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S & M

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★★★★½
(914 Reviews)

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Japanese-only double SHM-CD (Super High Material CD) paper sleeve pressing of this album from the Bay-Area Metal legends, originally released in 1999. SHM-CDs can be played on any audio player and delivers unbelievably high-quality sound. You won’t believe it’s the same CD! Universal. 2008.At a point in their career when most bands would rest their laurels upon a greatest-hits package or live album, Metallica has done both, but with a decidedly loopy twist. They’ve recorded a double-live greatest-hits package with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra ”sitting in.” Rock history and cutout bins are littered with previous attempts at a rock-symphonic fusion, from Emerson, Lake & Palmer to Deep Purple to the Moody Blues and the Siegel-Schwall Blues Band. But while previous efforts at mixing the low-brow with the high-brow have mostly ended up browbeating the intended audience, S&M plays like a precarious joy ride. Set against the shrewd efforts of a team of orchestrators and arrangers (who employ enough taste to keep proceedings from sounding like one long ”Live and Let Die” outtake), Metallica plays for their lives, undercutting their general somber tone by ratcheting up their musicianship several notches. The most underrated player here is SFO guest conductor and soundtrack vet Michael Kamen, whose attention to detail and nuance–and intuitive grasp of the Metallica canon–keeps this unlikely meeting of the minds focused and on track. -Jerry McCulley

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  • when I first found out that Metallica was going to perform with an orchestra I was a little hesitant. Who would have thought Metallica would ever enter the same building as an orchestra, much less perform with one! When I first played it I was blown away with how much the other instruments accually “filled” Metallica’s sound giving a new edge and fullness. Where some of the Metallica songs started to get bland or the same, the orchestra just creates such a particular sound that it sounds sooooo much better. It has all of the greats from some of the older stuff as well as some new songs. The only drawback I did notice was on the back of the cd. It lists the songs with only part of their name, this was a little misleading when purchasing from a store. Other than that, this cd is a must-have for anyone that has ever heard any Metallica. Even if you havent, this cd is for anyone with a need for metal.

    Posted on January 18, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • At first the idea seemed brave, but fundamentally flawed. A symphony orchestra playing with Metallica ? Hmmm, a bit too Deeep Purple … surely it couldn’t be done successfully – after all, many have tried and failed. Would the men in black have to tone down their sound to suit the occasion and perhaps pull a punch or two to keep the high-brows happy? Would they hell! As you know, these ‘Metalliclassical’ concerts took place last April to great critical acclaim and this double live CD is the official record of the event.S&M is the sound of two spectacular musical forces working in perfect harmony. The presence of the orchestra has driven Metallica to even greater heights on the evidence of this performance. However, much of the credit for the final product must be due to Michael Kamen who has interpreted the Metallica live show perfectly and scored it with imagination, flair and ingenuity. At times the orchestration fits in so well you hardly notice it. Which is not to say the San Francisco Symphony sound timid. Not in the slightest. In fact on those tracks you might expect them to take a frightened backseat, such as ‘Fuel’ or ‘Battery’, they really make their presence felt. On the former they quite simply rock! To single out individual songs is pointless as the whole set is awesome. Suffice it to say that on those songs which allow them the space to work the orchestra sounds magnificent. Metallica’s performance is virtually flawless. The enormity of the occasion has resulted in a supercharged set. Each and every one of them play out of their skin. It’s as if they had decided that no orchestra was going to eclipse them on the night! Just a quick word on the sound quality which manages to bring the classical and hard rock disciplines together without compromising either. Everything sounds clean, clear and bright. The one casualty is Jason’s bass which at times is a little muted but Lars’ drums sound tremendous. In fact the whole mix leaps out of the speakers, so much so that on first listen it’s almost to much to take in. This release marks a milestone in the band’s career and is also deserved of noteworthy inclusion in the annals of rock history – it’s that good. No Metallica fan should be without this. Quite simply, I don’t know how Metallica are going to top this one – then again I think I might have said that when they released “….And Justice for All”.

