The Big Four: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax: Live from Bulgaria
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal
June 22nd 2010, Century City CA
The big four of thrash namely Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax announced that they would be gracing the stage together for seven historic Sonisphere festival gigs in Europe this year. To say that the prospect was beyond mouth watering for every metal fan on this planet was always a massive understatement. It was certainly going to be a pilgrimage of sorts for those lucky few that would get to attend one or more of these shows in person. For us people here in the States though, every time we heard or read something about this, all we could do was whine and complain about the fact that the shows aren't coming to our part of the world, at least for the time being. But then there was this other announcement. We could catch the show from Bulgaria in movie theatres. You'd definitely ask; a thrash gig, in a movie theatre? Yes it sounded equally weird to me at first. I'm very happy to be proved wrong.
The movie was screened last night in theatres across the country and in other parts of the world. It was supposed to be a one off thing, but not surprisingly, due to popular demand a special "encore" screening has been announced for tomorrow, Thursday June 24th. You can get ticket and theatre info here. If you people are looking to avoid spoilers, may be this is a good time to stop reading further, although such a thing as "spoiler" doesn't exist in this case. Neither is this an actual movie with a storyline to it that you would want to be unaware of, nor is it a real concert that you'll see once in your life. You'll still enjoy every bit of it should you decide to go to your local theatre tomorrow or (AND!) buy the DVD of it coming out this September, based on what you read below.
I got to the AMC theatres in Century City and found my seat in the auditorium with 15 minutes to go for the start. At this time we were being shown interviews with members of all four bands talking about what being part of the big four meant to them. Seeing Lars Ulrich, Scott Ian and Dave Mustaine sitting together was kind of surreal in itself. At the T minus 5 mark the camera panned over to the stage which was being prepared at this time for Anthrax, with the stadium audience waiting patiently. I thought it was a good idea to show this for the next 5 minutes as it built the anticipation amongst people in the theatre as well, making them feel a part of it because sure enough, when Anthrax hit the stage, a roar went up amongst both sets of people.
When I first read on my ticket the duration of the movie as four hours, I knew we weren't going to get full sets of performances. I'm sure some people would have complained about this, but considering that we were seeing this without any breaks, sitting in a theatre, I felt it was a sensible decision. As a result, we got to see 40 minutes of Anthrax's performance. This consisted of 7 songs. The selection was immaculate and I was very happy to see the inclusion of the Black Sabbath cover as a tribute to the one and only Ronnie James Dio. The band sounded great, specially Joey Belladonna, whose performance a lot of people would have closely observed. The sound mix in the video was just about perfect as well.
It was kind of ironic and amusing how it rained in Sofia during the show, but only during Megadeth's performance, whom we got to see next, without any break for us viewers I must add. The rain made for very interesting viewing. I've never been part of an outdoor show where it rained, nor I had seen a video of such a show before. It was certainly epic, specially during Holy Wars. Now, I can't say how the live sound really was because I wasn't there, but judging from the video, their sound mix was as good as the headliners and much better than the other two bands. The guitar riffs and solos sounded amazingly crisp, the drums sounded heavy and they found an absolutely great balance between Mustaine's vocals and David Ellefson and Chris Broderick on the backing vocals. In the theatre here, the cheers and roars were definitely louder for Megadeth than for Anthrax. Although on the other hand I was more than slightly bemused when a few people decided to leave during their set to come back later!
There was no respite for us and I for one was really enjoying this. From Peace Sells/Holy Wars to World Painted Blood we went, as the mighty quartet of Slayer were up next. The first thing I observed was the drop in sound level as compared to Megadeth, which was a shame, whatever be the reason for it. Nonetheless, Slayer is truly a band that makes you "stand up and shout", even if you're watching from the comfort of an auditorium seat. Their set kept getting better and better, and the excitement among the theatre audience was rising. It came to a crescendo during the last song, one of the ultimate thrash anthems, Raining Blood. I never thought I'd say what I'm about to say. I moshed inside the movie theatre. Yes, there was a mosh pit in the little space between the front row and the screen. We stopped doing it only after the security intervened by telling us, "Hey guys, this is not a concert. Please go back to your seats." So although it was short lived, our little mosh pit got the hearts racing, certainly mine. I love all four bands and I know this wasn't a competition but rather a celebration of them playing together. But if you ask me to pick the best band from the show, I'd go for Slayer and I really think more than 9 Slayer songs should have been included in this video.
After this, there was a short tribute piece on Ronnie James Dio in which members from these bands talked about what Dio meant to them and shared a couple of their personal Dio stories. This was a very cool addition in itself, while also allowing us a breather after Slayer's onslaught!
It was finally time for Metallica's set. I always wondered how it would be like watching Metallica straight after Slayer. It took a little bit of getting used to, but by the second song I felt totally into it, along with the entire theatre audience. The lighters were out during Fade to Black and Nothing Else Matters. It was interesting to note that they decided to include only the old songs with the exception of Cyanide, not that I'm complaining. The selection was golden and it was nice that we got to see Kirk's little solo that included a riff from the song Rock Bottom, to the delight of all UFO fans out there. There were some truly "holy f***ing shit" moments during their performance, including one where James showed a certain special something to the audience and the camera zoomed in real close onto it. But, the mother of all historic moments in thrash metal history came towards the end of the set. We are living in the age of internet and I'm more than a 100% sure that you would have seen a video of what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I won't spoil your fun. Let's just say, it involved Metallica jamming a famous cover song with members of certain other bands, and a certain former member of the band doing something I personally never thought I'd get to see. After seeing that, I almost felt as if the prophecy of this planet's existence has been fulfilled, as if this was the only thing yet to happen and which no one could have predicted. My eyes could not believe what they were seeing. But it happened, and I'm sure it'll be The talking point among fans all over the world for a long, long time.
Overall, I would recommend fans of any one or more of the four bands to go to the encore screening and buy the DVD. Although I really think the DVD should include the entire performances, this is a wonderful taste of what it would be like to see these giants share the same stage. I would give it a near perfect ten.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
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