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~ Reviewed by Mozzy/Martin

The Big Four
Prague (Milovice Airport), Czech Republic
June 19, 2010

For a fan of early thrash metal, seeing The Big Four - Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax - together live was always a wet dream, but one that looked all but impossible considering the history and the not so friendly atmosphere that has persisted between some of the bands during the years. When the rumours regarding a possible tour started appearing, one did not dare believe that they were true. But when the announcement finally came that the tour was actually in the pipeline, it had metalheads all over the world salivating and leaping with joy. Without any hesitation, two of your humble Metal Covenant staff, Martin and Mozzy, duly booked a trip to Prague and the Sonisphere Festival - also featuring other quality groups (clashes prevented more reviews) - in order to witness the historic event.

Band: Panic Cell
Time: 14:00-14:30

~ By Martin
No, no, no - this is not a good start to the day. Sounding like a bad copy of Soilwork, British Panic Cell soon have to succumb to bad audience-pleasing by asking the crowd to scream "hell yeah", "fuck yeah" and "motherfucker". It does not help if you don't have good songs - and those lines are really so cheesy to begin with that I cringe.

2 chalices of 10

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: DevilDriver
Time: 15:00-15:45

~ By Martin
You really have to hand DevilDriver one thing - they sure can ignite a crowd! The circle pit is absolutely huge, and most of the time during the band's concert, the audience is going bezerk. I freely admit that I don't have the best grip of the band's music - but I still get a bit riled up about just how good this band is at performing. Having a ton of confidence the band comes out fighting - supercharged to the max. Singer Dez Farfara has a very commanding way about him - and he expects the crowd to follow his lead to the point - a fact that gets me thinking that if this band is given more stage time than 45 minutes there would not be many standing in the audience after the band was done!

6 chalices of 10

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Anthrax
Time: 16:15 - 17:15

~ By Mozzy
When Joey Belladonna yells out to the crowd, "Are you ready for a thrash afternoon?", the response is a loud one. Hearing the vocalist of one the bands representing the so called "Big Four" putting words on it, the weight of what's in store hits home with a marvellous feeling. Just seeing Anthrax, an influential band of their own, is great. And since it is Joey Belladonna who is handling the vocals, further excitement is generated, as he was Anthrax's frontman during the thrash golden era. It is sure nice to see Belladonna back in the fold, charging the stage and stirring on the crowd. As for his vocals, he plays it safe most of the time, mostly staying in the middle-range, although he delivers a few high-pitches too.

The opening is indeed a lesson in Anthrax thrash classics, with Caught In A Mosh, Got The Time and Madhouse as the first three numbers. Sadly, the guitar sound is anything but crisp, which harms the impact of not only the riffing but the melodies as well. Also, the songs are played at a tad slower pace, taking off a bit of the edge. Moreover, the audience is quite reserved, leaving one to speculate whether Anthrax's material really is that well-known in this area of Europe.

During Indians, Ronnie James Dio, a dear friend of the band, is saluted with a short rendition of Heaven And Hell. This gesture goes down brilliantly with the crowd and is a moving tribute to the great man who originally was scheduled to play at the festival with the band named after said song. This also seems to get the punters going, as the singalong to the recognisable melody of next song, Be All End All, is quite impressive.

By the time another old gem, Medusa, is played the sound has improved and the last part of the set is very enjoyable. We get a treat when Only, a song originally sung by John Bush, is performed. Admittedly, it feels quite unusual hearing Belladonna singing on it, but he does an ok job. Rounding off their set, Anthrax deliver awesome versions of the rousing anthem Metal Thrashing Mad and one of their true staples, I Am The Law. This is no less than a pleasurable performance by Anthrax, but it is clear there is room for improvement.

6,5 chalices of 10


Caught In A Mosh
Got The Time
Indians (incl. segment of Heaven And Hell)
Be All End All
Metal Thrashing Mad
I Am The Law

Band: Megadeth
Time: 17:45-18:45

~ By Martin
Considering that it is 20 years since the classic "Rust In Peace" came out, there are quite a few in the audience, including yours truly, hoping that Megadeth will play the album in its entirety. At this the band disappoints, but not in other aspects. Not the most cheerful of frontmen, Dave Mustaine simply walks onto Apollo Stage - and opens with the scorching riff of Holy Wars. Given just how awesome that song is, it's no surprise that the crowd goes absolutely bananas, especially as the band is sounding positively great.

