This past summer in Sofia, Bulgaria, the “Big Four” of thrash metal—Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax—performed together for the very first time. To say it was a historic moment in rock and roll history is an understatement. Unfortunately for most fans stuck here in the States, they could only view this spectacle at select movie theater screenings.
But thanks to Jägermeister, this past fall U.S. fans got an opportunity to see three of the “Big Four.” Something is better than nothing, right? While Metallica was off finishing up the touring cycle for their latest album, Death Magnetic, in the South Pacific, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax hit cities across America. Both Slayer and Megadeth performed their 1990 classics—Seasons in the Abyss and Rust in Peace, respectively—in their entirety, while New York natives Anthrax delivered choice cuts from its Eighties catalog with singer Joey Belladonna back in the fold.
On October 8th, the thrash package landed in Long Island, NY, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Unfortunately, rush-hour traffic from the city into Long Island on a Friday night was a living hell and caused this reviewer to miss Anthrax. Total bummer. Reports from those in attendance said the band played a brand new song, entitled “Fight ‘Em ‘Till You Can’t,” which should be on their upcoming record.
We arrived just in time to hear the sampled intro of “Black Sabbath,” which meant Megadeth were about to unleash on the crowd. Soon enough, mainman Dave Mustaine, lead guitarist Chris Broderick, drummer Shawn Drover and original bassist David Ellefson ripped into a spirited version of “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.” Throughout the following 40 minutes, the band played Rust in Peace note-for-note. As for Dave’s vocals, I can’t say the same. Regardless, fans ate it up and were even treated with a Vic Rattlehead appearance. Once the album was finished, hits like “Peace Sells,” “Symphony of Destruction,” “A Tout Le Monde,” and the recent “Headcrusher” made their way into the set, before closing out with a reprise of “Holy Wars.”
Up next were the evening’s thrash-fest headliners, Slayer. The audience tonight, as with every night Slayer performs, was as extreme and psyched as ever. Once the house lights dimmed and the intro of “World Painted Blood” hit, all hell broke loose. This was followed by another new song, “Hate Worldwide,” before Slayer dove into Seasons.
20 years after its release, guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman still shred those notes as hard as ever. Drummer Dave Lombardo hit every drum and cymbal with lethal force and kept the chaos contained while vocalist/bassist Tom Araya belted out his vicious lyrics with conviction. The charismatic and soft-spoken frontman suffered a back injury earlier this year and, as a result, is unable to headbang. The flip side of this, however, was that he was able to focus on his vocals and nail some parts with unexpected—and brutal—clarity, such as the opening scream to “Angel of Death.” “South of Heaven” and “Raining Blood” were, of course, delivered but the band also treated fans with the old gem “Aggressive Perfector.”
When the show finished, I was pleasantly beat up from a few hours of headbanging, but I couldn’t help feeling like I wanted more. While the fact that both bands played albums in their entirety was cool, I still could’ve used some more Slayer favorites like “Hell Awaits,” “Black Magic,” “Criminally Insane” and “The Antichrist.” So here’s to hoping the guys will return to the venue circuit pretty soon. —by Henry Yuan