    Posted on January 18, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Quoting the words of James Hetfield, “Did you hear the one about the rock band that wanted to play in a symphony?” Better yet, of all the possible choices, can you imagine that band being Metallica? A year after releasing Garage Inc., the boys from San Francisco are back with their first live album since the Binge & Purge set. S&M – get your mind out of the gutter – brings us a compilation that no one could have expected. Just how do you put the voice of lead singer/guitar James Hetfield, the amazing solos of guitarist Kirk Hammett, the head-banging of bassist Jason Newsted, and the thumping of drummer Lars Ulrich together with the strings of the Michael Kamen’s San Francisco Symphony? Forget about how it was done – just prepare to be amazed.The album was recorded back in April when the two groups met for a performance in Berkley, CA and contains material from the band’s previous albums including Enter Sandman, Master of Puppets, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and One. The group complements these classics with two brand new songs, No Leaf Clover and Minus Human, both highlighted by great melody from the symphony.The first of the double-CD set features an opening with Ecstasy of Gold and The Call of Ktulu, featuring a great instrumental performance by the symphony. The `Tallica boys soon turn things up with Master of Puppets, Hero of the Day, Fuel, and The Memory Remains, along with other familiar tracks from Load and Re-Load.In the second half of the set, we are treated to classics like Wherever I May Roam, Sad But True, Nothing Else Matters, and One. Other works from the self-titled album known as Black, Load, Master of Puppets, and …And Justice for All of finish off the performance.S&M will satisfy both long-time Metallica fans, as well as the newer ones. There may not be many new songs, but the performance with the symphony shines a whole new light on the classics.

    Posted on January 17, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This boxset rules! There’s no two ways about it! First of all just the box it comes in is killer. Two it comes with the S&M cd recessed in the first layer of the box which looks amazing! C, it comes with a deck of playing cards in which each ace has a characterature of a member of the band on it. Fourth, theres a nice poster, a black T-shirt with ‘S&M’ on the front right brest and on the back it says ‘SOLOIST’. It also comes with a desk calandar which has all the lyrics to each song on S&M on each page. The box is also lined with a white satiny cloth which just completes the mood of the symphony. This set is a must have for any true MetallicA fan! Only 1,000 we’re made.

    Posted on January 17, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • If you’ve ever considered buying any Metallica album, get this one first. It’s essentially a greatest hits collection (which they never have officially released) with two new songs, -Human and No Leaf Clover. This album is simply incredible. The orchestra (conducted by Michael Kamen, who helped Metallica design “Nothing Else Matters”) and the band sound great together; saying anything less than that would be an injustice. Highlights from the album include “The Call of Ktulu”, an instrumental epic ballad based on an old H.P. Lovecraft story (check Amazon’s book search on it), which is followed by “Master of Puppets”, another 8+minute classic which is arguably their best stand-alone single ever. Another terrific performance is done on “The Thing That Should Not Be”, another Lovecraft-inspired work that should be listened to in complete darkness. For whatever reason, Metallica left out an entire stanza on this song, which, considering the outstanding lyrics on this one, is quite a shame. “Fuel” is probably the best it’s ever been and ever will be (and James knows it); the symphony really rocks here. “Hero of the Day”, one of the band’s fewer “slow” songs, also sounds excellent, as do the next two ballads, “Devil’s Dance” and “Bleeding Me”. Disc 2 also has its share of hits; “Nothing Else Matters” was just begging to be symphonized, and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” just plain rocks (though I wish they’d kept the bell rings at the beginning which made the song famous). “Wherever I May Roam” sounds brilliant with the symphony, and is probably the best orchestrated piece on the album. “The Outlaw Torn” is another song that is improved dramatically by the symphony. “One” is the pseudo-climax of the album, and done with such emotion that you feel as if you’re actually at the concert- a fantastic piece of music, both lyrically and instrumentally. Again, I cannot overemphasize the sheer brilliance of this album. It’s a shame that “mainstream” fans and critics can’t see past Metallica’s often-notorious reputation and witness the band’s true genius. It’s a great album, in any and all aspects. If you enjoyed this album as much as I did and want to here more of Metallica’s work, I suggest the following albums: “Master of Puppets” (often considered its best) to hear the band’s early sound; “Metallica” [Black Album](the best-selling) to witness their transition from 80s metal to 90s rock; and “Load” (probably the most maligned one) to see the “final product” Metallica evolved into. Only after listening to these three albums can you really decide for yourself whether they “sold out” or not. “Kill ‘em All”, their debut album, may sound too gritty after listening to S&M; you can probably skip “Reload”, since the all the good stuff from that is on S&M; “…And Justice For All” is a well-formulated album that is ill-represented on S&M and deserves more recognition. There are other albums, of course, but I personally wouldn’t buy those without sampling the songs first (the quality level fluctuates dramatically). Hopefully, Metallica will do another album like this with a different set list. Can you imagine how great “The Unforgiven”, “Orion”, “…And Justice For All”, or “Harvester of Sorrow” would sound with a symphony? Anyway, that’s all. Buy the album – you won’t regret it.

    Posted on January 17, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now