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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

THE BIG FOUR LIVE!

   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.
video
 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!
http://www.thebigfourlive.com/

Monday, June 21, 2010

TOP 10 SUMMER MOVIES

  Well it's Summer, and if your'e like me, you'd rather sit in a nice airconditioned theater then sweat your ass off outside so here's my list of the Top 10 Summer Movies:

#10 Independence Day (1997) This was one of the biggest summer movies ever! They blew up the @#$%ing White House!
#9 Transformers (2007) A nerds dream come true, unfortunately the franchise went downhill too quick!
#8 Aliens (1986) One of James Cameron's best!
#7 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) I was convinced that Judgment Day was coming!
#6 The Dark Knight (2008) One of the best Batman movies ever!
#5 Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) Jack Sparrow is awesome!
#4 Spider-Man (2002) Almost a perfect superhero movie!
#3 X-Men (2000) We finally got to see Wolverine on the big screen and he was great!
#2 Batman (1989) This was one of the best summers of my life!
#1 Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) This defined Summer blockbuster movies for years to come!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

IRON MAIDEN IN DALLAS!

Last night was one of the greatest concerts I have ever seen! IRON MAIDEN with Dream Theater at the Superpages.com Center in Dallas, Texas! Starting at 7:30pm, I was really worried about the weather. The Superpages.com Center (formerly Smirnoff Music Center) is a partial open air amphitheater with the a covered stage and seating pavilion with a sloping lawn seating area. I have been to the music center before (Ozzfest) and I decided to get tickets for the Lawn seating since the price was cheaper but as the date for the show approached I started to reconsider my decision. This week had been very hot and humid with temperatures in the mid 90s but when thunderstorms came in Wednesday morning, I feared the worst. Although my tickets said "Rain or Shine" I was determined not to miss this concert, so I came prepared with a disposable rain poncho and a towel. Thankfully when I got to Fair Park the weather was clearing up, cloudy but not raining. As night fell, the weather was almost perfect, still very humid (Texas Summer!) but cloudy and with cool breezes and temperatures in the high 70s. The amphitheater was already mostly full and I was glad I got lawn seating because I was in view of a large suspended video screen. The opening band Dream Theater started about 5 minutes early, and played about an hour. I was familiar with Dream Theater and their progressive metal/synthesizer styling's as they performed several songs including "Pull Me Under". Dream Theater put on an impressive show and got the crowd going although there was a long, at least 30 minute break between shows while they were setting up for Iron Maiden.
     As it started to get dark, around 9pm, the lights went out and with a star-filled backdrop amongst a spaceship-like stage with flashing red lights they played a clip from the classical piece "Mars" from "The Planets" by Gustav Holst. As images of space-scenes came up on the screen "Mars" grew louder and Iron Maiden appeared on-stage playing "Wicker Man" from their 2000 album "Brave New World"!
As most audiences are familiar with Iron Maiden's huge stage productionswith classic tours like "Somewhere In Time" and "Live After Death", with the release of their new album "The Final Frontier" in August, their stage setup reflects more of the spaceship/futuristic theme of the album. Most Iron Maiden shows usually start with a sound clip of Winston Churchill's beginning the song "Aces High" from 1982's "Powerslave" but this tour marks a whole new beginning! This tour also marks a change with Iron Maiden as most Maiden fans are used to hearing many older hits at their concerts such as "2 Minutes to Midnight" or "Run To The Hills", however most of this show featured songs from more recent albums like "Brave New World" and "Dance of Death" (2003) such as "No More Lies" and "A Matter of Life and Death" (2006) with "These Colours Don't Run" which may have been disappointing to some fans however I thought it was a welcome change and a treat to hear newer songs. As the 2-hour set went on, they also played a new song from the new album "El Dorado" which is available for free mp3 download on IRON MAIDEN.com.
 Towards the end of the show they performed "Fear of the Dark" and of course their signature song "Iron Maiden" in the finale in which they brought out the bands mascot 'Eddie'! Eddie has always been a major part of Iron Maiden shows since the beginning and is usually featured in the shows finale as either a puppet or costumed/animatronic character dressed as either a zombie, a mummy, or a cyborg, but with the new album Eddie has been transformed into a giant alien creature! With an impressive encore they performed some older favorites starting with 'The Number of the Beast', featuring an impressive, ominous devil to the right of the stage and then finished off with "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Running Free"! As the concert came to an end and the road crew started their cleanup as the crowd dispersed, in true Maiden/British fashion they played 'Monty Python's' song "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life" from "The Life of Brian" over the sound system. The energy was high and Iron Maiden was definitely in top form, this was truly a great concert experience! IRON MAIDEN RULES!
     On a personal note: Anybody who considers themselves an Iron Maiden "FAN" and then curses and boo's the band for not playing enough of their older songs, is NOT really a fan. In the world of live music and especially heavy metal, any band or artist must evolve and grow and play new songs along with old favorites to stay alive and fresh, keeping both fans young and old cheering and raising their devil-horns! "You can't please all of the people all of the time." - Abraham Lincoln. Another thing, I was surprised at the number of people taking video and pictures with their phones and cameras, most concerts I've been too usually discourage this but as I could see hundreds of lights from phones and cameras in the audience I suppose the event staff and security didn't care, so I got a few videos and pics myself but from Lawn seating, you can't see very much!

