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Metallica’s “S&M” album creates great conflict within me. The protagonistic/antagonistic nature that the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra creates as it paints its sounds on the sonic tapestry known as Metallica is a grand concept. A macroscopic look at this makes it seem like a really great album, but upon a more microscopic analysis of the items at hand raises questions in its integrity and quality. While I can appreciate it and have listened to it optimistically several times, I simply cannot hand out an overtly positive review of this album because it lacks what I believe to be intrinsic things such as its choices of repertoire, orchestration(s), and staff.
Upon first listening to these discs it is quite captivating with “The Ecstasy of Gold” leading into “The Call of the Ktulu.” The brass section in “The Call of the Ktulu” is quite dark and epic sounding and this honestly gave me an Emperor flashback to “IV Equilibrium.” I am sitting here listening to it anticipating the great sounds to come because after all this is Metallica we are talking about and they did play live with a symphony orchestra which is something that the majority of bands in the metal genre cannot claim as a been there done that (Deep Purple, Queensryche, Kiss).
So let’s talk a bit about orchestration. After reading the liner notes it appears that Michael Kamen is quite proud of his orchestration work (in the small print the liner notes also say that Kamen had a team of people working on the orchestrations). However, it is beyond me how he can compare this work (himself) to Beethoven, Stravinsky, or even more offensively a Wagnerian music drama (ego maybe?). Sorry, but this orchestration does not touch the level of Beethoven, Wagner, or Stravinsky. However, as I listened to this disc it did became apparent that perhaps Kamen was using some sort of leitmotif throughout the duration of the recording and that is a characteristic of Wagnerian style but not in the context of how it is used on this Metallica recording. By this I mean that Wagner used the leitmotif as part of his music dramas to announce the appearance of a character, event, or emotion. In the context of this Metallica CD there are no characters (unless we have to be constantly reminded that Metallica is on the stage) and there is not a story line (to my knowledge, even though the liner notes imply an intangible story line) that connects these songs together in a dramatic fashion as for instance Wagner did in “Der Ring Des Nibelungen.” This evidence will support my premise that the orchestration on this album is boring and redundant. Thus, the orchestration here fell short of my expectations and the true potential that an ambitious project such as this could aspire to be. In my opinion the orchestration is largely weak and unimpressive. Not to mention that the classical and romantic composers would in general frown upon Metallica’s approach to music in the respect that their songs are riddled with parallel fifths. That is something that did not become largely acceptable for composers to use until around the 20th century. The point is that Metallica’s music is not fit stylistically to compare to Beethoven or Wagner and the orchestration(s) did not help to remedy this taboo interval sequence that Metallica frequents (though it could have had the orchestrator(s) changed around the parts Metallica plays). Therefore, the CD is not classical or romantic in style but 20th century at best.
But what about the metal band that is the main attraction for this circus of sound? Metallica’s playing does appear to be razor sharp. However, I did do some research on this recording before writing this review and found out a couple things that make me question Metallica’s performance here. First, the DVD version offers sound options, “Metallica only” and “Orchestra only.” That is some serious isolation for such a big live performance and hence an opportunity for overdubs? Also, the small print liner notes on the disc say that this was recorded in two days. Maybe they used the Frank Zappa rule of statistics and superimposed parts of different performances (or maybe a performance and a rehearsal) to come up with an excellent recording (cheating in my opinion). Kamen’s liner notes say “after two evenings of sturm and drang” and then go on to say “after the evening was over” which is confusing. I was under the impression from some other sources and the photo of the set list on the back of these discs that this performance was recorded live in one night. Overall it does strike me as a good performance on behalf of Metallica. So I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they are able to play their songs flawlessly under any type of condition. BUT, I was kind of lost when I heard James sing “Master of Puppets Baby” or something to that effect. Come on, I mean that is something I would expect from Stephen Tyler or David Lee Roth not Metallica. Yuck! Bad taste James.
