The Big Four: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria

The Big 4Synopsis: The Big Four is an expression designating the 4 most important U.S. metal bands like Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax. These are also the 4 groups best known for Thrash metal. It is since 1984 that young fans of Thrash Metal have begun to speculate on a concert that would combine the Big Four. Over the years, and after a few setbacks and tensions between groups, this vision of a reunion faded.

It would take twenty-five years before new rumors, stronger and with more presence on many sites and fan communities, resurfaced. On the occasion of the Sonisphere Festival 2010, the legendary Big Four shared the bill for the first time. This already legendary concert was immortalized for giving us the Big Four: Live From Sofia, Bulgaria.

***********************************************************************

The Big Four: Live from Sofia, Bulgaria 8.5

On June 22, 2010, thrash metal greats Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax did a concert together at the Sonisphere Festival at Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria. It was one of just a few on a small European tour dubbed “The Big Four” (i.e. the four thrash metal icons).

For posterity’s sake, the Bulgarian concert was recorded and broadcast “live” (there was a slight delay) in some 800 cinemas around the world. It was one night only, no retakes, no overdubs. It was to be a historic event: these landmark bands had never been on the same bill before.

Naturally, having been a fan of Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax to various degrees since adulthood (Hey, what can I say? I was a late bloomer…) , I was totally stoked to hear about this. I immediately tracked down the local presentation and contacted my friends to see if they’d join me.

And thus, on June 22, we made our trip to a cinema bursting to the seams with metalheads.

It was a memorable night, watching those legendary metal bands play for a MASSIVE crowd in Sofia. The broadcast was mildly glitchy, but the crowd that night was as fired up as we were and cheers erupted throughout the show. After three and a half hours, we walked out of there buzzing with excitement.

But I knew at the time that this would have to be released on DVD (and, hopefully, on blu-ray too): it had been filmed for the broadcast, so presumably there would be a way to package all of this into a keepsake of some sort. Not only would there be demand for it, but there would likely be tons of cash to be made.

I wasn’t disappointed: soon enough, the show was released in various iterations, including DVDs, blu-rays, and multi-disc boxed sets. But here’s the clincher: whereas the broadcast was edited slightly due to time constraints, the home video version was released in full, adding about 75 minutes to it!!!

I soon picked it up, drooling at the thought of seeing this unexpurgated version of such a momentous event, and fully expecting to relive the moment with a few friends thereafter. But the moment never came: scheduling and lagging interest in five hours of metal derailed my plan.

But I finally got around to it the other day: having watched ‘Through the Never‘ and ‘Some Kind of Monster‘, I decided to make November a Metallica month – thereby pushing me to finally get around to ‘Français pour une nuit‘ and ‘The Big Four’, which had both been sitting on my “New Arrivals” shelf for a couple of years each.

I just wasn’t sure how to go about it. Could I handle five hours of non-stop metal? And, by that same token, could my neighbours? So I decided to take a break between each set, in some ways recreating the concert experience (given that the bands had to take time to change over – all of them having their own gear and set-ups).

I decided to be prudent and go for one hour between each (giving enough time to rest and write up my notes), starting the Anthrax set at 2pm, the Megadeth one at 4pm, Slayer at 6pm, and Metallica at 8pm. I knew that Metallica’s show took place after nightfall, so it was somewhat coordinated. It would end at approximately 10pm.

I was ready. Are you?

(nota bene: all songs highlighted in red were not part of the original broadcast)

Anthrax

Anthrax

I’m not a HUGE fan of Anthrax, but I really like them. I discovered them with ‘Persistence of Time’, in particular the track “Got the Time”, which was killer. I always found them a little too light-hearted for my taste, with their rap songs, silly lyrics and surfer shorts, but they had some killer songs and, at their best, rocked like crazy.

They got rid of frontman Joey Belladonna right after I started listening to them, and they put out a few scattered albums, but not nearly of the same quality as they used to. Belladonna returned to the fold in recent years, so it was nice to see them live almost intact (lead guitarist Danny Spitz has long since left the band and has been replaced by Rob Caggiano.

