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What is the Big Four Tribute Band?

The members of Betrayal Incorporated formed a tribute band 2012 – 2014 dedicated to replicating the biggest four thrash metal bands in the world – Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax.

Listen to their cover of Megadeths Hanger 18

Here is a review of a recent gig by Sean Burton of Staffs Live

For those unfamiliar with the ‘Big Four’ tag, it refers to the bands who are arguably the most influential and recognisable of the thrash metal genre.

Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax all formed in the early 80s and aside from numerous lineup changes and deaths of members, they are all still going strong today with Metallica even headlining Glastonbury Festival in 2014.

Tonight (Friday, 13th March), The Sugarmill played host to Stoke’s own tribute to the titans of thrash, as well as two promising hometown metal bands.

Kicking things off with their New Wave of British Heavy Metal influenced sound, The Stricken impress, combining original material from the self-titled EP with classic covers such as Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law and UFO’s Doctor, Doctor.

Second up are Tides of Ruin, a five piece who are noticeably heavier than the openers. Guitarist Lankie McTall’s (presumably an alias) t-shirt of Floridian metallers Trivium is a precursor for what the group sound like – soft singing blended with aggressive screams, accompanied by crushing riffs that are impossible not to headbang to. Frontman Pete Baddeley openly admits his drunken state, but does an admirable job of trying to rouse an admittedly tentative crowd.

After a slight overrun from the previous performers, the shows headliners take the stage. Any sceptics of the band were silenced as soon as The Big 4 Tribute Band broke into Megadeth’s Tornado of Souls.

From the opening notes, it’s clear these musicians aren’t just another tribute – each song is played note for note, with the energy and enthusiasm that the real thing seem to have lost over the years.

Lead guitarist John Caci breezes through the incredibly tricky solos and hooks of all four bands with ease, even tackling Megadeth’s notoriously difficult Hangar 18 after his brother, bassist and vocalist Carlo Caci laughs about wanting to “see him struggle”.

Even more impressive is Carlo’s ability to effortlessly slide into each of the wildly different singing vocal styles employed by The Big Four.

Beginning with Dave Mustaine’s (Megadeth) screeching, harsh vocals before switching gears to Joey Belladonna’s (Anthrax) falsetto and almost operatic warbles, Caci’s talent is undeniable.

Behind the kit, drummer Sam Ogden got an intense workout, but never missed a beat, while rhythm guitarist Phil Wright kept the sound running smoothly.

The set was divided into four sections – one for each band, starting with Megadeth, then Anthrax. A short, but wholly deserved, break in proceedings ensued before the relentless pounding of a selection of Slayer songs, and finally finishing up with Metallica.

The raw, garage-like sound produced by The Sugarmill works brilliantly for the most part, but there’s noticeable issues when it comes to the furious thrashing of Slayer – Ogden’s drumming took centre stage while all other instruments and vocals mashed together into a wall of sound.

It’s clear that the Metallica section was booked to be longer, with it being the only section having backing track intro music (the same one that the real thing use, Ecstasy of Gold), but due to the support band finishing later than scheduled and a planned club night occurring immediately after, it was cut short.

Add the fact that The Big Four have a massive combined back catalogue of 43 albums, it is undoubtedly a mammoth task to pick a setlist to please everyone. Plus, it’s not uncommon for Megadeth and Metallica songs to run past the 7 minute mark, which obviously is going to cut into the gig.

It’s not a stretch to say that The Big Four Tribute Band could successfully pay homage to their heroes while crafting a unique show that will solidify their status as one of the best tribute bands in the UK.

sean burton review photo