Saturday, August 2, 2014

S&M - Metallica (1999)

Reliving Metallica's most musically unusual album ever!

While the pairing of superstar American Heavy Metal band Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra on this one of kind live album might seem musically bizarre at first notice, the weird combination recorded on April 21–22, 1999 at The Berkeley Community Theatre in California is actually a logical fit. 

Metallica's music had and has always been full of the kind of dynamic shifts that are often found in classical music, and Michael Kamen (1948 - 2003), the famous American composer of films like X-Men, Brazil, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, had worked with established rock bands like Queen, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Queensryche, Def Leppard, Rush  and Pink Floyd for years. 

The first CD in this two-disc Album set opens with two instrumental pieces before launching into "Master of Puppets." This track sounds awkward, as if the band and the orchestra were still getting comfortable with each other. The orchestra plays a small role on this track, providing brief symphonic flourishes in between Metallica's waves of heavy metal thunder. "Of Wolf and Man" and "The Thing That Should Not Be" work better, as Metallica backs off a bit to actually play with the orchestra. By the time the band reaches a stellar track "No Leaf Clover," both parties seem to be delightfully in sync and actually feeding off of each other's intensity beautifully. 

Disc two begins with Metallica's majestic super hit "Nothing Else Matters." If any song in the band's repertoire is suited for the orchestral treatment, this is the one. Unfortunately, singer James Hetfield's over-the-top performance prevents the song from being a total standout. That honor goes to "One," the band's epic tale of a critically wounded soldier. Two of the heavier tracks on disc two, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Enter Sandman," are highlights as well. 

Needless to say, the orchestral flavor is often drowned out by Metallica's bang-and-slam attack, but overall this odd combination works and works rather well. There are even times when Michael Kamen and his orchestra steal the spotlight. When the two groups really work together, as they do on "One" and the instrumental "Call of Ktulu", the results are impressive. Ignore the lukewarm reception this album received from the critics and listen to it for a unique collaboration of musical style it provides! Besides, there must be a reason why this still sold over 8 million copies worldwide!


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