Having a guitarist of Chris Broderick's calibre, a guitarist absolutely flawless, has given Megadeth its strongest line-up in years, and Shawn Drover behind the drums isn't a fluke either, especially since he is playing very much in sync with returned bassist Dave Ellefson.

Pummelling the crap out of second number Hangar 18, that song vividly displays two things: Mustaine, for all his weaknesses, is an accomplished songwriter, and secondly, he displays some serious chops on the guitar. Good lord - the final minutes of the song is just sheer joy as far as I'm concerned. But then the dream to hear Rust In Peace is shattered as Megadeth plays Wake Up Dead, but after getting over the little disappointment that I am denied this treat, Megadeth still have some kick-ass songs. And boy do they show it!

Headcrusher's fantastic energy gets the crowd going - and the transition into In My Darkest Hour sends shivers down my spine. That song's heaviness is something I've appreciated since the first time I heard it, and it's a song to which Mustaine's voice is perfectly suited. Although he isn't the best singer in the world, his voice has a uniqueness about it, and in an odd way it works. Megadeth deliver a good show, and although I would have liked to have heard some more of the band's old songs, the band totally kicks ass when it comes to playing their instruments.

7 chalices of 10


Holy Wars...The Punishment Due
Hangar 18
Wake Up Dead
In My Darkest Hour
Skin O'My Teeth
A Tout Le Monde
Hook In Mouth
Sweating Bullets
Symphony Of Destruction
Peace Sells

Band: Alice In Chains
Time: 19:15 - 20:30

~ By Mozzy
There are certainly those who would have wanted to witness the big four of thrash performing after each other. Although that would have been a treat in itself, perhaps the idea to schedule a band in between to break up the thrash throttle a bit is not a bad idea. Also, that this band is Alice In Chains is rather fitting, as they supported Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer on the legendary Clash Of The Titans tour. In addition, they are close friends with the Metallica guys, also having played with them many times. This being a festival performance, the emphasis is, understandably, on the old material.

Needless to say, it is a pleasure to hear tunes like Them Bones, We Die Young and Would. At the same time, the three songs from last year's brilliant comeback album Black Gives Way To Blue sit splendidly along the old favourites. Fact is, Lesson Learned is one of the highlights of the set, with great harmony vocals from William Duvall and Jerry Cantrell.

Duvall shows once again that he is a terrific singer and a very competent frontman too, displaying charisma and making good use of the stage. The Seattle pioneers are also blessed with arguably the best sound of the night aside from the headliners, aiding especially the superb bass lines courtesy of Mike Inez. The loss of original vocalist Layne Staley is still a thorn for the band, but while the past will never be forgotten, their resurrection has been remarkable, proving that they are just as relevant and genuine a band now.

Simply put, this incarnation of Alice In Chains is an awesome band. This they have proved on record and it is most apparent when they perform live as well.

7 chalices of 10


It Ain´t Like That
Check My Brain
Them Bones
Dam That River
Rain When I Die
Lesson Learned
We Die Young
Acid Bubble
Angry Chair
Man In The Box

Band: Slayer
Time: 21:00-22:15

~ By Martin
Slayer is one of my favourite bands of all time. Ever since I heard Angel Of Death many years ago I have been awed so many times by this band. Regardless of the fact that the band's heyday is over, they still have a fantastic array of songs that haven't lost their magic. The return of original drummer Dave Lombardo was a very big thing in my book and although I think that Paul Bostaph filled the chair admirably, Lombardo has a higher degree of originality in his playing than Bostaph. Slayer's concert this night proves that he still has it.

For those of you dear readers that have seen Slayer, you know that they aren't the most visually entertaining band on the scene - to put it mildly. Kerry King walks from one place to another, bangs his head for a while, then repeats the pattern. Jeff Hanneman basically stays firmly rooted at his preferred spot on the right side of the stage, while Tom Araya, having recently undergone surgery, is forced to nod along gently instead of furiously banging his head. This of course makes Lombardo the focal point of attention - and he's in one hell of a playful mood.

