21 years ago, the biggest of the big four did a live album with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra entitled S&M, a record that would earn its place in metal history and go on to sell 6 million records in the United States alone. Now with S&M2 they sequel that achievement, obviously not to the same sales figures but nevertheless to great anticipation; the fanfare mattering more on an artistic level than any amount of streams and units bought ever could. Having more of an extensive catalogue to go off of than last time, S&M2 is a whopping 22 tracks in length split into two sides, nevertheless that doesn’t stop them from opening immediately with the classics: After “The Ecstasy Of Gold”, “The Call Of Khtulu” and “For Whom The Bell Tolls” from Ride The Lightning open things up, with “Bell” being given an especially epic touch.
Newer ones get thrown into the mix, straddling the line between pure Metallica and orchestral sensitivity and mastery fit for a movie soundtrack. “The Day That Never Comes” from Death Magnetic is one, “Moth Into Flame” and “Halo On Fire” off Hardwired To Self-Destruct are others; on “The Day” James Hetfield shows he is still very much able to convey power and hold a note though some of his earlier ferocity is clearly missing. “The Memory Remains” shows more of his trademark edge while getting the crowd engaged in an anthemic, momentous rendition of the ReLoad staple with their performance of “The Outlaw Torn” off Load not far behind in quality. With the callback “No Leaf Clover” off the original S&M, Metallica demonstrates the extent to which they have been able to preserve much of their punch over 2 decades later, never mind almost 4 in total.
Side 2 shows more of the traditionally symphonic side of things, first with the interlude of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Scythian Suite”and secondly with Alexander Mosolov’s “Iron Foundry”which Metallica contributes to on a base, rhythmic level. Some more recent numbers follow with “The Unforgiven III” off Death Magnetic and “All Within My Hands” off St. Anger (Lars’ snare of course sounding far better this time around). An upright-bass interpretation of “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)” by the Symphony’s Scott Pingel serves as a unique tribute to Metallica’s late original bassist Cliff Burton, an idea Pingel himself pitched to the band. After “Wherever I May Roam”, the obligatory greatest hits run begins: “One”, complete with a suspenseful two-minute symphonic buildup, then “Master Of Puppets” after with the dynamics of the band and the orchestra perfectly complimenting each other throughout. “Nothing Else Matters” in a word is damn near perfect in its execution, while “Enter Sandman” serves as a hell of a wrap-up with everyone giving their all and stretching out (and speeding up) the track for maximum, lasting effect.
If S&M2 shows anything, it demonstrates that unlike many bands that wear out and lose it over time, Metallica is one of those blessed with the ability to keep their essence intact over what is now a nearly 40-year span. In comparison to the first S&M, it sounds nearly ageless and is a testament to Metallica’s greatness and well-deserved stature in the world of metal. May they have continued success, and may they sound like this as long as time will permit.