Metallica - S&M (1999)Release ID: 49
When it was first revealed that Metallica's next endeavor would involve playing with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, I can only imagine the disgust and doubt that crept into the minds of fans. After the divisive 'Load' and 'Reload' albums, and the covers album 'Garage Inc.' (none of which were likely to convert anyone), most people must have thought Metallica had lost their minds to consider playing with an orchestral ensemble.
Thankfully, Metallica proved them all wrong.
This album is great! Not only does it highlight the progressive elements in Metallica's music, but also how adaptable it can be to other genres. It's really hard to visualize what Metallica's music would sound like with a symphony backing it, but the orchestra, conducted by world-renowned Michael Kamen, take the band's songs and make their own arrangements and compositions from them, blending the two with ease to create an all-out attack on the senses.
Featuring pretty much all of their big hits, the band come across as stronger than ever. The musicianship is of a high standard, and some would argue that James Hetfield's vocals are at their absolute peak. And two new songs, '-Human' and 'No Leaf Clover', show that, at a time when the band leaned more towards hard rock than metal, they could still go toe-to-toe with some of the heaviest bands the genre has to offer.
I don't really have any major complaints with 'S&M', although, if I can indulge in a bit of nitpicking (everyone's a critic at heart), there are one or two songs I'd have maybe left out in place of an alternative. For example, 'The Thing That Should Not Be' does nothing for me, and where the hell is 'Welcome Home (Sanitarium)'?! Still, all the classics are here, with songs like 'Master of Puppets', 'Battery', 'One' and 'Bleeding Me' never sounding heavier.
In all honestly however, I've never really been too big on live albums, preferring the crisp and polished production of a studio recording, so this being a studio album would have been a huge plus for me. But still, it's fantastic none-the-less, and definitely as essential to any music collection as the bands earlier output.