They were terrific as opener to this massive line-up because they were energetic and Joey Belladonna really knew how to work the crowd. In fact, I think that Anthrax were superior to the other bands as a warm-up – they really got the HUGE outdoor crowd worked up, and, knowing the other bands, I doubt that anyone else could have done such a great job.

So it was unusual that they arrived on stage with little fanfare or theatrics, just walking on and getting started. But, boy did they make up for it the moment that they hit that first note!

1. Caught in a Mosh: This is a solid track, but it didn’t do anything for me. The band, however, was on fire. 7.0

2. Got the Time: YEAH! This is a cover of a Joe Jackson song, and it’s completely different, pumped up on steroids. It’s awesome! 8.5

3. Madhouse: At this point, Joey announces that the concert is being broadcast in cinemas, ..etc. Then they go into this classic Anthrax song. 7.5

4. Be All, End All: Joey prompts the crowd to sing the intro. They’re totally into it: the masses are pumping their arms in the air. Wicked. I can’t believe this was cut from the broadcast. 8.0

5. Antisocial: Joey gets people singing at the beginning, before the song. This is good, but I hate the lyrics/chorus. Frank Bello also worked the crowd, getting them clapping midway through. 7.5

6. Indians/Heaven and Hell/Indians: Charlie starts the song with a terrific drumbeat, then the three axes play to each other, in a sort of circle, to get the main riff going. I don’t like the chorus much but it’s anthemic. I loved the segue into “Heaven and Hell”; Ronnie James Dio had died recently and Joey did a small tribute to him – his voice was pretty okay for “H&H”. Then they went back into “Indians”, with Joey running around with his chief’s headgear. I remember being blown away by this entire performance at the screening. 8.0

7. Medusa: Mmm… okay. I don’t recall the studio version at all. 6.5

8. Only: Joey introduces the band members. It sounded like he didn’t know what to say about them. Then the drum rhythm starts and it’s… frickin’… awesome. The studio version is an excellent song (James Hetfield once proclaimed it the perfect metal song), but it’s just an okay rendition. But, then, it’s a song from the non-Joey years, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t come off 100% with him on vocals. 7.5

9. Metal Thrashing Mad: Scott reminded the crowd about the broadcast and told them to show the world how it’s done. Then he introduced the song. Joey gets the crowd going some more. It’s energetic, but I don’t like the song that much. Fans would love this, though. 6.5

10. I Am the Law: Joey works the crowd some more – he’s really superb at this. The song is okay, but it was a really great performance. 7.5

The band ended with a few thank yous from Joey and Scott and then Anthrax walked off the stage. I quite liked their set. Of course, it all hinged on Joey Belladonna, who looked worn, older, with bad hair and too deep a tan, making him look leathery. But his voice was pretty good given his age and the length of his career, and his presence was stellar. Plus his in-between song banter was just right. He’s a terrific metal frontman of the classic genre – and he’s better than you’d imagine.

Meanwhile, Frank Bello was very dynamic, running around a lot and working the crowd a fair bit. Charlie Benante was top notch, barely sweating his way through a pretty intense set and not missing a beat. Rob Caggiano was solid throughout, but was firmly rooted in place, giving up very little energy (and what’s with that knitted cap? Well, it’s better than the surfer shorts from back in the day…). Scott Ian, though, was playing furiously, giving it his all.

Overall impression: 8.0

Megadeth

Megadeth

I discovered Megadeth with ‘Countdown to Extinction’ and started to explore their discography not long after. It took a short while, but I became a fan, and truly relished their ’90s output – more so than Metallica’s, whose ’80s output I consider far superior. Every time Megadeth released another album, I was eager to pick it up and give it a listen. That is, until ‘Risk’. It hasn’t been the same since.

Megadeth has had a seemingly ever-changing line-up since lion-maned Dave Mustaine was fired from Metallica and started this shit-kicker of a band. The only time they seemed stable was during those years that I liked most, when the quartet consisted of Mustaine, co-founder Dave Ellefson, Nick Menza and Marty Friedman. Mustaine, of course, is the glue that binds Megadeth together.