 
(Picture of Alien Eddie from Twitter @IronMaidenFC)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: "SPLICE"

     With the recent controversy over genetic engineering, cloning, and stem cells in recent years its time for Horror/Sci-Fi to address the issue in its own twisted way! "Splice" is a new disturbing look into science gone wrong, in the style of "Frankenstein/Dr. Moreau" and "Species" (1995). Artist turned director Vincenzo Natali ("Cube" (1997) brings a new vision of horror dealing with the themes of gene splicing and animal-human hybrids. Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) and Clive Nicoli (Adrian Brody) are a couple of biochemist/scientists, also romantically involved, who have been developing genetically engineered organisms for use in pharmaceutical research. In defiance of their corporate controlled company whose sole purpose is profit, they take it upon themselves to create a human-animal hybrid, i.e. 'Dren' (Delphine ChanĂ©ac)! With bizarre features and animal-like legs and a tail containing a deadly scorpion like stinger, Dren starts out as a deformed, uncontrollable creature. But as her surrogate mother Elsa grows attached to her and continues to hide and raise it in secret despite Clive's growing ethical and legal concerns. Soon Dren grows up into a oddly beautiful but extremely dangerous creature and soon becomes sexually attracted to Clive and even grows in hostility towards Elsa, who then decides to try to destroy her!
    Testing the limits of the power of science, ethics, and morality "Splice" is an intense and disturbing experience. Like a modern day Frankenstein's monster (or Bride of...),  Dren is the newest in a long line of femme fatales along the lines of Sil (Natasha Henstridge) in "Species" is both strangely sexy and deadly. Delphine Chaneac is truly a unique beauty and had the perfect look to play this part-beauty/part-beast. Coincidentally, the young French actress doesn't speak English, although unnecessary in the movie as Dren only speaks in animal-like purrs and squeaks. Director Guillermo Del Toro is an executive producer for this movie and you can see some of his influence and disturbing vision in the imagery. The oddest part of the movie comes from it's very human duo of Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley, while both great actors, they make somewhat of an uneasy couple as their sex-life is threatened by the creation of Dren, however has very little effect since a lot of their chemistry on-screen seems forced. Also Brody's and Polley's bizarre wardrobe gives the film kind of a near-future feel or is it they just have weird taste in clothing! Sarah Polley's character of Elsa also seems to have the most issues in the film as it is alluded to that her character had a very strange childhood. As the couple bring Dren to raise her in Elsa's mothers farm/barn she reveals that she was not allowed to have dolls or even make-up growing up and when we see her old room, it is a small, almost prison-cell like, with the bed on the floor, one chair and a bucket! (Go figure?) The movie is full of delightfully disgusting and gory moments along with a TON of sex and frontal nudity (mostly Delphine Chaneac)! I found this movie to be interesting and very intense at moments but I couldn't get scenes of "Species" out of my head as it seemed very similar in many ways, but still very exciting with an impressive and really twisted twist-ending!
Official Website: http://www.splicethefilm.com/