There is also the could have, should have, and would haves that in effect would have made this album superior. The song selection for starters is a problem. Where is the “Kill ‘em All” track? “Seek and Destroy” and “The Four Horsemen” are prime for orchestration. Moreover, “Fade to Black,” “Orion,” “To Live is to Die,” “The Small Hours,” etc are other songs that should have been on this recording. The tonalities of the orchestration(s) are another big grievance I have with these discs. The orchestrator(s) would have been better off sticking to the chord structures the Metallica songs have already defined without trying to second guess what the orchestrator(s) think that Metallica fans would like to hear woven into the songs or would be moved by if this type of tonality was added here. Furthermore, hire a person into the metal genre to orchestrate your tunes. Why hire someone unknown to metal heads and judging by his liner notes never experienced true metal at all? Had it not been for the metal fans that bought the Metallica albums and merchandise throughout the years would this album have been possible to begin with? The point is, give back to the community. There are several metal heads that have spent time studying orchestration. The first one that comes to my mind is Luc Lemay of Gorguts. Imagine how different this album would be if someone who knows the style(s) intimately and was hungry was given a chance to do something like this.
Theoretically I like this album because I am a fan of both orchestral and metal music(s). A big plus goes to Metallica using a real orchestra and not a synthesizer to record this. However, I am disappointed in Metallica for not making it a literally over the top recording. Just thinking of them as the stereotypical band that can do anything they want to with music because they have what seems to be unlimited resources when compared to other more obscure bands; then why not make an album to be revered and envied? This subsequently falls short of the greatness that could be found under the guise of a hungry band. Thus, this album is only halfway there but can be given a few extra percentage points for some of the pluses I pointed out. This album is certainly an antagonist.
Metallica really got going on these DVD/VHS concerts post black album, I guess it's a consequence of success. The idea of mixing metal with an orchestra is not really too far of a stretch, this was already being done to an extent in Europe since 1997 with Rhapsody, although I must say their music works with this set up alot better. But in the case of Metallica, this is certainly a hit or miss proposition, especially when considering the lack of decent studio albums in the past 8 years before this project.
The overall performance is not terrible, but James' vocals are not what they used to be, as was observed on the Load albums. Kirk is apparently using his wah pedal as much as ever, though at times his solos are drowned out by the bombastic orchestra hits. The orchestral arrangements are fairly interesting, owing to working with some real professionals in the field of large ensembles, something Metallica is essentially not up to doing themselves. (I studied orchestration at college, what these guys do takes alot of time and effort. I toiled for over a month, about 3 hours a day, to get a 3 minute composition arranged for full orchestra.)
My biggest complaint on this performance is many of the songs that were chosen. These songs fall into 2 categories, the first is songs that were not appropriate for this kind of venue due to the stylistic nature of the original version, the second are songs that are lousy and should not be performed period.
"Of Wolf and Man" is one of the best songs off the Black Album, but it just doesn't work, that kind of gallop feel requires louder guitars that are not flooded with string and woodwind ambiences. "Fuel" is probably the second best song off the Load albums and is welcome at live performances, but the orchestra does not work with songs like these. "Sad but true" and "Enter Sandman" are both mediocre tracks from the Black Album and I can tolerate them, but especially in the case of the former, the orchestra takes away from the heaviness that gives these songs their strength. "Devil's Dance" falls into the same category as the two previous songs.
"The Outlaw Torn" is a song that simply grates on my nerves, orchestra or no orchestra, I can't listen to it without feeling annoyed. "The Thing that Should Not Be" is another song that doesn't agree with me, and although the orchestra doesn't neccesarily clash with anything, the dryness of the song is not covered with some fancy violin fill-ins. "Hero of the Day" is a blight on Metallica's history, this is a St. Anger worthy track that was written 7 years too early, basically a trash can rolling contest with an orchestra in the background.
The rest of the music on here is well done for the most part. Surprise performances included, "Bleeding Me" and "Until it Sleeps" which actually sound much better on this than they did originally. "The Memory Remains" works fairly well, though it drags a bit amongst the better songs in the setlist.
The remaining MoP work on here pretty much gets the job done, I'm not really enthusiastic about further corrupting a thrash song like "Battery" with an orchestra to exacerbate an already out of place intro. "Where Ever I may Roam" fits this venue well, especially the introduction. "One" sounds good during the quiet sections, but turns to mush during the faster part of the song. "For whom the Bell Tolls" works extremely well here, especially the way the orchestra brings out the intro bass theme.