…and the plastic explosive that constantly threatens to tear it apart.

Dave Ellefson had been gone for close to a decade but had just recently returned for Megadeth’s ‘Rust in Peace’ 20th anniversary tour. He’s stuck around ever since. I was very pleased to see him back in the fold for ‘The Big Four’ concerts, joining relatively new recruits Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover on stage; it just wasn’t the same without him.

Megadeth got on stage and, with barely a warning and no messing about, Dave Mustaine growled: “Here we go!”

1. Holy Wars…The Punishment Due: This song is so AWESOME! What a way to start the set! It features a wicked solo by Mustaine! Unfortunately, it started to rain intermittently. Not that it deterred the band or took away from anyone’s enjoyment. 8.5

2. Hangar 18: Hell, YEAH!!! Along with “Holy Wars…”, this is in my top five Megadeth songs of all time. This was such a massive one-two punch, with no pause between the songs. The band was in top form: it’s a fantastic version, sounding great. 9.0

3. Wake Up Dead: Pretty good, but it was never my favourite track of theirs. 8.0

4. Head Crusher: Also pretty good, but I bloody hate the title. And, musically, it sounds like they’re trying to prove something; it’s pretentiously technical. Not sure what they’re trying to prove, though, after all these years…  7.5

5. In My Darkest Hour: By the time that they played this classic, the crowd was totally into the set, all pumping to the rhythm. What a sight! 7.5

6. Skin o’ My Teeth: It’s really not my favourite Megadeth track (its lyrics are akin to Metallica’s ‘Fuel’ for depth), but it’s still good. 7.5

7. À tout le monde: This is a lightweight song, but it’s popular and the crowd sung along unprompted. Still it’s no wonder that it was pulled from the broadcast – it deters somewhat from the sharp edge of the rest of the set. 8.0

8. Hook in Mouth: This was blistering! Phenomenal. 8.0

9. Trust: At this point, Megadeth walked off stage (which made me think they were going for an “encore”), leaving the drummer to start the song’s awesome drum rhythm before the bass kicked in. It’s so catchy, hooky. I frickin’ love it!  9.0

10. Sweating Bullets: One of the standouts from ‘Countdown to Extinction’, but certainly a more middle-of-the-road number in this set. Very nice. 8.0

11. Symphony of Destruction: YEAH! This is the song that turned me on to Megadeth two decades ago and it remains potent. The crowd is singing during the main riff, but who knows what they’re singing. Mustaine thanked them at the end and walked off stage with the band. 9.0

12. Peace Sells: The band returned for their signature song – the crowd sang along. 8.0

13. Holy Wars Reprise: After “Peace Sells”, Megadeth cut right into the middle of “Holy Wars” again, closing off the show on an amazing note. The crowd was digging every moment of it.  8.5

Before leaving the stage, Mustaine reminded the crowd that they’re being broadcast all around the world, eliciting cheers from the immeasurable masses before him. Then he introduced the band, and thanked the crowd one final time. Seriously, this was the only time throughout the whole show that Mustaine cracked a smile – not that I wold have expected otherwise from the band’s perennially surly leader.

Appropriately, this was an unrelenting concert: there was no chit-chat, jams or breaks in between songs; it was a tight, very well thought out, set – so Mustaine may very well have been deeply focused on his performance. It was definitely more about musicianship than about stagecraft or spectacle: aside from a moderate amount of headbanging from Ellefson and Broderick, there was just a little bit of movement.

At some point during the show, the rain had subsided.  It’s a good thing, too, because these people had a long night ahead of them and it would have been horrible to be stuck in a downpour.

Overall impression: 8.5

Slayer

Slayer

I’m no great fan of Slayer. I’ve only listened to three albums of theirs in my lifetime and the only one that I truly enjoyed was ‘Seasons in the Abyss’. But that was 20 years ago, and I actually never bought it on CD (I still have the tape, though). I’m just not pulled to them.

