Text & Photos: Bobby Cochran
The final day started with a frantic run-around after misreading the schedule, which inevitably resulted in my missing mainstage openers Windhand, much to my chagrin. I did manage to catch Zeal & Ardor, however. A six-piece band who justified their considerable buzz with a powerful performance of their strangely brilliant black metal and African American spirituals mash-up. The black metal vibe got upped a notch with genre-granddaddy Abbath, who walks that fine line between awesomeness and parody, often stumbling on one side or the other for a minute or two. When 80’s power metal stalwarts Cirith Ungol took the stage, it was inspiring to see yet another slightly obscure forerunner of progressive metal (much like Diamond Head the day before) getting an opportunity to play for a large, enthusiastic audience. Afternoon turned to evening as Swedish post-metal vets Cult Of Luna took the stage, joined by vocalist Julie Christmas, who’d collaborated with them on their 2016 album Mariner and has now joined them for a full tour supporting the record. For a band that’s traditionally hidden from view by fog and lights, having a frontwoman like Julie Christmas taking the reins was a welcome change and pushed their performance level up a couple of notches.
When Corrosion Of Conformity ambled onstage, it was almost like seeing your favorite uncles pull up outside your house in their old beat up Chevy, cold beers in hand. After 30+ plus years of being a band, these dudes still have it, and brought 100% of the Southern power sludge they’re so well known for. Murder City Devils were slightly the odd men out on today’s bill, but it made zero difference to them. Punching through song after song barely time for a breath in between, watching these guys do their thing was exhilarating and a joy. Experimental masters Swans took the stage at 9, and performed their entire two-hour set they’ve been performing on this, their final tour as this incarnation of Swans. Vocalist and mastermind Michael Gira conducted the 5-piece band with swooping body movements, subtle eye contact, and minimal verbal interaction. Attendees stood enraptured, and audience size stayed consistent the entire two hours, surprisingly enough. Weekend closers Mastodon took the stage like triumphant conquerors, powering through classics from their first two albums as well as tracks their new album Emperor of Sand. A solid set, perfect for closing out an amazing weekend of music.
ZEAL & ARDOR
CULT OF LUNA
CORROSION OF CONFORMITY
MURDER CITY DEVILS
The stage at Vinyl was packed with a number of diverse but complimentary bands like Swedish doom-sludgesters Domkraft, atmostpheric post-metal stalwarts North, grunge-garage duo Pigeonwing, Denver’s heavy rock power boogie trio Cloud Catcher, Sunday night closers Floorian, Seattle power-duo Year of the Cobra as well as standouts Wizard Rifle and brilliant post-metal doomsters Minsk. Probably the most endearingly strange performance was by Kansas City’s Merlin, who not only had a saxophone player, but also had a singer with a cape and sunglasses.
YEAR OF THE COBRA
The tight and overlapping schedules of all three stages got out of sync pretty easily throughout the weekend, which led to a number of bands performing on the Pool stage having slightly smaller crowds than they might have otherwise. But that didn’t stop old-school metal vets Manilla Road, Arizona death metalers Gatecreeper, Elephant Tree (playing a second set of the weekend filling in for a disappointingly canceled Code Orange), power trio Slomatics, and Sunday night closers Warning from bringing master-level sets to all those willing to brave the desert heat.
Exhausted by the end of the weekend, but thoroughly impressed by the huge number of high-quality bands, the generally respectful and pleasant event staff, and the fairly well behaved crowd, it wasn’t difficult to imagine coming back to this event every year they put it on. Psycho Las Vegas gets five out of five stars in my book.