Friday, March 8, 2024

Archive Review: Metallica's S & M (2000)

Metallica's S & M
Working with a symphony orchestra is a lengthy, time-honored tradition in rock ‘n’ roll. Procul Harum did it, as did the Moody Blues, among others, while extraordinary guitarist, music satirist, and rock icon Frank Zappa used to write his own symphonies and hire the orchestra to play them. So it should have come as no surprise, really, when Metallica decided to collaborate with the San Francisco Symphony for a couple nights of heavy metal sturm und drang. The result, captured by the two-CD set S & M, is quite stunning. Although the recording has stirred up mixed feelings among hard-line, old-time head-bashers, the twenty-one songs presented here are a wonderful pairing of Metallica’s brand of grandiose hard rock and the dignity and electricity of a classical symphonic setting. Classical composers like Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner were the rock stars of their day, and any music lover recognizes the majesty and power of their works. Metallica’s James Hetfield has always been one of the more larger-then-life, Wagnerian songwriters in rock, so the virtual “greatest hits” line-up on S & M showcases the band’s talents in a different light.

Metallica sacrifice none of the iron and steel sound of their material here. In fact, Hetfield’s voice sounds even more powerful and dominant, soaring to new heights for these performances, while the rest of the band enthusiastically kicks ass as well. The San Francisco Symphony gets to show its considerable chops on a very different style of music, both entities playing well off each other, infusing songs like “Enter Sandman,” “Until It Sleeps,” “Master of Puppets” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” with new life and energy. Ever the fan favorites, Metallica include a couple of cool new tunes in “Human” and “No Leaf Clover” among the better-known material. If you’re a music lover unfamiliar with Metallica, you should check out S & M and if you’re a long-time fan of the band who have written them off as ‘has-beens’ you should listen to S & M again. If the potent mix of Hetfield’s vocals, Kirk Hammet’s raging guitar and the San Francisco Symphony’s swirling strings and loud percussion on “Wherever I May Roam” doesn’t send a surge down your spine, then you’re either dead or too fucking stupid to appreciate art when you hear it. (Elektra Records)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™ zine, 2000

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