Salute, This week was a fun week of news and notes with the triumphant return of Radiohead as only they could do it – all online, Madonna has a money-bleeding deal with Live Nation on the table, Springsteen hit the road, French Merc Robert Denard passed away, SnoCap – the former Napster crew’s endevor and Myspace Music sales engine – cut staff again, Universal Music is continuing to lead the anit-iTunes charge with another rebel-rousing call-to-arms, hackers again wack the iPhone yet again with 3rd-part aps and the lock-up lawsuits are starting to roll-in when customization does occur, the Harmon Center for the Arts in DC roughly doubled its performance schedule and staff, George Steinbrenner is giving up control of the NY Yankees franchise and all related affiliates and endeavors, oh yeah, and if you cared, MC Hammer is not dead, even if his career already is…
As if there was need for yet more proof that heavy music was alive and well a sold out Nokia Theater in midtown NYC is enough to demonstrate it in spades. The Black Tyranny Tour brought a throwback flair of fist-pumping moshability to the city that never sleeps. Opening the evening were Roadrunner’s recent thrash-induced endeavor, Sanctity. Sporting an artistic resemblance to bay-area vets Testament, these southerners bring big solos and melodic hooks to the stage and provided a solid primer to the evening showcasing songs from their label debut Road To Bloodshed. In keeping with the traditions of the genre, the members made their way into several guest appearance during the evening after enticing the crowd into their own frenzy. The progression of Throwdown manifest itself fully during their set with a post-Pantera flair of squealing guitars, gristling vocals and blasting riffage. Devoid was the straight-edge posturing, big hardcore anthems and pit-laiden breakdowns as the straightforward metallic edge sliced through the sweat now dominating the room. Blistering solos were all the rage for Arch Enemy, inspiring enough air-guitar fretboard, masturbation in the audience to put to shame a Guitar Hero competition. Not that the execution is not well deserved as they plowed through a set designed around the axe-slinging, while allowing the growl of Angela to do its thing to the testosterone in the crowd. After the many chants, Machine Head took to the epic approach coming out to the grandiose opener from their latest, The Blackening, following it up immediately with Imperium. The air-punching and chanting continued during every break in the action while Robb Flynn and company tore things up with every anthem in their arsenal. It is difficult to imagine with a set such as that this was the same band that released such an uninspired offering such as Supercharger. When all was said and done, about the only flaw in the set was a distinct lack of Ten Ton Hammer before closing it out with the evenings brightest moment, a blistering rendition of Davidian.
It was twenty-five years in the making, the celebration of one of metal’s most influential and resilient entities, Metal Blade Records. In articulating such an event, it is only fitting the lineup is inspired by the diversity of the label itself, from sonic quality to age and influence, but share the same veracity in approach. Grind monsters The Red Chord took up the onslaught at New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom by bombarding the crowd with a mastery of sonic mayhem. The short, seismic blasts were enough to clear bowels and deafen ears for miles with a cranium crushing mix of the entire catalogue. The Black Dahlia Murder continued the visceral extreme by pummeling the crowd with a death metal demolition There’s no replacement for the big stage experience BDM bring to the table and as they ripped apart their set it was apparent why they continue to impress the throngs.
Evil is as evil does. Few bands with more members than the trio of Pike, Preston and Kensel possess a more evil poise than High on Fire. As they reemerge from the dearth of rocks abscesses, Death Is This Communication, solidifies their place at the forefront of a genre they helped redefine.
The darkening of the senses is brought to life by the talented tweaking of Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden) as a wall of sound rises from the speakers in deafening layers of vibrance. The gristle of every breath, the hum of every guitar tone, the resonance of each drum hit builds upon the next to tingle the spine and ensnare the transients of the mind with pure animosity.
The monolith created by the massive depth of the sound is only part of the allure of High on Fire. From the epic opening of the record through Pike’s hypnotic riffage and massive marching order from Kensel’s percussion to the closing notes the cranium crushing songwriting is more than a ballast for the offering, it is the anchor as well. The war cry can be heard in the echos long after the parting sounds of each song and no matter what corner you find yourself hiding in the droning follows.
If Blessed Black Wings was the coming of age for High On Fire than the latest opus is a maturation of the sound into a Gravesend massacre. Midnight is the calling hour and it arrives at the moment the music enters your ears so crank up your death toll and relax to the ethereal of Death Is The Communication.
Simplicity. Intuitiveness. All great adjectives to describe the devices and platforms that brought Apple the success of its last few years. And yet, its greatest asset might be that of sex appeal. Moreso than any aspect of functionality, it is this intrinsic element that truly helps Apple products such as the Mac & OS X pairing, the iPod & iTunes pairing and its latest, the iPhone be the pop-culture icons they have become.
As competitors have long fought, it is not what Apple products can do, it is what they seem to bring to the users that are most important. As both long-standing challengers and newfound rivals know just because they offer an equal, or even seemingly in some regards, a better product does not mean they can wrangle market share away if they do not present it in a sheik and substantively cool mindset.
This past week LG and Microsoft both announce Apple-competitive products but neither bring the limelight of the lowercase i. The new phone and music player may offer a greater variety of features and in some ways differing levels of functionality, however, they lack that youthful image that draws beyond first-adopters to those trendsetting fiends needing an injection of cool to maintain their idealism. Without drawing upon these hipsters the competition are relegated to a the counter-culture of non-conformity as technofiles rebel against the hot-factor image Apple now relies on to peddle its products.
While criticism of Apple is usually revolves around the Jobs-ian ecosystem, usability is usually the attack against the competition. However, this misses most of the failure of these products in the broader acceptance. It is not the populous ability or inability to adapt to the competition, it is their disinterest in embracing it in general. After all, OS-X did not invent desktop integration, the iPod was not the first music player and the iPhone is not the first to accomplish touch-screens, they were just the most appealing and good-feeling versions of these entities and it is this sex appeal that continues to drive the sales.