But the two best performances on this set go to "Nothing Else Matters" and "Call of Ktulu". The former works the best due to the original arrangement being well suited to this format, the latter is one that I personally thought would have been suited for this kind of thing had it been recorded later in their career. The new original track "No Leaf Clover" is well done musically, although the lyrics are a bit stupid.
In conclusion, this is a fairly decent job considering the time period that Metallica did it in. I think any Metallica fan who was able to tolerate the Black Album will find some good in it, but I'd suggest the core "Kill Em' All" and "Ride the Lightning" fans should probably not bother with this one. It comes recommended, but I'd personally suggest getting it second hand. I paid $5 for it, and I can't rationalize paying more than $7 for it.
Obviously, Metallica wanted to piss off as much as their fan base as they could in the late 90's. Load, then Reload, then Garage Inc- lots of strange stuff that alienated tonnes of people. This was the final insult to the legions of fans- a tonne of old tunes and new, mixed in with a massive symphony orchestra. Luckily, while a lesser band would wilt under the pressure, Metallica rise to the occaison. Not only is the orchestra great, but they're complemented by a particularly thunderous Metallica.
The album starts off with The Ecstasy of Gold. While it's always good to hear this song, the symphony kicks it up to a new level. it's a really epic, massive version of the usual set opener, and It's never sounded this good before or since. This high level of goodness keeps up throughout Ktulu, which fits very well with the orchestra. THe huge epic song goes into another long track, that being the mighty Puppets. While Metallica give it all throughout this song, a lot of the parts are too chromatic to really fit in well with the orchestra.
One thing I was expecting was that the more chromatic/pentatonic stuff would sound the worse, while the more Minor keys would fit the orchestra better. While that's true in a few cases, there are a few exceptions. Devil's Dance gets even groovier, while other load era songs Like Hero of the Day and Bleeding Me sound even better. Outlaw Torn really, really needs a mention here. With the exception of Battery maybe, it's the best track here. James's singing is amazing in the song, (Outlaw Torn, I mean.) and the orchestra takes the middle section and the soaring chorus riffs to excellent new heights. James's singing is really, really good in this album. He can't do the heavy stuff that well (Though he pulls off some really, really good growls in Memory Remains), but when he sings the stuff off Load, Reload, etc, well, it's never sounded so good. The deep rich voice we all love, with a rawness you don't get in the studio versions.
Some of the old tunes work really well too. I've already discussed puppets and Ktulu, but Battery really needs to be mentioned here. The opening acoustic bit is completely redone by the Orchestra, and dammit it's gorgeous. For Whom the Bell Tolls is given a great rendition by the boys, and the orchestra fits in super well, playing alternating lead lines and bringing the song to a huge climax. Thingy is a down really well too, turning the worst song on Puppets into a spooky, atmospheric tune. One thing that I'mr eally really puzzled about though is why didn't Fade to Black get included? It would fit perfectly into this!
So, a lot of the songs work really good, but there's definetly a few shockers. One losses all of it's bite and impact, Sad but True is really not suited, and well, Whereever I may Roam is just terrible! What the hell where they thinking? A really really terrible ending with the horrible wah wanking that shows why Kirk's soloing style can get so annoying. The rest of the song isn't much better.
But aside from a few hiccups, there's a lot of great stuff here, whether it's the strings on Nothing Else MAtters to the slow build up of Hero of the Day. the two new songs are just as good, - Human being a slow, doomy riffer, and No Leaf Clover a power ballad that can stand with Tallica's best. The production is good, nice and clear, and without too many studio overdubs. This album really makes the songs sound so much more massive and complete, and it's a must buy for any Metallica fan. I wish they would've put Fade to Black and Fight fire with Fire in it though. (Come on, Fight Fire could've worked. Maybe.) With a better set list this could be a classic album, but as it stands it's still pretty good.
