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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sonisphere Festival: Sophia, Bulgaria Movie in Theaters again on June 24th

Well I just got back from seeing the Big Four Tour special movie event in Boston and I thought I would post this for the fun of it. I have to say it was more than worth the $18 cost of admission. The movie is meant to commemorate the first show ever to feature METALLICA, SLAYER, MEGADETH and ANTHRAX together celebrating these titans of American Thrash Metal. Let me be the first to say that based on the four and half hours I saw of this not only is the hype beyond justified, but even the most grizzled jaded fan (like I myself am on occasion) would have a hard time finding fault with this event. The theater was 3/4 full on a Tuesday night so I'd have to say if the producers were looking to use this a barometer for future events and tours it was a smashing success! The fans for the most part were fairly enthusiastic whether screaming for Slayer at the top of their lungs, singing along to songs, applauding wildly, clapping along to the beat or headbanging. It was great fun and I think this type of thing could be a real hit in the future if marketed correctly to metal fans.

Since videos and setlists are all over the internet if you want them I will just review some key takeaways from the show rather than run down the concert itself . ANTHRAX was first and were very strong. Despite my dismay of not having John Bush back in the band as expected I must single out Joey Belladonna who was excellent. His singing was very strong for the most part, hit a lot of great high notes and really engaged the ginormous crowd (I haven't seen the numbers, I'm guessing 80-100,000 people) the entire set. Cool moment in the middle of "Indians" when the band launched into "Heaven and Hell" as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio of HEAVEN AND HELL who would have been the preceding act to The Big Four had he not passed away recently. They did about half of the song and the crowd loved it! Later in the film there was a segment where musicians talked about Dio and one part had Lars Ulrich, Scott Ian and Dave Mustaine sitting together sharing stories about what he meant to metal and their lives. Touching stuff to be true. Meanwhile the ANTHRAX segment of the film only showed the Joey -era songs so basically it portrayed what you expect to see from them right now in terms of energy and execution. I'm looking forward to their comeback tour and album next year as should you.

Next up was MEGADETH. In terms of popularity and greatness they are the equal of SLAYER so I'm guessing they went on first so Dave Mustaine wouldn't upstage his old band or draw to many comparisons. The `DETH portion of the film showed a veteran band at the peak of their powers. Lots of mid-era cuts from So Far, So good, So What.., Rust In Peace, and Countdown To Extinction. There was more than one occasion when for no apparent reason the camera would not show Chris Broderick much at all when he soloed which was disappointing. Mustaine is just outrageous as a performer and player and there were a lot of close ups of his great fretwork for all you shredders and nerds out there like me. Yes, The American Carnage Tour will be a glorious time as soon as it gets here in a few months.

Slayer was next and the thing I noticed immediately was Tom Araya and his appearance. With all of his much publicized assorted surgeries and ailments the last few years I have to say Tom looked great. Slender, but healthy Tom can't headbang or move too much while performing anymore which is sad. However, his playing and singing were unaffected by this and excellent. The same can be said for Dave Lombardo who can be seen on the film in a ton of drummer P.O.V. style camera shots. His playing was just sick as ever. Kerry King was his usual evil, ostentatious self, but I'm kind of concerned about Jeff Hanneman. He played really well, but looks pretty beat up these days. I felt he was kind of the weak link of the band at last summer's Mayhemfest too, but I hope I'm wrong. The SLAYER portion of the film was as I expected: about 20% new songs off of World Painted Blood and 80% extreme as ever Slayer "hits" if you will.

The METALLICA haters will say what they will about the band and it is mostly justified. One can make a case that EXODUS belongs at these shows every bit as much as The Big Four bands do and their omission is a terrible slight. Give the big dogs some credit for this major metal event though. Not only did they help plan these shows, there is potential for the tour to come to the USA and the rest of the world. This movie event is a major gift to fans of thrash. As for their part of the show it was basically the typical METALLICA concert with all of the bells and whistles they always have. Big effects like fire and bombs, dramatic flourishes and lots of sing along crowd participation were in effect as the big stadium show is what they do best these days. I appreciated the mostly old-school set they played, but was amused to notice a lot people in attendance in theater with me didn't recognize songs like "Harvester of Sorrow" and "Hit the Lights" when they heard them. Sad but true (pun intended)! The coolest part of the film and perhaps the most awesome thing I have ever seen in metal happened toward the end of their set. They went off stage for what looked like the end of the concert, but quickly came back out. James Hetfield told the crowd they had brought up extra gear for some special guests to come up and jam. At that point I couldn't believe it when all of ANTHRAX, MEGADETH and half of SLAYER came on stage with guitars, basses and sticks and started to play DIAMOND HEAD'S classic "Am I Evil". More amazing still was that James shared the lead vocals with Joey Belladonna and Dave Mustaine! It was really surreal watching all of my heroes clowning around and jamming about half of this sick cover song. There was even visible affection and camaraderie from Lars and James towards Dave which blew me away. Kerry and Jeff from SLAYER were conspicuously absent for this and Tom Araya kind of hung out but did not play. Right before METALLICA went off stage for the last time Lars announced that this concert was going to come out on DVD at some point. That would be great and i will be a first day buyer. As a fan of this music since 1985 to see this in person would be a dream come true. Here's hoping it does and then I can do the proper review right here at Metal Army America. Horns up!

Keith Chachkes



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