Tuesday, June 22, 2010


   On June, 22 2010, I got to experience a unique concert/movie: "THE BIG FOUR" LIVE - METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER & ANTHRAX! Live from from the Sonisphere Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria, broadcasted via satellite to thousands of movie theaters in the world. Although being away from home at a convention in Kansas City, Missouri, I was able to get tickets online. This movie was only showing for one day, one time only! Even at $18 a ticket, it was well worth it to see this rare concert event rather than having to travel halfway across the globe to Bulgaria of all places to see this one time concert. Never in the last 30 years have all four of  these bands (most of all my favorites) been on the same venue at once! Metallica (being THE biggest of the four) of course had top billing but having Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax together was truly a special treat. The movie began at 7:30pm in one of the smaller screens in the theater. More like watching a Pay-Per-View show at home, a Dish Network satellite menu popped up to play the movie on the big screen. Thankfully without any signal loss the movie played without interference for four and a half hours! I was surprised however that the turnout for this once-in-a-lifetime event was very sparse with only 20-25 attendees in the theater. The movie started somewhat slow as the cameras would show scenes of the crowd as they filled the stadium and even sitting through the sound check for almost thirty minutes but with a few candid interviews with Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) as a group and a single interview with Kerry King (Slayer) about the concert. Although some may be surprised to see that even a European audience at a metal concert is not all that different from an American metal concert. I feel like we we're part of one worldwide Metal family! The significance of "The Big Four" comes from these four bands being the originators of the Thrash genre of Heavy Metal Music from the Southern California, Los Angeles and San Francisco area with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. Although originally from New York Anthrax is also included in The Big Four with their own unique style of thrash which all derives from hard rock and punk/hardcore influences. Anthrax is also one of the few metal bands who collaborated with rap artists with their 1991 version of "Bring the Noise". Although several of these bands have toured together it is between Metallica and Megadeth who have had the biggest rivalry for years as lead singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine was originally a member of Metallica.
    Finally, the concert began as ANTHRAX first took the stage. Although the band has gone through several incarnations with different singers recently including John Bush but for this event, Anthrax reunited (again) with fan-favorite singer Joey Belladonna. As they began a backdrop featuring the cover of their 1987 album Among The Living. They opened with "Caught in a Mosh" the band put on an impressive set with popular songs like "Madhouse", "Metal Thrashing Mad", "I Am The Law", "Got The Time", "Antisocial" and "Indians" where Joey donned a long, colorful, Native American headdress and raced back and forth on the stage. During the set they also did a short tribute to Ronnie James Dio in playing an excerpt from "Heaven and Hell"! Although vocalist Joey Belladonna was noticeably unable to hit some of those high register notes that he was able to back in 1985 watching his natural energy and seeing Scott Ian's hyper style of playing it was clear that the definitive version of Anthrax is back and played a great set beginning the Big Four event!
    Following Anthrax was MEGADETH, beginning and ending with "Holy Wars...Punishment Due" in front of a backdrop depicting the cover to 1990's Rust In Peace album. This event is full of reunions as original bassist David Ellefson, who had returned after 8 years, rejoined Megadeth. With Dave Mustaine's signature vocal-styling and virtuoso playing Megadeth performed "Headcrusher", "Countdown To Extinction", "In My Darkest Hour", "Sweating Bullets" and of course "Peace Sells". Despite the clear weather during Anthrax's set as Megadeth came on ironically dark clouds formed and began raining down hard on the crowd. Although much of the stage was dry it was unclear whether the rain would ruin such a monumental event as many of the attendees put on many colorful rain ponchos. The rain also had an affect on the filming of the concert as the camera man who were very noticeable several of the cameras were flecked with water spots. Megadeth put on a great show with no signs of slowing down on their trademark speed and technical musical expertise. Although Dave Mustaine was not very responsive with the crowd until the end, it was definitely an impressive set. Finally as Megadeth finished up with "Peace Sells" the rain stopped but the dark clouds filled the sky in preparation for the next band.
    SLAYER appeared next in front of a dark red splotched background resembling the design of their newest album World Painted Blood (2009) Among thrash/heavy metal Slayer has to be the darkest and heaviest of the Big Four, having influenced many death metal bands. Also in this event marks singer Tom Araya's return to touring after his back surgery earlier this year.  With the original lineup of Slayer together since 2001 with original drummer Dave Lombardo Slayer is just as powerful as ever. Starting with "World Painted Blood" and "Hate Worldwide" they also performed "South of Heaven", "War Ensemble", "Chemical Warfare", "Angel of Death" and of course "Raining Blood" following an ear-pounding onslaught of dissonant feedback as guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King stood against the amplifiers with their backs to the audience for at least a full 5 minutes, which got a huge response out of the crowd!
    Despite the slow beginning to the concert film, there were NO breaks between sets, only a brief animation of Sonisphere's logo accompanied by a excerpt from Metallica's "Broken, Beat & Scarred" from Death Magnetic. For such a long concert you'd think there would be at least an intermission halfway through! Thankfully there was a short 10 minute break before Metallica came on with interviews from the band on the passing of Ronnie James Dio. As night fell the stage was set up for Metallica's set, instead of a backdrop there was a large video screen behind the stage along with the other two smaller screens on either side of the stage throughout the whole concert.
 METALLICA began their set with their signature theme music "The Ecstasy of Gold" by Ennio Morricone, borrowed from the soundtrack to the Clint Eastwood western film "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" with a scene from the film being played on the screens Metallica entered playing "Creeping Death" followed by "For Whom The Bell Tolls". Megadeth also performed "Cyanide", "Master of Puppets" along with "Fade to Black" featuring an acoustic intro by front man James Hetfield and also an impressive pyrotechnic display for the introduction of "One". After finishing with an energetic performance of "Seek and Destroy" with new bassist Robert Trujillo's now famous spinning bass act, Metallica soon returned for a monumental encore performance in what would be, as James described the "The Big Four" event as "history is happening right now!" The stage was filled with extra equipment as Metallica was joined by almost every member of both Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer to perform a cover of "Am I Evil" by Diamond Head! It was quite a site to see as there were at least 15 musicians on stage playing together, especially seeing both James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine side by side playing together after 27 years!
     "The Big Four Live" was definitely not something to be missed by any heavy metal fan! Although such a rare performance, it was successfully broadcasted via satellite in movie theaters all around the world, it's a wonder why they chose such an obscure venue for the concert after all but it proved to be a phenomenal event. "The Big Four Live" was comparably the "Woodstock" of Heavy Metal and anyone who missed it should be kicking themselves with a steel-toed boot!