Although the band plays the mandatory three songs off their newest record, World Painted Blood, Beauty Through Order and Hate Worldwide, it's only logical that the loudest cheers go to the old material. From Disciple to the end of the show, Slayer proves once again that although they aren't the most visual band on the planet they have the songs to totally obliterate an audience. Just looking at the setlist makes me smile.

The only thing that disturbs me is that Hanneman isn't putting much dedication into his playing, and my guitar-playing friends remark that he isn't playing his solos the way that they should be played. It isn't to much to demand that you do this, and the more often than before heard rumour that Slayer aren't going to be around for much longer pops into my head - and it saddens me to see that Hanneman, based on this night's performance, already has his mind on other things.

Based on the songs and the powerhouse that is Lombardo, Slayer still, in spite of Hanneman's playing, gives by far the best concert of the night and if the rest of the band had performed on par with Lombardo, I would seriously have been forced to bring out a higher grade.

8 chalices of 10


World Painted Blood
War Ensamble
Hate Worldwide
Beauty Through Order
Seasons In The Abyss
Hell Awaits
Mandatory Suicide
Chemical Warfare
Raining Blood
Aggressive Perfector
Silent Scream
Angel Of Death

Band: Metallica
Time: 23:00-01:20

~ By Martin
Being by far the most-selling act of the day, it's no surprise that Metallica is headlining the event. And they do so in such a way that my head spins looking at my notes from the evening. Opening with Creeping Death along with four other songs from the band's pre-Black Album era, is a powerful point that the concert's focus is on the older material - which is perfectly fine with me. The singing from the crowd is fantastic from the get go and hearing a song like Disposable Heroes live for the first time is just great.

After that opening it's not surprising that the energy level drops considerably when That Was Just Your Life and Cyanide is played by the band. Throughout the evening the newer material, especially that from "Death Magnetic", receives a much less enthusiastic response from the audience, and I'm not sure if this has an effect on the band, but this material is played with much less conviction. Although I can perfectly understand Metallica's will to play these songs, I wouldn't be surprised if none objected to the band simply dropping these songs, or indeed material post-Black Album altogether.

Sad But True and Welcome Home (Sanitarium) bring back the fantastic atmosphere - especially the latter gets the crowd going - and remarkably the band manages to keep the energy going even through My Apocalypse, much to the credit of the song being one of the most aggressive songs off Death Magnetic. The rest of Metallica's concert is, with the exception of two factors, pure bliss. The first factor being Lars Ulrich's pathetic playing in One, which he almost totally botches. The drummer's playing ability is, in comparison to the rest of the band, considerably lower, and I'm getting tired of his sloppy playing. To actually practise is not too much to ask - if nothing else to show due respect for the music and the audience. The other factor is a lesser one - playing Nothing Else Matters, a song I easily could have been without, even though the band delivers a good version.

The finale of the show is, in spite of my remarks, very strong. I especially like the fact that Metallica ends the show with some very old material - material that is played with conviction and joy. Metallica gives a good show this night, much to the credit of James Hetfield, who still has a very commanding stage presence - and who has written some excellent music over the years to say the least.

7 chalices of 10


Creeping Death
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Disposable Heroes
Harvester Of Sorrow
Fade To Black
That Was Just Your Life
Sad But True
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
My Apocalypse
Master Of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman
Seek And Destroy

While the different editions of the Sonisphere festival all have very strong line-ups, this particular one in Prague - one of the dates featuring the Big Four - was certainly special. It was simply amazing to see the Big Four of thrash metal on the same day. Also, an overall good sound and a fantastic efficiency changing the backline between the bands shows that the people behind the festival really know what they are doing. Wonderful weather and a nice, friendly festival area added to this being an awesome day.

It will now be interesting to see if this phenomenal event - the Big Four live - expands further, with more dates in more areas of the world. Regardless of what will happen, we Metal Covenant correspondents consider ourselves very happy and fortunate to have experienced this. Caring individuals as we are however, let's hope that many more metalheads get the opportunity to see Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax playing the same stage together. Writing that very sentence, one realises that it actually was a dream which came true!

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