Sadly, this set really didn’t change anything for me, in that it didn’t do anything for me whatsoever. I recognize that they were professional and played unrelentlessly throughout, but it was too brutal for me. I felt like an old geezer who doesn’t get dem yung uns’ music.

…and yet I like metal and even stuff that’s far edgier than this. I don’t get it.

All this to say that I have very little to say about this set. The band mostly stood there, playing, with Tom Araya providing the only human touch when he looked contentedly, even proudly, into the crowd. That happened three times in the whole set.

The production was limited to a couple of large screens to each side of the stage, and some lights, but otherwise there was nothing going on. This was as no-frills as you could possibly get – aside from the massive wall of amps that adorned the back of the stage.

Most of the time I just sat there, frequently incapable of distinguishing between the tracks. At first, I appreciated the quality of the songs, even though I didn’t like them, but I eventually got bored. Consequently, I would recommend that fans add 1.5-2.0 to each rating.

Slayer arrived onstage and got down to business without any greetings or theatrics:

1. World Painted Blood: That was okay, but not particularly rousing. 6.5

2. Jihad: Brutal, but the end had a nice rhythmic, march-like, vibe going for it. 6.5

3. War Ensemble: Araya greeted the crowd and then the band went into “blisteringly fast” mode. 6.5

4. Hate Worldwide: More “blisteringly fast”. Point taken. 6.5

5. Seasons in the Abyss: Araya looked into the crowd self-contentedly as the band got through this much-catchier number. 7.0

6. Angel of Death: Super fast, brutal. What else is new? 6.0

7. Beauty Through Order: Okay track, but I was bored by then. 5.0

8. Disciple: Another fast song. Hurrah. 5.5

9. Mandatory Suicide: Araya thanked the crowd and seemed pleased. Otherwise, it’s more of the same. Love the title, though. Hilarious. 6.0

10. Chemical Warfare: Loud and fast? Never would have expected it. 6.0

11. South of Heaven: Nice guitar intro – melodic, even. Wow. Red smoke moved from the stage into the crowd. A bit better. 7.0

12. Raining Blood: Slayer started with their backs to the crowd, playing feedback off the amps, then went into the song, which had hooks and different rhythms. This wasn’t bad. 7.0

For some reason there was this one camera that shook from time to time, but it wasn’t a major deterrent. I don’t think it would matter much to die-hard fans, anyway. It certainly didn’t bother me none, given how bad it was during the Metallica concert in France.

Basically I spent most of the show staring at these guys in stunned silence.

…one of whom is a large bald man with a massive tressed goatee and tattoos everywhere (including his head), huge chains dangling from his belt and super-long spikes that made his left arm look like a porcupine, and another who looked out of shape, wore black hockey pads on his legs and had guitars themed after beer brands. Classy.

As far as I’m concerned, Slayer wins the Metalocalypse Award for “Most Metal” of The Big Four. Fans should rejoice.

Overall impression: 6.5

Metallica

Metallica

I started paying attention to Metallica when a friend got their blockbuster self-titled album and he let me borrow it. At first, I copied it to a tape and listened to it, but very soon thereafter I sought out my own copy – a Japanese CD that boasted the then-exclusive bonus track “So What?”. I enjoyed the album a fair bit, and even picked up various singles, promos and rare CDs

But it wasn’t long before I picked up the older Metallica releases. I am a completist, after all.

And that’s when I lost my marbles for Metallica. I soon ditched the so-called “Black Album”, with its lame title and even lamer artwork, and couldn’t stop spinning their earlier works, which was notably more complex and satisfying. For a couple of years, ‘Kill ‘Em All’, ‘Ride the Lightning’, ‘Master of Puppets’ and ‘…And Justice for All’ were staples of my musical diet.

My best friend at the time was also deep into Metallica: she long-hauled it to go see them live, got a guitar and learned the riffs to “Master of Puppets” (amongst other things), and spent as much time as I did listening to and watching anything relating to Metallica. We were absolutely hooked (she also had a small crush on Jason); there was no such thing as too much Metallica.