“Fuck ‘em, this is not Metallica! This is not even metal!” That’s what you hear regularly when discussing Metallica’s ‘S & M’. Well, just ignore all those ‘true metallers’ who still join forces and then declare to detest the post-‘Black Album’-Metallica, or even the post-‘Master Of Puppets’-Metallica since ‘it’s not metal anymore’. No, this is no ordinary metal anymore, indeed. This wonderful album takes metal in general, and specifically Metallica to an entire new level. The ‘four horsemen’ and arranger/S.F. Symphony director Michael Kamen (R.I.P.) have chosen a number of songs covering every (musical) era Metallica went through until 1999, from ‘Ride The Lightning’ to ‘ReLoad’. So why didn’t they play early standards like “Seek And Destroy”, or other classics like “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” or “Fade To Black”? Probably because of the fact that arranging these songs for orchestra simply wouldn’t work.
Allright, the music. Let me start by saying that not all the arrangements on this album are as marvellous as the title of this review might imply. For example, “Bleeding Me” just lacks tension and “The Memory Remains” really sounds better when solely played by Metallica. But - and there’s a huge ‘but’ here – the rest of the album varies from ‘good’ to ‘unbelievably great’. And this high level is there right from the start. “The Ecstacy Of Gold”, for years the ‘official’ Metallica intro, just sounds so astonishingly beautiful when performed live by a real orchestra. This magical feeling you get when listening to this track gets even stronger when right afterwards “The Call Of The Ktulu” is played. Just breathtaking. Nothing less. The power, the enormous tension and the wonderful orchestral arrangement make this version of “The Call...” a true highlight in Metallica’s entire career. Other outstanding tracks on the first disc are “Master Of Puppets”, “Fuel” and the new song “No Leaf Clover”.
The second disc takes off with the classic Metallica ballad “Nothing Else Matters”. It’s not really necessary to say anything about this track, since it’s been played over and over again by numerous radio and TV stations all over the world. “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, already a powerful ‘vintage’ Metallica anthem on itself, becomes even more powerful when the four bandmembers are accompanied by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Also the slow but heavy “- Human” (just like “No Leaf Clover” a new song) is interesting to listen to. But the apotheosis of Metallica’s symphonic adventure comes with the final three tracks. “One” gets and extraordinary dramatic effect from both the passionate (yes, that does sound cheesy, but it’s true), emotional voice of James Hetfield and the arrangement Michael Kamen wrote for it, “Enter Sandman” rises above all standards in this orchestral version and the massive and furious “Battery” – with a ripping solo by Kirk Hammett – makes you float out of your body once again and wish you were there when Metallica performed these shows that were recorded for 'S & M'.
One thing about ‘S & M’ is for sure: both ‘lovers’ and ‘haters’ will have to admit that it’s a unique project in music and a milestone in Metallica’s career. Allthough bands like Rage and Scorpions also released so-called symphonic albums, I still concider ‘S & M’ to be by far the best in this range.
Many people (no, I don’t charge anyone) are unfortunately under the influence of the masses nowadays and, after a while, start saying things the masses ‘whisper in their ear’, so to say. Personally, I really don’t give a shit about other people’s opinion about anything, whether it’s music, clothing or politics, and also in this case, I don’t care if people will point at me as being ‘stupid’, ‘not metal’ or ‘very smart’. I just think Metallica couldn’t have found a better way to enter the new millennium.
From the lean, mean, thrash machine they once were, Metallica have become fat, bloated rock dinosaurs of the type they once despised. The transformation from velociraptor — speedy, sharp and dangerous — to diplodocus — slow, docile and blundering — has been distressing for long time fans to watch.
The biggest problem here is that most of the songs are simply not suited for orchestral accompaniment. Like attempting to mix oil and water, it just doesn't work. The band really would have been better to admit the experiment did not work, cut their losses and release a four song EP of the tracks that actually DID work.
Let's be positive here. The tracks that they do pull off are excellent. The obvious one is "The Call Of The Ktulu". The instrumental from 'Ride The Lightning' is the oldest track here, and definitely the best, which is a shame because it's straight after the intro track, and the next two hours are basically a waste of time. Strangely, the only other song from the first four albums which even approaches "The Call…" is "For Whom The Bell Tolls", which is given a huge, militaristic movie soundtrack feel, like something out of ‘Ben Hur’ or ‘Gladiator’.
"No Leaf Clover" was obviously written with this performance in mind. The band lay off a little, allowing the orchestra to flood through. The strings, woodwind and brass sections weave in and out of the simple melody. Unfortunately, the other new track "Human" is, for want of a better word, crap. The gentle "Nothing Else Matters" is given added facets by the orchestra, although they are obvious, as the original also has orchestral backing.
