Unearthing” — which given the intensity of what followed, I almost found unnecessary; they hit it so hard, why give people the chance to get ready? — and from there proffered an extremity that went beyond even the death metal to the atmospheric weight of what they were doing. Vocalist Mike Erdody had a soulful, tortured aspect to his headbanging and while behind him drummer Jason Pearce slammed into his kit with palpable resentment thereof and guitarists Alex Awn and Eric Blanchard tore into searing riffs and leads given all the more weight by Brent Satterly‘s bass, the sense of emotionalism Erdody brought to his growls was something rare on either side of the genre. It was another level on which Temple of Void make their impact felt, and a distinguishing factor that resonated throughout their time.

Church of Misery

Church of Misery (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There was something of a crunch at this point in the schedule. Church of Misery were going on in the Joint while Temple of Void finished up in Vinyl, and then by the time the serial-killer-crazed Japanese riff lords were done, Yakuza would have already started, also in Vinyl. Still, history said “go see Church of Misery,” and history wasn’t wrong. Bassist/founder Tatsu Mikami is nothing less than doom royalty, and while I’ve seen him perform with several different lineups over the years, it always seems like he’s ready to deliver no matter who’s joined him on stage at the time. Psycho was no exception as he, vocalist/thereminist Hiroyuki Takano, guitarist Yasuto Muraki and drummer Junichi Yamamura ran through a selection of the hits: “Shotgun Boogie,” “I, Motherfucker,” “Born to Raise Hell” and so on. I’m not huge on the whole serial killer thing — by coincidence, I wound up in an elevator today with one of Charles Manson’s descendants who was telling his friends it’s way less cool when it’s your family — but regardless, Church of Misery did plenty of slaying on their own and made it easy to hope they record with this lineup, as it seemed like they were more than ready to get down to business at the Sabbathian core of what the band has always been about. I did end up poking my head in to see Yakuza for a moment — and Bruce Lamont is still way ahead of his time — but Church of Misery weren’t taking no for an answer. I was back in the Joint before long as they blew out the rest of their set and any number of eardrums in the process.


Tinariwen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Absolutely stunning. I knew next to nothing about the Tuareg group Tinariwen going into the announcement they’d play Psycho Las Vegas, but the schedule cut off both the pool and Vinyl stages while they played, so clearly they were an act Psycho wanted people to see. Rightly so. Dressed in robes and traditional garb and backed by hand percussion, the band led by guitarist/vocalist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib brought a desert blues that tied to Psycho better than one might’ve ever expected. With acoustic and electric guitars, bass and deep-running vocal arrangements, dancing on stage — some dancing in the crowd too — and video of them on huge screens on either side, it was no less of a production in terms of lighting and staging than Church of Misery or DVNE had been, but the soothing vibe and ebbs and flows in the music made it a total standout. They were another one I was going to stay for a bit and then wander off and find some more coffee, but I was hooked. They could’ve played twice as long and I don’t think I would’ve moved. Their set felt like a gift and on a day that wasn’t exactly hurting for highlights anyhow, they were something truly special to behold. Their 2017 album, Elwan, was recorded in the California desert and has quickly made its way to the front of my must-purchase line.


Boris (Photo by JJ Koczan)

In their 25-plus years, enough wax poetry has been written in honor of Japanese noise and heavy rock innovators, droners, experimentalists, J-poppers and anything-else-they-want-to-be-that-day Boris that even attempting to talk about their set feels superfluous. I’d only be echoing a chorus of praise that’s resounded for the last two decades. Suffice it to say, they’re masters at what they do. Individually and collectively, guitarist Wata, drummer Atsuo and guitarist/bassist Takeshi are relentless in their forward progression, and though most of what they played after a drifting, slower opening came from the Heavy Rocks and Pink-style, the wash of noise and over-the-top push were never far off. Their 2017 album, Dear (review here), was a stunning glimpse at where they’ve been in their time and where they might still go, and bathed in fog on the Joint stage, they captured much the same feel in celebrating their past while continuing to move ahead toward something new. I don’t know if it’s possible for Boris to be underrated, but the chemistry between them on stage — whether it’s Atsuo shouting into his headset mic to raise the energy level or Wata scorching out another solo or Takeshi switching from his rhythm guitar neck to his bass neck and hurling out blistering low end runs — is among the most pivotal aspects of what they do, and as much as they’ve done to push heavy rock to multiple avenues over their tenure, they’ve only gotten to be a more potent force live.