For me, the shoe dropped when they released ‘Load’. The thing is, they waited way too long between albums: five years had passed and my fervour had shifted to other things. When I saw the promotional posters all over my favourite record store, Record Runner, I was aghast: Metallica had all cut their hair short, and looked like a bunch of hipsters trying to emulate U2 (coincidentally Anton Corbjin, a U2 staple, had done the photography).

Then came the rock magazines, which showed them all dishevelled and no longer cool at all. WTF!!! These cats were coolest before then… what had happened? My first impression was cemented. But then came the final blow: the video for the first single of the new album, “Until it Sleeps”, which was so ridiculously artsy that I couldn’t put the two together: Metallica and art? Really? Never mind the fact that the song was decent, I just couldn’t register it.

I still got the album, and the one following it, ‘Reload’. But they were so unbearably long and chock full of fillers that I simply couldn’t stand it (starting an album with “Ain’t My Bitch” is simply not a good way to go – and it’s absolutely not Metallica-worthy). These were the guys who put out complex masterpieces, now writing (and releasing! You can write it, but you don’t have to release it) utter drivel, the stuff of simpletons – the opposite of what attracted me to them.

From that point onward, I had a love-hate relationship with Metallica. I paid attention, but mostly with a certain incredulity, something that wasn’t helped by a covers album, the widely-panned ‘St. Anger’ and lengthy waits between studio albums. They had the potential and skill (they were still Metallica after all), but they had long since lost most of the credibility that they had worked so hard to earn in the early days. They were now just some nostalgia act for me.

Still, to this day, even though I no longer listen to them on a regular basis, I still adore ‘Kill ‘Em All’, ‘Ride the Lightning’ and ‘Master of Puppets’.

So when I heard that they were spearheading this ‘The Big Four’ show, a small amount of nostalgia drew me in. The fact is… Metallica were always a captivating live act, so no matter how spotty their output had been in the last two decades, I figured that it might be worth a shot. Plus which they had recently released their strongest album in forever, ‘Death Magnetic’. AND I would finally get to see Robert Trujillo play with them! I was totally primed.

It was dark by the time that the band hit the stage for their two-hour plus set:

1. The Ecstasy of Gold: This intro tape was played to the sound of thunder cracks, with the crowd singing along to it. Metallica bounced onto the stage, waving at the masses. 8.0

2. Creeping Death: Metallica started right into it with this classic track, and the crowd got into it immediately, singing along. It felt like a set closer, like the show’s peak, and yet it was only just the beginning. 9.0

3. For Whom the Bell Tolls: This one opened with Trujillo on bass, spotlighted at the top part of the stage, with the massive screens behind him. When the song started proper, he came down and prowled about the stage. I’m sick of this song, but it was an awesome performance. 8.5

4. Fuel: Fire blasted on stage and at the sides. The performance, however, was lacking. 6.5

5. Harvester of Sorrow: James greeted the crowd. The fans were really into this one, fists pumping the air. 7.0

6. Guitar solo: Tacked on after “Harvester of Sorrow”, at first I thought it was just a part of the performance, a sort of closing bit. Kirk’s performance was alright. 7.0

7. Fade to Black: James started with an acoustic guitar, which added a terrific sound to the piece. The crowd sang along to the intro, which is unusual. It was a great moment, but James ruined by uttering: “Do you feel it? Sofia, do you feel it? Do you feel what I feel?” It was so cheesy, sappy; I couldn’t stand it. Then he sang over the final, driving part of the song. ARGH! He basically ruined one of my all-time favourite songs. Furthermore, the track was ill-placed in the set, because it’s more of a closer than mid-set piece. 8.0

8. That Was Just Your Life: Before the song, the giant screen showed a video of the Metallica “star” logo coming in from space and crashing down to earth. It’s an impressive video but I don’t see the point, contextually, as it related to nothing at all. But the following performance was furious, excellent. 8.25

9. Cyanide: A pretty good song, and James really worked the crowd, getting them to clap. Unfortunately, the song loses momentum halfway through. 7.5

10. Sad but True: God, I hate this song. James dedicated it to The Big Four, telling the crowd how much it means to him to be part of the legendary Big Four. 6.5

