Many thought it would never happen… it was worth the wait!
Straight up, hand in your Metal Card if you don’t even know what the Big Four is all about. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just go listen to Justin Bieber or something. This IS as big of a deal as the hype leads you to believe. It was said for many years that it would never happen. Historically, the closest was Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth’s Clash Of The Titans tour from the early ‘90’s. But after Slayer and Megadeth hit the road together once more a couple of years ago, the rumour mill began turning. It went into overdrive when the likes of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich hinted at interest in doing a big four tour. Then finally, the European Sonisphere Festivals scored the biggest coup in metal history : for the first time ever, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica would share the stage as the tour ventured through Poland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Turkey.
As the historic event drew closer, the show was to be beamed into cinemas around the globe and of course a DVD would not be far away. Well, for the many thousands of metal heads that could not be there to be a part of history, this is definitely the next best thing. Spread across two DVDs, The Big Four: Live From Sofia Bulgaria features each of the bands sets in their entirety.
Disc One features the full almost hour long sets from Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer. Anthrax (who now list vocalist Joey Belladonna once again in their ranks) open up proceedings with a solid set of classics but the surprises are Only (from 1993’s Sound of White Noise) and a brief rendition of Dio era Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell as a tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio. The heaven’s open and bucket down as Megadeth launch into Holy Wars to open their set. Their set is varied with choice cuts from their lengthy career crammed into their hour set including Hangar 18, In My Darkest Hour, A Toue Le Monde and Trust. It’s a blistering set and most fitting that Dave “Junior” Ellefson is back along side founder and vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine for this show. The last time I saw Slayer live, they really lacked stage presence. I’ve seen Slayer several times but they’ve never been as disinterested as they were for this show. Their performance, whilst tight enough, was lacking any real energy or stage presence. Whilst Anthrax and Megadeth appeared to be truly stoked by this show, Slayer’s apathy couldn’t be more obvious. Their “performance” was without doubt disappointing and forgettable.
Disc Two is all about Metallica. Their whopping two hour set shows the band in top form and totally into this epic event. Vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield mentions several times about the significance of this event throughout the band’s huge setlist which features Creeping Death, Harvester Of Sorrow, This Was Just Your Life, Blackened and Hit the Lights, amongst others. The highlight though is the super all star jam on Am I Evil? featuring all of Megadeth and Anthrax on stage with Metallica. What is a truly fun way to mark the occasion is marred by the aforementioned disinterest of Slayer with only drummer extraordinaire Dave Lombardo taking part in this jam session. Their absence is notable and in my eyes, only reinforces my previous comments regarding their attitude towards this show.
The second disc also features an interesting doco on the “behind the scenes” aspect of this show. From the band’s leaving the hotel, to meeting up and swapping stories at the venue, to the build up to each of the individual performances and their thoughts on it all after their sets, this is a great watch for fans of the bands to get deeper into the minds of these metal legends to find out what this was like from their point of view.
Visually, the live performances are very well presented. Initially, things appeared a little grainy but as the show went on, that became less obvious to the point of not even being an issue. Sound wise, the sets from Anthrax and Megadeth stand out the most. The balance of the band’s sound is perfect and fills your room via the DVD’s digital surround 5.1 mix. It sounds soooooo good on 11! Slayer’s sound still sounds tinny at times but nowhere near as bad as that of their most recent album World Painted Blood. Early on in Metallica’s set, the rhythm guitars buried in the bass and drum heavy mix. The problem seems to iron out along the way, but it stands out like dog’s balls initially.
Available in various formats, there is something for everyone here regardless of the level of your fanboy-ness. Put simply, bang that head that doesn’t bang! Awesome!
(Universal Music Australia)