High on Fire

High on Fire (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If a single person could embody what Psycho Las Vegas is, it might be Matt Pike. The High on Fire frontman and Sleep guitarist has played all three editions of this festival in some form or other — time for a Kalas reunion? — and he, bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensel came out like the statesmen they are; one of the most crucial bands not just in underground heavy, but in the wider sphere of metal. Hugely influential, with a maddening signature gallop and tales of war and bludgeonry to delight the downtrodden of spirit. Their upcoming LP, Electric Messiah, marks the third collaboration between the trio and producer Kurt Ballou, and while they didn’t play anything from it, they did give due representation to 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) in “The Black Plot,” “Carcosa” and “Slave the Hive,”  and 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here) with “Fertile Green” and “Serums of Laio,” while older works like 2007’s Death is This Communion (discussed here) and 2005’s Blessed Black Wings (discussed here) made their presence felt with cuts like “Rumors of War” and “Sons of Thunder.” I’d argue they were the night’s headliners even before Witchcraft dropped off, but either way, High on Fire were more than up to the occasion, and with “Blood from Zion” from 2000’s The Art of Self-Defense late in the set, they brought together past and present in a way that was every bit the culmination of the evening. There was still plenty more Psycho after them, but no doubt High on Fire left their mark on the night and all who assembled to see them.

I don’t know if you saw it, but on the social medias I posted a picture of The Pecan and asked if anyone could turn it into the cover of Vol. 4 by Black Sabbath. Several came in, which was hugely appreciated, and among them was this one from Slevin, which I subsequently spent the rest of the night staring at because it’s so friggin’ awesome. If you need me, I’ll be meme-ing my baby. Next up, his head on Jean-Luc Picard’s body. It will happen.

Anyway, I came back to the room after the show and sorted pictures and whatnot and then crashed out pretty soon thereafter to get up early and write. My alarm was set for six and I woke up a bit before five and decided to roll with it. Psycho starts an hour later today, but is another super-busy day, so I’m going to get some more rest in preparation for that. I may or may not check in again before that review goes up, depends on time, but there are more pics after the jump here and I appreciate you reading and taking time to have a look if you do.

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Psycho Las Vegas 2018 Reveals Lineup; Dimmu Borgir, Hellacopters, Godflesh, Witchcraft and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Psycho Las Vegas 2018 logo

It’s only taken a few years for Psycho Las Vegas to establish itself as the premier underground festival in the US. All well and good. With 2018’s lineup, though, it’s time to start thinking of Psycho among the best in the world.

Sounds like too much? Consider Godflesh and Dimmu Borgir sharing a stage, both for exclusive West Coast appearances. Think of Sweden’s Witchcraft playing one of the two shows they’ll do in the US at Psycho, and ditto that for Japanese riff-madmen Church of Misery. Think of US exclusives from Lee Dorrian’s With the Dead, or Lucifer, whose Johanna Sadonis will also DJ the Center Bar. The commitment to up and coming underground acts local, domestic and foreign like Temple of Void, King Buffalo, Dreadnought, The Munsens and DVNE. Picture yourself watching Wolves in the Throne Room headline a pre-fest pool party with Elder, Young and in the Way, Dengue Fever, Fireball Ministry and Toke.

2018 is the year Psycho Las Vegas outclasses even itself and pushes further than it ever has in terms of stylistic reach (Integrity walks by and waves… at Boris) and the sheer power of its construction. If you’re looking for the future, you’ll find it in scumbag paradise.

Here’s the lineup:

Psycho Las Vegas 2018 poster

Psycho Las Vegas 2018

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas
4455 Paradise Rd, Las Vegas, Nevada 89169


PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2018 lineup:
DIMMU BORGIR (west of chicago exclusive)
HELLACOPTERS (one of two shows to be played in the USA in 2018)
SUNN 0)))
GODFLESH (west of chicago exclusive)
WITCHCRAFT (one of two shows to be played in the USA in 2018)
CHURCH OF MISERY (usa exclusive 2018 with exception to one other show in San Diego)
WITH THE DEAD (USA exclusive 2018)
LUCIFER (USA exclusive 2018)

Paradise Pool Pre Party
August 16th


Center Bar DJ’s
Andrew W.K.
Nicke Andersson (Entombed/Hellacopters)
Johanna Sadonis (Lucifer)

High on Fire, Live at Psycho Las Vegas 2016

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Night Horse: Sins Forgiven, Destruction Assured