11. Bass solo: Trujillo got to do a solo, which consisted mainly of him detuning his bass. Meh. 6.5

12. Welcome Home (Sanitarium): This is a faithful and amazing version of the “Master of Puppets” classic. It was nice to hear it again. 8.5

13. All Nightmare Long: This song is growing on me the more I hear it; it really fits the heavier Metallica stuff. It might be a new classic. 8.0

14. One: The band left the stage for a while, which suggested an encore, but it might just be because they didn’t want to be there when the stage gets engorged with flame – to the sound of machine gun fire, while fire cannons, explosions and even fireworks blew up everywhere. It was quite impressive. The crowd sang along to the intro, which is weird to me (this is not Iron Maiden. Or a musical!), and James sang over too many key bits, negating the poignancy of the song. There were flashing lights and explosions during the last bit. 8.5

15. Master of Puppets: James put in some “fake teeth” for a bit, at the beginning of the song. This is a good version of the 1986 classic until James had the crowd sing over the guitar solo in the mid-section. FUCK!!! This isn’t a sing-a-long song! A little respect for the music, godammit! 8.5

16. Blackened: I found this bland, surprisingly enough, given how intense it should have been. 7.5

17. Guitar solo: Kirk delivered a very melodic piece, nice. The crowd clapped along. 8.0

18. Nothing Else Matters: The crowd was captivated for this one. Not sure why. James went through the motions of faking sincere emotions, ending up on his knees. Yuck. 7.5

19. Enter Sandman: It’s weird, seeing this whole stadium fist-pumping in unison at James’ behest, made me think of fascism, of those old movies from World War II. Creepy, in a way. But the production was impressive, with mega fireworks going. James ended the set with “You make us feel good. Thank you.” (Um… you can’t get more “metal” than that! Pffft!) 8.0

20. The Frayed Ends of Sanity: The encore set began to the backing tune of the Wizard of OZ chant “Oh wee oh, oh woah!”, which was reused by Metallica in “The Frayed End of Sanity” on ‘…And Justice For All”. 7.5

21. Am I Evil?: And the big surprise? Metallica got Megadeth, Anthrax and Dave Lombardo (of Slayer) to come on stage and perform a truncated version of the Diamond Head classic “Am I Evil?” together. Why the other guys from Slayer weren’t there, I don’t know, but it was nonetheless quite the sight: all the guys greeted and embraced, like old school chums and got started, with the drummers adding multiple layers of percussion, James, Joey and Dave taking turns singing, and the rest of the gang in unison. Joey worked the crowd up like the awesome cheerleader that he is, of course. This was history in the making, as these bands had never played together before. Then they took a few pictures together before dissolving (Jeff Hanneman from Slayer showed up for the picture, but that’s it. I would love to know why Araya and King weren’t there at all). This was by far the best moment in the whole concert. 9.5

22. Hit the Lights: Metallica got into this old classic, which was fun, blistering. 8.0

23. Seek and Destroy: James started off teasing the crowd, after Lars insisted that they wouldn’t play any more. Hetfield would put his guitar on, then take it off, then on and off and on and off, to the reactions of the crowd. It was juvenile, silly; once would have been enough. Then they went into this final bit, to the crowd’s delight. 7.5

Honestly, I hadn’t seen Metallica perform a full show since the surprisingly underwhelming ‘S&M’, back in 1999, so I was taken aback at how relatively massive the production was, especially since the other bands had fairly barebones set-ups. I mean, I understood why the others got half the time that Metallica did, but I never expected Metallica to be into larger-than-life presentations.

And in a way, this deterred from my enjoyment: in my mind, they’ve become a spectacle à la U2, with a GINORMOUS screen behind them and two large ones on each side. The stage had two levels and had stairs on either side, leading to the top part – which is approximately level with the massive screen. Basically, Metallica were dwarfed by the stage.

I mean, I know that in comparison to some major international artists, this is nothing. In fact, it’s probably downright rudimentary. But in the metal world, it’s got to be unprecedented. It’s HUGE. And that doesn’t even account for all the pyrotechnics and other theatrics! I mean, when one considers everything that was planned for this show, it’s quite something.