"Bleeding Me" almost works, as do a number of other tracks, but they are very patchy. The odd introduction or bridge is good, but it is never consistent enough for a whole song.
Thrashers like "Fuel", "Master Of Puppets", "One" and "Battery" are absolutely ridiculous. Violins, horns, and triangles just do not belong in a song where someone is shouting "Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire!" over them. Nor do Jason Newsted's barked backing vocals.
In other places, violins play the counter–guitar lines, which are either multi–tracked or where Kirk Hammett's leads would normally be. A third guitar player would have been better than making some unfortunate violinists who have spent decades mastering their art fill in the gaps around a simple plodding guitar riff. That is when there actually are gaps. Much of the time, the orchestral instruments seem to be straining to be heard, and come off as superficial decoration. Much of Metallica's career has been built around a gargantuan rhythm guitar sound. It simply stomps over the subtleties of the orchestration, like Godzilla let loose in the Louvre. At other times, the orchestra is a nuisance, where just hearing the band on it’s own would be a classic metal moment.
If Metallica were really considerate to their fans, as they used to claim to be before we all started sending them to the poorhouse by stealing their music off the internet, they would have released a reasonable sized unaccompanied live album (not like the overpriced 'Binge/Purge' box set) with the aforementioned orchestral EP as a bonus. Instead, we get the fat Elvis version of Metallica, a self–parody, the once shiny façade dulled by decadence and overblown egos. If you really want Metallica live, get hold of one of the hundreds of bootlegs made of the band. They do not deserve your money for this album.
Many people I talked to said that S&M was another Metallica masterpiece and being my favorite band by a long way I bought the album… I expected it to be good…I love orchestral-metal like the works of Therion and Nightwish; but some bands just are not meant to be orchestral-metal… or are they.
I have several reasons why this unique Metallica Album is a waste of time. Although this album covers most of their best songs it has not one of their songs from their first album, “Kill ‘Em All,” which was a very classy album. I never heard any of the deep purple live stuff so I cant judge it; but obviously the Metallica songs played at S&M were not meant to be played with an orchestra. Whoever it was…James, Lars and Michael Kamen, who likely added the orchestral parts into the original metallica songs, probably did as good a job as possible adding in the orchestra; but this did not work very well. I have no problem with classical music but in my opinion you cannot "ADD" it to Metal music. For Orchestral-metal to work they need to be written together. Like Therion for example, it almost seems like the metal was written for the symphony. I would like someday to see a big name band like Metallica try and play some kind of classical music using their metal guitars.
I think that Metallica have potential to write more orchestral-metal like their one song The Call Of Ktulu… it sound very dark and has some kind of symphony sound too it. Another interesting thing that I think works very well is classical instruments playing metal songs alone not with the metal guitars in the background…A good Example of this “Apocalyptica.” I quite enjoy their stuff; it’s very different and I can see how many people can’t quite imagine how “Enter Sandman,” would sound good on a cello, but if you listen to it with an open mind you will see how it is extremely creative and actually sounds quite good.
So overall S&M sounded like a normal Metallica concert but the orchestral sound cluttered up the background, this album was a waste of time. However it may open up some more opportunities for Metal music of all garners being combined with Orchestral and classical music.
I'm a die-hard Metallica fan, but this is weak sauce. This album is simply the worst in the catalogue, the live recording is poor, James's voice is poor, the performances occasionally lack for fire, and the orchestra tends to get in the way, like in "Master of Puppets" when the main chorus riff is obscured. Often it doesn't work, but when it does, man it works. This is a missed opportunity, but all is not lost.
The opener, "The Call of Ktulu" is by far the best track on the album, definitely deserving of the Grammy the band picked up for it. The closer to the seminal Ride the Lightning record, this song takes on a new dimension with the orchestra swirling and adding colour and definition to an already intensely symphonic track.