Posted in Reviews on August 26th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Los Angeles-based double-guitar five-piece Night Horse treat classic rock like it’s a pretty lady. They take it out do a nice dinner, they hold the door, they pick up the tab, maybe they go to a show afterwards, and all the while they’re perfectly charming. Of course, sweet love is later made, and the end result is the band’s second album for Tee Pee Records, Perdition Hymns, which is 11 tracks of high-grade rock and roll genetics that, listening through, I’m honestly surprised didn’t come out on Small Stone. Where Tee Pee has mostly diverted into the heavy psych realm — bands like Quest for Fire, Naam, Earthless, etc. – Night Horse seem more suited to accompany the likes of Sasquatch, the recently-reviewed Red Giant, Gozu and perhaps most of all Sun Gods in Exile, whose 2009 album Black Light, White Lines, was equally shy about showing off its riff and solo prowess. And by that I mean not at all.

But there’s a Tee Pee connection in that Night Horse guitarist Justin Maranga also plays in Ancestors, so there you go, mystery solved. And honestly, after hearing the kind of blues-driven ‘70s jams Night Horse traffic in, I can’t imagine not wanting to put out a record like Perdition Hymns, no matter what sound you’re trying to associate your label with. Songs like the powerful opening trio of “Confess to Me,” “Angel Eyes” and “Rollin’ On” provide the kind of rock wallop you’d usually expect from an older bunch of dudes, but Night Horse’s love for what they do is evident. You can hear it in the playing of Maranga and fellow six-stringer Greg Buensuceso, in the straight-ahead rhythms of bassist Nick D’Itri and drummer Jamie Miller, and in the vocals of Sam James Velde, whose performance was also a highlight on Night Horse’s debut, The Dark Won’t Hide You, but is perhaps even stronger on Perdition Hymns, standing up with no trouble to the considerable instrumental competition provided by the band behind him.

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Night Horse Not Touring the East Coast

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 19th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

I still haven’t listened to Night Horse‘s second album, Perdition Hymns. I’ll get there. It’ll be reviewed soon enough. Not like I need to worry though, because the band’s upcoming tour is headed nowhere near Jersey, so even if I was to immerse myself in their ultra-bluesy ’70s rock, I wouldn’t get the chance to complement that experience with a live show. Crazy California gets everything. Fuckin’ hoverboards.

Alright. Here’s tour dates from the PR wire:

Night Horse returned with their highly-anticipated sophomore effort Perdition Hymns on Aug. 3, produced and mixed by Matt Bayles (Pearl Jam, Mastodon, The Sword). Perdition Hymns is a patent demonstration of a group that has quickly become a well-refined songwriting machine. The band has chiseled the six-minute jam style songwriting of their debut The Dark Won’t Hide You into the hook-laden gems that comprise Perdition Hymns; with riff driven catchiness and soaring melodies that stick.

Perdition Hymns is a rock and roll classic for current times; a statement of what’s to come within today’s musical landscape; a missing link to years gone by; and a glimpse into what is about to become.

Night Horse tour dates:
Aug. 20 Los Angeles, CA Vacation Vinyl (Free in-store)
Aug. 28 San Diego, CA Soda Bar
Sept. 10 San Diego, CA The Casbah (w/Olivelawn)
Sept. 14 Long Beach, CA The Prospector (w/Radio Moscow)
Sept. 15 Ventura, CA Zan Zillas (w/Radio Moscow)
Sept. 16 Los Angeles, CA Spaceland (w/ Radio Moscow)
Oct. 7 San Francisco, CA The Hemlock

Oct. 8 Portland, OR East End

Oct. 9 Seattle, WA The Comet

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audiObelisk Presents: Live Roadburn 2010 Audio Streams from Sons of Otis, Night Horse, Fatso Jetson and Ahkmed

Posted in audiObelisk on July 15th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

It’s unreal how many bands they packed into the Roadburn festival. It could have been three separate killer fests and no one would have complained. Being there was like being at the Metropolitan Museum in New York — you couldn’t possibly see everything on offer in one day. Though it was fun to try.

Walter and the good folks at Roadburn have made available more live audio streams, and they sent me the links to share with you. I remember Fatso Jetson‘s performance was especially killer, but I wouldn’t count out any of these bands, because I’ve yet to hear one of these streams I didn’t think was awesome. Enjoy:

Fatso Jetson live at Roadburn 2010

Sons of Otis playing Templeball live at Roadburn 2010

Ahkmed live at Roadburn 2010

Night Horse live at Roadburn 2010

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Night Horse Finish New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 3rd, 2010 by JJ Koczan

I think maybe because they didn’t have the same grandiose scope as Ancestors, with whom they share guitarist and occasional Obelisk checker-inner Justin Maranga, Los AngelesNight Horse didn’t get the attention they really deserved on their first record. As we all know, there’s no fix for that except releasing another, and that seems to be the plan for Night Horse, whose sophomore Tee Pee Records full-length of classically styled rock is due the first week of August.

