REVIEW: METALLICA – “S&M2”
The year 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of Metallica’s S&M. To commemorate and build upon the groundwork laid by S&M, Metallica booked shows on September 6th and 8th, 2019, at San Francisco’s Chase Center. Once again they collaborated with the San Francisco Symphony to give fans a 20-song concert which included at least one tune from their 10 album catalog. The product of these magnificent performances culminates in the release of S&M2 on August 28th, 2020
I have to admit that I’d moved on from Metallica and missed the original S&M experience. Metallica were pivotal to my youth as I explored heavier forms of metal. They gave me unforgettable concert memories and many sore necks. When the Black album dropped, I was disappointed. I wanted to go heavier and my favorite band had moved on. I waved goodbye with a tear in my eye as I clutched dearly to my copy of Master of Puppets.
I tell you my story as I think it will give context for my experience with S&M2. It was like discovering Metallica all over again. As the classic spaghetti western theme “The Ecstasy of Gold” from the film “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” began, I could feel it sweeping me up as if I was at the gig. Then when Metallica joins the San Francisco Symphony in the epic “Call of Ktulu” the hairs across my body stood on end as strings soared, guitars crunched, horns blasted, and percussion crashed.
This collaboration between Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony brings to life the fusion of heavy metal and classical music. Given that classical and metal share dynamic emotional music performed with skill and precision, it is a perfect combination. As it was in 1999, S&M2 is a grand celebration of the energy and magic that these forms of music convey.
The first set of S&M2 is composed of primarily of classical renditions of Metallica hits including “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, “The Memory Remains”, and “Moth Into Flame”. Each song delivered with a perfection that is accentuated by the fact that there are nearly 80 musicians on a rotating stage playing to 18,000 metalheads. The grandeur and wonder that the symphony adds to these Metallica songs can’t be understated. It is captivating.
It is during the second set on S&M2 that things get intriguing. Showcasing the synergy of metal and classical music the San Francisco Symphony launches into the tribal “Scythian Suite” composed by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. Metallica joins in this classical adventure on “Iron Foundry” composed by Alexander Mosolov. The muscular guitar and drum riffs fit like a puzzle piece within this avant-garde arrangement.
The song “Unforgiven III” becomes a soul-stirring classic as James focuses on vocals while the San Francisco Symphony takes the lead musically. The orchestra lends the song a majestic cinematic feel. The end result is remarkable musical storytelling.
One of the best moments within S&M2 occurs during the second set when bassist Scott Pingel takes on Cliff Burton’s legendary solo from Kill’em All called “(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth”. Scott’s rendition is jaw-dropping and poignant. Clearly from the roaring crowd, everyone in attendance witnessed a special moment in time. I can’t wait to check this out on the DVD. Surely, Cliff is looking down with firm satisfaction on his face.
S&M2 by Metallica is a mesmerizing and moving celebration of the two seemingly disparate yet kindred musical forms of heavy metal and classical. S&M2 builds upon the foundation forged on S&M. During this breathtaking performance Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony recast fan favorites, re-envision newer Metallica music, and journey into bright unexplored vistas. The hair-raising quality of this record will allow fans from across the spectrum of Metallica’s sonic landscape to embrace the monumental impact of this band on music.