I watched the Big Four DVD recently. I know, I’m about 4 years late to the party, however after seeing those bands live on numerous occasions, I didn’t think it was essential viewing. And I was right. It wasn’t essential viewing.
Regardless of the quality of the live performances, the Big 4 got me thinking about the “Clash Of The Titans” tour that took place back in the early Nineties. After Metallica’s self titled”Black” album blew up all over the charts a funny thing happened in the recording business. The major labels started spending a lot of money to get thrash bands away from their independent labels and onto the major label roster. These labels then spent a lot of money to record new albums from Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and Testament. They started to put some serious dollars behind the music videos and the marketing. Some of these clips bordered on hilarious. Testaments “Electric Crown” comes to mind immediately. The clip just didn’t make sense at all with the palm tree paradise like landscape interspersed with footage of a dude that looks like he’s got issues.
Regardless Thrash Metal was strong.
Suddenly bands on independent labels became major label stars. The sub-genre was growing at an exponential rate. Albums from artists that got caught up in the wave were selling 500,000 copies and then a million plus copies. MTV played their videos and the movement skipped borders and went global.
Which brings me to “The Clash Of The Titans” tour.
The first iteration in 1990 featured Megadeth, Slayer, Testament and Suicidal Tendencies. The second iteration in 1991 featured Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, as headliners. The funny thing is that a lot of people would probably be surprised to hear that a future superstar band in Alice In Chains was opening.
And how ironic is that. The opening act would end up catching the next musical wave and they would become bigger than all of the thrash acts that they opened for on that tour.
What the tour went on to show was “where do these bands go from here?” All of the bands (except for Suicidal Tendencies and Alice In Chains) had this technical and fast music which was commercially popular but also running low on quality. Metallica stopped re-writing the same record over and over again. Alex Skolnick in the Thrash Metal episode of the Metal Evolution series said it the best;
They made a record that sounded as big as any pop album.
Suddenly, Exodus, Testament, Megadeth and Anthrax all tried to follow the Metallica blueprint. The pressure from their major label backers was relentless. For a lot of these bands, the money aspect proved to be a game changer. Slayer on the other hand, stayed true to their extreme ways.
But then the commercial wave crashed down, and a lot of the bands that had major label deals started to get dropped, or break up.
Fast forward to 2015, all of those bands are around in some shape or form. With different members, but still thrashing.
“Man In The Box” from Alice In Chains has about 11.2 million streams on Spotify. Megadeth’s “Symphony Of Destruction” has over 6.5 million streams. “Madhouse” from Anthrax has 1.8 million streams. “Raining Blood” from Slayer has almost 9 million streams. “Electric Crown” has 721,000 streams.