November 9, 2010

Music Video Review: The Big Four - Live from Sofia, Bulgaria

There is always a little bit of controversy when talking about the biggest names in thrash metal. I know I have been taken to task on a few occasions by my references to the so-called "Big Four." I freely admit that as much as I love metal, I am not the most knowledgeable about its history. So what? I know what I like and I recognize the bands who have influenced my love of the genre for so many years. In my eyes, and in the eyes of the public at large, there are no bigger thrash bands than Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. They have collectively influenced a generation and continue to deliver their music all over the world. With that said, it has always been the dream of millions of metalheads to see these four bands share the stage. That dream is now a reality.

Now, one could nit pick and complain about the line ups of a couple of these bands or that it would have been better to have had this legendary line up grace stages in the US, but who are we to complain? It has happened and it was magical. No matter how you slice it, this is metal history. Frankly, I never thought it would happen.

I would love to say that I have the Blu-ray in my possession, but unfortunately that is not the case (at least not yet). What I do have is a set of promo disks of a sub-par quality that are incorrectly flagged so the widescreen image is squashed into a 1.33:1 ratio and accompanied by a Dolby 2.0 audio track. In short, it is a less than ideal way to experience the show, but it does whet the appetite to want the real set.

Anthrax Band 2010

The first band to take the stage was Anthrax. They hit the stage with almost the complete classic lineup. The band has gone through a couple of changes over the years but fortunately they hit the road for this magical tour with Joey Belladonna on the microphone. Yes, John Bush did some great work with Anthrax, but Anthrax will always be fronted by Joey Belladonna to me. The one guy not there was Danny Spitz, however, Rob Caggiano has been with the band for a long time and is really good fit.

In any case, they took the stage in front of a gigantic crowd and proceeded to tear through classics like "Caught in a Mosh," "Medusa," and "Metal Thrashing Mad." Toss in a cover of Black Sabbath's "Heaven & Hell" and one Bush era tune, "Only," and you have the makings of a great set. They really put it down. Belladonna doesn't quite have the range he once had, but he certainly makes up for it in enthusiasm. Watching the performance reminds me of when I saw the full classic lineup reunite for a tour with Judas Priest a few years back.

Set list:
"Caught in a Mosh"
"Got the Time"
"Be All, End All"
"Indians"/"Heaven & Hell"
"Metal Thrashing Mad"
"I Am the Law"


The next band to take the stage was Megadeth who have always had a revolving door of musicians surrounding Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson and while I would have loved to have seen Marty Friedman and Nick Menza, but you can always be assured that there will be some great musicians with them. I know it sounds like I am making light of the current members and I don't mean to sound like that. Shawn Drover is a really good drummer and has been in the band for awhile now and I have seen him play love and he is really good. Then there is Chris Broderick (ex-Nevermore) who is a really good guitar player.

No matter how you slice it, they took the stage with a vengeance. It is hard to argue with "Holy Wars," "Hanger 18," "In My Darkest Hour," and "Peace Sells." The crowd was into it, the band was into it, and they just know how to own the stage.

Set list:
"Holy Wars... The Punishment Due"
"Hangar 18"
"Wake Up Dead"
"Head Crusher"
"In My Darkest Hour"
"Skin o' My Teeth"
"À Tout le Monde"
"Hook in Mouth"
"Sweating Bullets"
"Symphony of Destruction"
"Peace Sells"/"Holy Wars Reprise"

SLAYER - 2009

Slayer turns things up a notch with their inimitable sound. Even among the big four Slayer stands out. The one band with all of its original members did what they do best, turn up the volume, the violence, and the bloodshed. Tom Araya led the charge through old and new songs alike while the crowd churned up a storm.

They open with a newer song "World Painted Blood" before getting to classics like "War Ensemble," "Seasons in the Abyss," and "Mandatory Suicide." I have seen these guys a couple of times live and they always put every once of themselves on that stage. This is no exception.

Set List:
"World Painted Blood"
"War Ensemble"
"Hate Worldwide"
"Seasons in the Abyss"
"Angel of Death"
"Beauty Through Order"
"Mandatory Suicide"
"Chemical Warfare"
"South of Heaven"
"Raining Blood"


Finally, the main event of the evening, one of the biggest bands in the world and easily the best known and most popular of the big four (not necessarily among the pure metal crowd, but you know what mean). Metallica are greeted by a roar from the crowd and they proceed to go through two hours of hits. Old stuff, new stuff, it doesn't matter, they had the enormous crowd in the palm of their hands.

It is a shame Cliff never got to see how successful the band got, or that Jason Newsted is no longer with them. Not to say Robert Trujillo is no good, the man is a beast, but he is the new kid on the block. Still, I will always love Metallica, even if that love tends towards the first half of their career more than the latter half.

With that said it was great to see them perform some of these classics like the opener "Creeping Death," "One," "Blackened," and "Hit the Lights." The one song I would have loved to see was "The Four Horsemen," but I suspect that was left off on purpose.

As their set came to an end the real magic of the show happened. They brought other equipment out on stage and invite all of the other bands on stage for a performance of Diamondhead's "Am I Evil." It was incredible seeing all these guys on one stage playing the same song. I only wish that the rest of Slayer had been out there, Dave Lombardo was the sole member. It is my understanding they did not know the song. I do not suspect any ill will, just a wish. They did come out at the end for the group shot of everybody together.

Set list:
"Creeping Death"
"For Whom the Bell Tolls"
"Harvester of Sorrow"
"Fade to Black"
"That Was Just Your Life"
"Sad but True"
"Welcome Home (Sanitarium)"
"All Nightmare Long"
"Master of Puppets"
"Nothing Else Matters"
"Enter Sandman"
"Am I Evil?" w/ Dave Lombardo, Megadeth, and Anthrax
"Hit the Lights"
"Seek & Destroy"

The Big 4

Rounding out the set is a 50-minute behind the scenes video. It is not exactly a documentary so much at is clips and interviews of the band getting ready for the show. It is a lot of fun following these guys around and seeing them hanging out and doing the meet and greets and everything right up to them taking the stage. It is worth watching and I think I would watch it again.

Bottomline. Watching these promo DVDs makes me want the Blu-ray that much more. The performances are great, the sets are great, and it is hard not to get excited about these guys taking the stage together. This is metal.

Highly Recommended.

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Article first published as Music Video Review: The Big Four - Live from Sofia, Bulgaria on Blogcritics.


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