In 1999, Metallica released S&M. At the time, combining an orchestra with a metal band had certainly been done, but never this successfully. S&M was a multi-platinum release that made it to number two on the Billboard 200 chart and won a Grammy.
In September of 2019, Metallica once again joined forces with the San Francisco Symphony for two shows, which became S&M2. It’s available in numerous formats including digital, CD, DVD, Blu-ray and vinyl. The concert film is a new edit different than the theatrical version. The DVD/Blu-ray also includes a behind the scenes documentary of the show.
Putting together shows of this magnitude must be staggeringly complicated. Deciding which songs to play, coming up with the orchestral arrangements, rehearsing and playing live with a nearly 80 piece orchestra is a daunting task. That’s why is not too surprising that more than half the songs on S&M2 were also performed on S&M, though the arrangements are not identical.
In the 20 years since S&M Metallica have released three studio albums: St. Anger, Death Magnetic and Hardwired…To Self Destruct. There is material from all three albums on S&M2. “Moth Into Flame,” “Confusion” and “Halo On Fire” from Hardwired work really well in symphonic form, as does Death Magnetic’s “The Unforgiven III” and “All Within My Hands” from St. Anger.
Metallica share the spotlight with the orchestra even more this time around. Like S&M, S&M2 opens with the instrumentals “The Ecstasy Of Gold” and “The Call Of Ktulu.” There’s also a moving rendition of “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth” from Kill ‘Em All, with the Symphony’s Scott Pingel playing Cliff Burton’s parts on upright bass.
The orchestra solos on Sergei Prokofiev’s “Scythian Suite, Opus 20: The Enemy God And The Dance Of The Dark Spirits,” bringing Metallica on board for the instrumental “The Iron Foundry, Opus 19” by Russian composer Alexander Mosolov.
The band concludes the nearly 2 ½ hour show with a murderer’s row of hits, wrapping up with “Wherever I May Roam,” “One,” “Master Of Puppets,” “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman.” The setlist was masterfully constructed, flowing smoothly between mellower numbers, instrumentals and uptempo songs.
Blending Metallica songs with classical arrangements shows the versatility of the compositions and augments them without changing the DNA of the originals. That’s the synergy between classical and metal, whose power is on full display on S&M2. Hopefully Metallica will still be around in 20 years for S&M3.
(released August 28, 2020 on Blackened Records)
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Watch Metallica & San Francisco Symphony – “Moth Into Flame” Video