words and photos by bill bodkin…
The Event: On Friday September 7 some of the biggest and most talented icons in heavy metal and thrash history got together for a unique clinic/jam session at The Gramercy Theater in New York City. The event, sponsored by musical equipment heavyweights Hartke, Zoom and Samson (as well as Guitar Center, Jagermeister and Revolver Magazine) was a legitimate once-in-a-lifetime live experience as these masters of metal not only helped out aspiring musicians learn how to become better players but they also jammed out on classic tracks from their respective bands — Pantera, Anthrax and Slayer.
So who were the Metal Masters this year? They were: Phil Anselmo (Pantera, Down, Superjoint Ritual), Scott Ian (Anthrax, The Damned Things, S.O.D.), Frank Bello (Anthrax), Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Steve Vai), Dave Lombardo (Slayer) and Kerry King (Slayer). They ripped up some absolutely insane covers that had the entire theater thrashing, moshing and ripping off their shirts in complete heavy metal ecstasy.
DAVE LOMBARDO LIVE PERFORMANCE
The original and current drummer for Slayer performed live twice — once with his own crew of musicians and the second time battling Anthrax’s Charlie Benante (he also participated in the all-star jam during the second half of the show). Lombardo’s drumming can be heard on the seminal Slayer stuff — the music that blew our minds in the 80s. And while some may wonder if age can affect an aggressively fast drummer like Lombardo, I can assure you, you’d never know it. The ferocity with which he performs is absolutely absurd — and that is meant in the best possible way.
FRANK BELLO – YOUR MC AND BASS CLINICIAN
Frank Bello, the bassist for Anthrax, came on stage next and was basically the MC for the entire night. Bello has a wonderfully wild personality which was enhanced on the night by a couple of beers and some black label. He had great chemistry with the crowd all night busting chops, giving props and speaking from the heart. His clinic work was really educational, especially for a non-musician like myself. Watching him really teach the young bassist he pulled from the crowd was special — you could tell Bello was really into the whole process and when he implored the rowdy crowd to give the novice bassist their respect, the crowded headed the Bronx-born bassist request.
AND A SPECIAL APPEARANCE BY…
You can’t have an event sponsored by Jagermeister without shots. When the crowd was calling for them, Jager enthusiast and guitar legend Kerry King of Slayer made his massively tattooed and wonderfully bearded presence known to New York City.
LIVE PERFORMANCE BY BILLY SHEEHAN
When you look at the lanky, long haired Billy Sheehan standing next to Phil Anselmo and Frank Bello and then you look at the list of bands he’s played in (David Lee Roth’s solo band, Steve Vai and Mr. Big), you can easily play the classic “Which one of these doesn’t belong here?” game. He looks more like someone you’d see at a classic rock concert sponsored by a Light FM channel. This guy doesn’t look metal and let’s face it when we think of Mr. Big, we only think of their ballads.
But looks and resumes can be deceiving because Billy Sheehan is an absolute genius on bass. I’ve literally never seen anyone play bass like he does, the guy is just poetry in low end motion. He plays his rig like it were a lead guitar and this was evidence when he played “Hot for Teacher”…THE LEAD GUITAR PARTS on bass (the performance also featured Charlie Benante on drums and vocals by Phil Anselmo and Frank Bello). Yes, he sounded like the almighty Eddie but on bass. Sick, genius, awesome…none of these do Sheehan any justice.
CLINIC BY SCOTT IAN
With a Becks in hand Scott Ian swaggered onstage and the crowd absolutely loved him. Ian is probably one of the coolest metalheads you’ll run into — he only loves old school metal and he’s a huge Walking Dead and Dr. Who fan, so those of us who are metal nerds and just nerds in general really relate to him. And for those of us who pride themselves on their facial hair, Scott Ian is the Elvis Presley of beards. Plain and simple. He’s also a pretty underrated guitar player, he has created such terrific riffs, blending metal and thrash together in such a beautiful way. His clinic work, spiked with humor and foul language, was a sight to be seen.
THE DRUM-OFF: DAVE LOMBARDO VS. CHARLIE BENANTE
THE ALL-STAR JAM
So this was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen live. I missed Pantera in their heyday and to hear Phil Anselmo rip into “5 Minutes Alone” one of my all-time favorite ‘Tera tracks was goosebumps inducing. Vocally Anselmo still rips it up, he’s so ferocious and aggressive, his energy is infectious and incited a ton of insanity from the crowd. Even though I was at the top of The Gramercy Theater’s seated area, people were still loosing their minds. They were ripping shirts off, headbanging with almost breakneck anger and slam dancing in their seats. It was crazy. And then to see Billy Sheehan rip it out with these guys on Slayer tracks like “Chemical Warfare” and “War Ensemble” are you for real? Also, Phil on vocals for those tracks, just mind-blowing. The all-star nature of the band didn’t effect any songs quality and are we surprised? These guys wouldn’t be metal masters if they couldn’t tear it up with anything from the Pantera/Slayer/Antrax/S.O.D. catalog.