(little did I know at the time that ‘Through the Never’ would far outdo this set)

One could argue that the stadium was HUGE, and such screens were essential for the audience members at the back to see. If so, then why weren’t they all available for the other bands? No, this MASSIVE screen was a Metallica indulgence, something they didn’t do in the old days (remember that concert September 28, 1991 at Tushino Airfield in Moscow?). They would just let their performance do the talking.

And that’s why I wasn’t as impressed with them this time. This was kind of the Broadway version of Metallica (although ‘Through the Never’ was the Vegas version), polishing off the edges that make this music so powerful. Still, they did play their hearts out (In James’ case, that’s perhaps an understatement. Cue irony). And, by God, there were a LOT of people there; it was like a sea of people. Impressive!

Overall impression: 7.5

The Big Four

The blu-ray also comes with a 50-minute behind-the-scenes look at this historic mega-concert. It starts at 2pm that afternoon, when Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax began to make their way to the stadium. How long they’d been in Sofia is undetermined, and when Metallica made their way to the concert is another thing altogether – they seem to already be there.

By 3pm, we are backstage with Megadeth. Dave Ellefson was concerned about the rain, but thought that it would pass them by and hit Slayer (he even had a bet going with Shawn about it). He also talked about their travels and about the concert itself, which he knowingly states is really just a large-scale battle of the bands.

We also go backstage with Anthrax. Joey was wandering about, just checking things out, and Frank sourly talked about the joys of taking a crap at festivals. Meanwhile, Metallica was practicing “Am I Evil?”, as were Dave Mustaine and Rob Caggiano. Some of the other musicians were also tinkering with their instruments.

The bands eventually began to mingle, shoot the shit, talk about their kids, …etc. It’s all very convivial; despite Ellefson’s claims, this didn’t seem competitive at all. Lars tells Mustaine that, for one year, his kid’s favourite band was Megadeth. Dave seemed taken aback – mostly by the fact that it was “only” one year!

By a quarter past 4pm, Anthrax hit the stage. Meanwhile, Robert Trujillo and Kirk Hammett met with their fans. Tom Araya and Kerry King also met with their fans. What was astounding was the devotion of the Slayer fans, one of whom had a full back tattoo of King and the other who wept uncontrollably next to a bemused Araya.

By a quarter to 6pm, Megadeth went on – but only after a group prayer. Non-fans may be surprised to hear this, but one of the world’s most iconic thrash metal bands, a band that is named after nuclear warfare, is actually composed a bunch of deeply devout Christians. It sounds strange, but such is the case.

By a quarter to 7pm, so at about the end of Megadeth’s show, Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield met with their fans.  I have no idea if these fans had been waiting around since 4pm, but if they did, they’re pretty damned devoted. On the flipside, I have to wonder why Lars and James made them wait for so long.

By a quarter past 7pm, Slayer hit the stage. By half past 8pm, the bands were practicing “Am I Evil?” backstage together. Slayer was noticeably absent. It was a very loose affair, but everyone seemed confident and were enjoying themselves. By a little past 9pm, Metallica went on – after a tongue-in-cheek huddle presided over by Kirk.

At 11pm, history was being made with the bands’ performance of “Am I Evil?” before a delirious audience. Scott Ian ended the documentary by telling us that it was the highlight of his career. Somehow, I’m not 100% convinced by his assertion; it sounded disingenuous. Still, for fans, it was totally unforgettable.

One thing that struck me about the documentary is that the interviews shown between the bands’ sets in the cinema weren’t included. What happened to those? Are they available as Easter eggs somewhere on the disc? I will have to find out, because those were essential parts of the experience.

The short series of concerts by ‘The Big Four’ ended up being successful enough that they organized a second run in 2011. None of those were not broadcast. Tom Araya of Slayer has since said that it is unlikely that it will happen again. Apparently band politics will likely prevent this,. which is a shame.

…but we have Sofia, Bulgaria on record, for us to savour. Forever and always.

Date of viewing: November 11, 2013

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s