The Big 4:Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax – At the Movies

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Thursday, June 24, 2010 @ 7:57 AM

Sonisphere Festival, Levski Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria, June 22, 2010

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Most people’s idea of an all-out heavy metal extravaganza might not include sitting in a movie theater for four hours while eating popcorn and drinking Coke. That idea didn’t fire me up until I saw the much anticipated “Big Four” movie on a big screen with a pretty good sound system. A “not-so-metal-like” environment: a West Los Angeles mall/ theater with only 60 people or so, in a room with a 400 + seating capacity added to the surrealism of the evening. The most amazing part of the experience was that Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax were together to make history. The sounds and visuals of this movie are incredible. It’s hard to say what kind of post-production or cleaning up they’ll do to it later. As is, let’s give it a five star-rating. Who would have thought that an event like this could go down in Bulgaria? After you see the energy exchange and the sea of fans singing songs word for word, you know that the Big Four’s infection has been pandemic—no country is exempt from the power of metal. And it’s almost laughable that I’m sitting in an air-conditioned theater, with only a handful of people who seem into what’s going on. They are kids, male and female, who are half my age. The rest might be thinking about their golf swing, waiting to hear “Enter Sandman.”

I’ll speak in the past tense about the concert, but since it’s been immortalized in film I’ll use the present tense as well.

To see Anthrax, with recently rehired singer, Joey Belladonna, storm the stage and take possession of the place, playing hits like “Madhouse”, “Indians”, and “Metal Thrashing Mad” is mind-blowing. Bassist Frankie Bello always works the stage like an animal, and this performance is no exception. Anthrax pays a moving tribute to Ronnie James Dio, playing a portion of “Heaven and Hell.” Belladonna’s voice sounds great and his onstage antics and sense of humor let you know he’s glad to be back.

Megadeth looks and sounds like a well-oiled machine, having plenty of stage practice as of late. Being no strangers to big audiences, Dave Mustaine, Dave Ellefson, Chris Broderick, and Shawn Drover cheerfully and confidently kick the shit out the place with their opener “Holy Wars”, following with Hangar 18 and other classics as a light rain begins to fall onto the thousands of celebrants. Sofia, Bulgaria is the best audience in the world, but a ripping display of guitar from Mustaine and Broderick in “Skin of My Teeth” could only bring out the best in any crowd, regardless of where.

Slayer’s stage set up was stripped down and basic compared to how we’ve seen them over the years. Marshalls stacked to the max and a black curtain backdrop. No logos or upside down crosses or video walls. Their set was very good, though bassist/frontman Tom Araya’s connection with the crowd was nothing like Belladonna or Mustaine’s had been. Araya’s a different kind of showman: more subdued, but certainly a giver. And Slayer gives a great show, playing new songs “World Painted Blood” and “Hate Worldwide”, along with old school favorites like “Angel of Death” and “South of Heaven.”

In a short segment before the Metallica set, Kerry King, Dave Mustaine, Lars Ulrich, and Scott Ian fondly share about times they remember with Ronnie James Dio, who passed away on May 16, 2010.

Metallica takes the stage as night falls and excitement abounds at Sonisphere. The madly-received headliner plays a slew of their hits, including “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Harvester of Sorrow”, “One”, “Master of Puppets”, and “Seek and Destroy.” They even threw “Frayed Ends of Sanity” in there. Kirk Hammett absolutely tore the place down with his guitar solos. Each member of Metallica looked fit and seemed driven by a need to please every soul that was in the crowd.

Another historic moment took place when all bands joined together for “Am I Evil.”

Enough said. Get to the theater and see this movie. Do not wait for it to go to DVD. Invest four hours of your life and $18 bucks and you’ll be a better human. Hey, you can eat popcorn, too.

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