Alas, "Master of Puppets" is a big step down, the strings and horns squawking and stumbling as they try to follow the frenetic riffery. James turns in a solid performance, and the song kicks, but I just wanted the orchestra to STOP. And that's no good for this type of record. "Of Wolf and Man" is surprisingly effective, the song loping along through the rainy drizzle, the orchestration adding subtle menace. But like a rollercoaster we then plummet into a heartless and pointless version of "The Thing That Should Not Be". "Fuel" again does not work with the orchestra, and indeed loses out to the slick and streamlined studio version. Also, James just sounds off on this cut, as he does often through the album. Same deal with the "Memory Remains", which is salvaged only by the crowd's enthusiastic participation.
But man, back up we go to giddy heights with "No Leaf Clover". Holy crap, what a great song. This song is one of those people-movers Metallica is so good at, James at his most poignant and passionate, the guitars like a force of nature. And although Kirk has somewhat lacked for inspiration, the NLC solo is a godly little piece of simplicity. And those heavenly orchestrated moments..."Hero of the Day" is a weak tune, but this live version blows that limp-wristed studio cut out the window. "Devil's Dance" is a success by keeping it simple stupid, the orchestra adding ambience rather than overwhelming the music. We close with the epic "Bleeding Me", a solid cut but the orchestra doesn't really add anything.
Disc 2 opens with "Nothing Else Matters", a song that was done well enough on the Metallica (Black) record with strings that it doesn't really require inclusion here. "Until it Sleeps" is a godsend though, the moody dirge being a highlight of the latter-day catalogue and the orchestra only gives greater voice to James's agonized narrative. Good to see "For Whom the Bells Toll" present, a good performance but I'm not sure how much the orchestra adds. Still nothing wrong with it. "-Human" is the other original track here, and it's a brilliant Sabbatherian crusher with Het again rising above his often lukewarm performances (referring to this album only of course) to deliver one of his finest demonic performances, along the same lines as "Devil's Dance".
Let’s not talk about "Wherever I May Roam". It just doesn't work.
By all rights "The Outlaw Torn" should close the album. Nothing else here is worth your time. But man, "Outlaw" is just a fucking great track. Everything that was right about the huge almost western-like scale of the original is ten times better here, the band hitting all the right notes, the orchestra hitting all the right notes, the whole thing being Metalliperfection.
Then they do "Sad But True". Good song, but boy does it ever not fit with the symphony motif. "One" is surprisingly lacklustre, the symphony again not adding to but smothering the intricately perfected (and sole Justice track) dirge to the point where it's just useless. Machine-gun riff and symphony orchestra are proved beyond argument to be incompatible. "Enter Sandman" is painfully drawn out and dull-edged, the orchestra again throttling a keyed up performance. And "Battery", again gallops along at a clip the orchestra can only fumble at and drag down.
This should've been one disc.
The Call of Ktulu
Of Wolf and Man
No Leaf Clover
Hero of the Day
Until it Sleeps
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Outlaw Torn
And where is "Fixxxer"? "The Unforgiven"? "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)"? "Orion"? "To Live is to Die"? "Eye of the Beholder"? “Fade to Black”? “Where the Wild Things Are”? “Leper Messiah”?
Ugh, it is just frustrating.
Stand-Outs: "No Leaf Clover", "The Outlaw Torn", "The Call of Ktulu"
First off, I think it was an awesome idea to add an orchestra on top of Metallica's thrash classics and I think for the most part that it turned out very well.
Unfortunately, this integration is lackluster on some songs, mainly the faster, thrashier numbers. The orchestration clearly doesn't belong on the songs of this type because it creates a huge mudpuddle of sound that drowns the listener in utter ear torture and death.
On the slow, melodic numbers, however, it works excellently. For example, on No Leaf Clover, it adds large slices of emotion to the song. It's gotta be those violins, instruments notorious for portraying deep sorrow and eliciting higher sensory responses from their listeners.
On many mid-tempo cuts from later albums such as their self-titled opus, this formula works fairly well as well. For example, the orchestration on Sad But True is pulled off surprisingly well. However, I think it's often superfluous and detracts from the overall drive of the song, which isn't good. It's like listening to a chamber orchestra warm-up for ten minutes before actually playing a piece of music.
Adding orchestras to the songs already makes them more emotional, but when each song is introduced and exited by the enthusiastic crowd's screaming, it makes it so much better. I'm not much for live albums, but the band members don't talk very much in between songs, so it makes it more tolerable.