The band has uploaded the track “Good Bye Gone” to their MySpace now and will have a new EP for free download on their website come June 15. I’m sure there will be more on that later. Till then, here’s what the PR wire has to say about the new album, Perdition Hymns:

Celebrated Los Angeles, CA, rock ‘n roll band Night Horse has completed work on its sophomore album. Titled Perdition Hymns, the record will see an August 3, 2010 release date via NYC’s Tee Pee Records.

Recorded in East L.A. at Infrasonic Sound (Beck, The Mars Volta, No Age), Night Horse’s Perdition Hymns is an album made by fans of rock, for fans of rock! Produced and mixed by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, PearlJam, Isis), the record is a classic for current times, made up of all the peaks and valleys, textures and nuances that timeless records yield over repeated listens. Songs like “Choose Your Side” and “Shake Your Blues” demonstrate guitarists Justin Maranga (Ancestors) and Greg Buensuceso’s flair for intricately weaving guitar leads and rhythmic patterns, much like their classic predecessors Thin Lizzy or The MC5 did, while vocalist Sam James Velde (ex-Bluebird) invokes the ghosts of every classic rock singer you’ve ever loved by flat-out refusing to hold anything back; the singer teeters on the edge of total abandon while the band pushes him closer to the brink.

“Writing and recording Perdition Hymns was an amazing experience,” says Velde in a statement. “The collaborative effort and the productivity we all showed were intense, but fun. Everyone was so focused and enthusiastic. The songs just came to us so quickly. We’d start with a riff, then POW it was on! Same went for writing the lyrics. I’d get a few words or ideas stuck in my head and then the melody was just there. It was magical, really.”

Perdition Hymns track listing:
1. Confess to Me
2. Angel Eyes
3. Rollin’ On
4. Good Bye Gone
5. Black Clouds
6. Come Down Halo
7. Blizzard of Oblivion
8. Hard to Bear
9. Shake Your Blues
10. Choose Your Side
11. Same Old Blues

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Ancestors and Night Horse Post Euro Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 24th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Actually, I’m the one doing the posting, but the bands will definitely be the ones playing the shows, and that’s what counts. In the case of Ancestors guitarist Justin Maranga, it counts twice since he’s in both bands. Double duty! Ah, these kids and their rock and roll. Best wishes to both bands for safe travels. Here’s the info straight off the PR wire:

Ancestors and Night Horse are set to begin a tour in support of their April 15th appearance at the internationally renowned Roadburn festival. The tour will begin on April 9th in Essen, Germany. These will be the first overseas shows for both bands. Dates below.

April 9  Essen, Germany Cafe Nova
April 10 Arlon, Belgium L’ Entrepot
April 11 Fidenza, Italy Circolo Arci Q

April 13 Wien, Austria Arena
April 14 Munich, Germany Sunny Red
April 15 Tilburg, Netherlands Roadburn Festival
April 16 London, UK South of the Border
April 17 Plymouth, UK White Rabbit

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Free Music off the PR Wire: New Night Horse, Astra

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 23rd, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Los Angeles rural riffers Night Horse, who released their debut EP on Tee Pee not so long ago, are streaming a new song now. Not only that, but San Diego‘s prog specialists Astra have also put up a new track to their MySpace page that comes off their Rise Above debut, The Weirding. Nothing like free goo. Here’s press release excerpts:

Night Horse brought their own borderNight Horse:
Fresh off the heels of their critically acclaimed EP The Dark Won’t Hide You, Night Horse return with another heavy helping of rockin’ blues ‘n roll by the name of “Good Bye Gone,” the A side to a split single with like-minded roots rockers from San Diego, Dirty Sweet — the first of three split singles Night Horse have planned for this summer on Tee Pee Records.

Night Horse, “Good Bye Gone”

Just a little retro (Photo by Noa Azoulay-Sclater)Astra:
San Diego based progressive rock band Astra has completed work on its hotly-anticipated debut album, entitled The Weirding.?The record hits stores in North America today via Rise Above Records. A taste of what The Weirding holds in store can be experienced now as the new Astra song ?The River Under? been posted online at this location.

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