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Almost live from Bulgaria, it's thrash metal's Big 4

The stars are aligning for fans of thrash-metal, with the genre's "big four" bands - Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer - on tour together for the first time and sharing a stage Tuesday night.

Madison Square Garden? Nassau Coliseum? Nope - try the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria.

A plane ticket would cost you about $1,200, but here's an option: The entertainment company By Experience, based in Brooklyn, will be broadcasting the event at several local movie theaters. It won't be live: The show takes place at 6:30 p.m. in Sofia, which is seven hours ahead of New York, so the broadcast will start here at the more convenient time of 7:30 p.m.

Meet the bands

The so-called big four rose to prominence in the 1980s as hard-core punk was spreading along both American coasts. Together, the New York-based Anthrax and the Los Angeles-area bands Slayer, Metallica and its spinoff, Megadeth, hastened the end of heavy metal's sword-and-sorcery adolescence and forged a keener, meaner, more socially aware sensibility.

While Metallica has gained the most widespread appeal and critical acclaim with albums like "St. Anger" (2003) and the soul-baring documentary "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" (2004), the other groups have not only endured over the decades but thrived.

Megadeth, formed by Dave Mustaine after his acrimonious split from Metallica in 1983, defined itself with dense guitar attacks and morbid humor on albums like "Killing Is My Business . . . and Business Is Good!" Slayer, possibly the most confrontational of the four groups, made headlines with the album "Reign in Blood," which featured satanic imagery and Holocaust themes. Anthrax, closer in spirit to a punk band than an arena act, remains an insiders' favorite: Roger Daltrey, Public Enemy and the late Dimebag Darrell of Pantera all have collaborated with the group.

Inquiring metalheads want to know

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For metal fans, there are some questions. How does Mustaine, now a born-again Christian, feel about Slayer's lyrical deviltry? (He recently refused to play several dates with the band Rotting Christ.) What are the chances Metallica will bring him out for a song? And will Anthrax's latest lineup, which currently includes John Bush on vocals, hold together until showtime?

We'll find out - right after the Bulgarians.

WHAT "The Big Four: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Rd.; Island 16 Cinema De Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville; and Westbury Stadium 12, 7000 Brush Hollow Rd.

INFO Ticket prices vary. Go to thebigfourlive.com or uk.sonispherefestivals.com.

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