All in all, a very interesting little tangent the band has gone on here. Sure, there are other bands which would be better suited to orchestration, but Metallica is fucking epic, and an orchestra makes them even more fucking epic. Oh, another thing that bothers me about this album is that The Unforgiven Pt. I and II aren't on here. They would've been perfect for inclusion on this disc. It's really a shame. Although this isn't the ass-kicking Metallica we all know and love, it's still an interesting addition to their discography and is quite relaxing at times. Nothing will beat the originals, but it's cool to hear different takes on them.
The setlist is just fine. The orchestra could never have worked with the thrashiest of the thrash songs. It just wasn't going to happen. It seems that certain people need to get over the fact that thrash is not the only kind of metal in the world. The Loads are no different than any Maiden or Motorhead album stylistically.
Lars' drumming is just fine. He's a pretty good drummer, if an asshole personally. The guitarists are just fine, rhythm and lead. The bass isn't there because the guys hated Jason, so they mistreated him in every way shape and form, and that includes on their recorded outings. Get a live bootleg if you want to hear good bass.
Some of the older songs become a bit cluttered with orchestral arrangements, but not all.
High points: Ktulu is godlike...Master brings tears to my eyes...The Thing should've been recorded this way in the first place, as should Hero, Dance, and Bleeding Me...Nothing Else Matters practically WAS recorded this way, and it's easy to see why...some very good parts to Bellz...-Human was obviously meant for this, so it works very well...Roam, Torn, and One all fit in very well to the orchestral setting.
Low points: Fuel and Memory didn't work at all...Clover deserves to be its own song, it sounds better without the symphony anyway...Enter Sandman should never be played live, the intro never sounds right...Battery is the completely wrong song to play with a symphony. Like I said, thrashy songs don't fit with an orchestra.
I bought this the day it came out. I thought it was going to be the best fucking thing ever released. Was I wrong? Of course! (Then again, I was 14). The songs are widely variated, and that is the problem. The orchestra sounds great in parts of songs. Parts. Never in a whole song (except Nothing Else Matters) does the orchestra actually compliment the music the whole way through.
For example, the two sound great together in the intro to "The Call of Ktulu", but horrid for the rest of the song. The orchestra sounds like SHIT when used with distortion. Same goes for Master of Puppets. With the exception of the middle acoustic part, in which it sounds very good, the two clash and sound like simply noise. The orchestra does sound better during the Load and Re-Load songs, since they are slow and more melodic, but those songs are basically 100% shit anyway, so (as UltraBoris said), nothing they do can make those songs good. For Whom the Bell Tolls sounds like utter shit. Rather then go through all of them one by one, here they are, ones that work, and ones that don't.
Smash - The Call of Ktulu (some), Bleeding Me, No Leaf Clover, Nothing Else Matters, One, Enter Sandman, The Outlaw Torn, The Memory Remains, The Thing that Should Not Be, Hero of the Day
Trash - Master of Puppets, Of Wolf and Man, Fuel, Devil's Dance, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Battery, Wherever I May Roam, -Human, Sad But True
If it were a decent price, I would say get it, but in Canada where a regular Metallica CD is around $22-24, this album is about $38-40. Save your money.
Not very surprisingly Metallica decided to cash in on the late 90's craze of adding "symphonic" / "orchestral" elements to their music - something which had already been done before (and with a lot more class and style) by say bands like Rage and Therion, not to mention of course the originators of all of this like a Deep Purple (early 70's). (and there were actually a shitload of Metallica fans somehow lead to believe that the band was trying something "new and daring" - kinda silly).
Of course it doesn't have to be said that Metallica utterly failed at the project now - does it ? There are a handfull of very obvious reasons for it - the first one being the fact that instead of re-arranging the songs a bit to actually "fit" the orchestral backing - they bluntly decided to just play their songs the way they always did it - making for the fact that 90% of the time the band and orchestra just sound horribly out of synch - performing two very different tunes which don't blend in together at all. (of course we can also blame Michael Kamen for this - who worked at this project with Lar$ and Co).
The second failure of course is the choice of songs - the earlier, trashier songs just don't lend themselves to an orchestral reworking (and sound quite laughable at times) - and the later material (load / re-load) well...those songs are lame, boring and unimaginative anyway so they aren't exactly worth the while either - even with a complete orchestra backing them up.
Highlights ? Um..."The Ecstacy Of Gold" (but of course that is a Morricone cover) and...."Nothing Else Matters" - the only song which somehow seems to work decently enough - apart from that ? Well ... they discs make excellent "official Metallica Frisbee's" for a fun day at the beach...
Avoid at all costs.
I'm a lover of Metallica. I'm a lover of orchestral music. Thus, the S&M is like two little discs of pure musical orgasm. This amazing event was a milestone in musical history. The heavy, thrashing Metallica joining forces with a symphony orchestra? People frowned, people questioned, but people sure as hell turned up to see it, and they were struck by lashing after lashing of musical integrity such as has only been witnessed by vert few.
The double CD opens up with two instrumental tracks. The first is played by the orchestra alone, and does exactly what it is supposed to - send shivers down the spine. Then the band are introduced in 'Call of The Ktulu'. An amazing instrumental, beaten, in my opinion, only by the great 'Orion'. Then the third track begins seamlessy, and we are taken aback by a chord with power that seems immortal, and 'Master of Puppets' begins. Metallica and the orchestra play as a one man band from here on in. Communication so great is not something that comes to most people, and what we realise is that we are hearing a group of the most talented people on the planet.
The two new tracks, 'Minus Human' and 'No Leaf Clover' are truly collosal. Showcasing Metallica's strong rythm and two beautiful orchestral introductions, these two gems certainly did not dissapoint anyone... Metallica still had it in them; they could play with an orchestra, and they could write for one too.
Disk two begins with the amazingly atmospheric 'Nothing Else Matters'. A song that means a lot to Jaymz, and one that the orchestra compliment wonderfully. 'Until It Sleeps' takes the mood up one notch, and prepares us for what can only be classed as a god of songs: 'For Whom The Bell Tolls'. What an atmospheric build up! What thundering rythm! This song, for me, is what defines live performance. Admittedly, the orchestra take a step back here, but that does not dampen their presence at all.
This wonderful anthology of masterpieces ends with 'Battery'. A song which shuts up all those who feel Metallica aren't Metallica without the thrash, and shows them that they can still belt it out with dignity.
These two disks deserve to be cherished for the musical inventions they are for years upon years, and certainly will be in my collection.
Some bands go well with an orchestra. They really do - Rage, for instance, did some pretty cool stuff in the late 90s. Deep Purple pretty much invented the idea, and pulled it off nicely.
Now Metallica wants to get in on the act. And you know what, with VERY few exceptions, Metallica songs are not meant to be orchestrated. Either they're thrash, in which case they demand pretty much rhythm guitar and vocals and that's about it, or they're modern shit, in which case they suck no matter what you do to them.
The first two tracks work very, very well. "Ecstacy of Gold" by Ennio Morricone is the theme to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" (if I recall correctly) and it was MEANT to be played by instruments like this, so of course it sounds good. Then, "Call of Ktulu" has enough classical-sounding passages, that it too makes a lot of sense.
Then, things disintegrate quickly. "Master of Puppets" is a very good song, but not in this context. Pretty much, you hear Metallica playing, and then there's this orchestra. And of course, Metallica suck nowadays, so they completely butcher the song. Maybe in 1986, it would've sounded like a thrash band that just happened to have an orchestra there too for no apparent reason, but nowadays it's a complete mishmash as Hetfield can't sing anymore, his rhythm guitar is sloppy, and Kirk's leads blow. Lar$ is not even going to be mentioned as he is a non-entity.
The song selection is of course pretty crappy too... they play shit from Load and whatnot, and all those songs really fucking blow. They were never good, they never will be good, and the fact that they have been written are an insult to humanity. There are two new songs, which sound like Load leftovers - they also don't make sense with the orchestra. Not at all. And the performance just blows. They've lost the aggression, the thrashiness, everything. They sound like a watered-down Matchbox 20 clone.
So what we have here is Selloutica putting on a concert, in all their modern suckitude, with their crappy modern setlist, and their laughable attempts to play the old stuff, and oh yeah there's an orchestra too. What's next? Juggling bears?