Metallica Took It Up a Notch With ‘S and M’ | Album Review

Yeah, that’s right! I said S&M versus S&M2 because I have not seen the first one and I’m too cheap to buy the second one. But also, I grew to be a fan of Jason Newsted, so that’s why I wanted to check out S&M first.

Back in June, I watched a Mike the Music Snob video on youtube, where he ranked his favorite Metallica songs or something to do with Metallica. He brought up a few tracks from S&M, and my first reaction was, “what the hell is that?!?!” So I looked up the album on Spotify and saw that all the songs featured the SFSO. I was too lazy to do any research on the SFSO, so I gave up. I never grew interested in S&M until Metallica released “All Within My Hands” from S&M2 (2020) this past July. I found the S&M concert on youtube, so I thought, “why not?” 

A little background on S&M, the band’s former bassist, the late Cliff Burton, was a big fan of classical music, and he always wanted to combine those elements into heavy metal. Let’s flash forward to 1992 at the Grammys. The late conductor Michael Kamen, who also conducted the orchestral tracks for “Nothing Else Matters,” suggested to Metallica that they play with an entire orchestra. The band showed little interest at first, with Newsted stating he only considered no more than two cellos (taken from an article titled, “Symphony of Destruction: The Story Behind Metallica’s S&M Album“). 

Seven years later, S&M was born! The album was recorded on April 21 – 22, 1999, at the Berkeley Community Theatre, and released on November 23, 1999. The band played with the San Francisco Symphony, which was conducted by Kamen. Not to be sentimental or anything, but this is the final Metallica album to feature Newsted as Metallica’s bassist. Let that sink in!

What was cool about the setlist was that they played some tracks from Load (1996) and Reload (1997). Load specifically got a lot of hate because their fans freaked out when the members cut their hair and started experimenting with different musical genres. I’ll go more into that later when I review both Load and Reload eventually. I don’t know about you, but I beamed with excitement when Metallica played “Devil’s Dance,” having never heard it live before, at least in the concerts I’ve seen so far.

The symphony and Metallica were in beautiful sync, except for “Master of Puppets,” that one was a bit off to me. But everything from the violins, the timpanis, and the brass section gave Metallica songs more of a dark feel.

Most notably in “Bleeding Me,” “The Memory Remains,” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Now that I think about it, that’s probably the best version of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” I’ve ever heard. I also enjoyed “The Call of Ktulu,” surprisingly because I was not a fan of the studio version. I grew sick of “Battery” as well, but this version in S&M was epic. It started with the harp, oboes (don’t quote me on this), and this beautiful intro you’d hear while walking on a beach, and then it gets heavy! F*cking brilliant! “The Thing That Should Not Be” sounds like something that would come out of a horror film.

The band also added two new songs to the setlist, “No Leaf Clover” and “–Human” (I wonder how they came up with that title). Speaking of the setlist, I was worried I wouldn’t know any of the songs other than their big hits, but it added a bit of unpredictability to my enjoyment and the songs I was familiar with, I felt relieved. I was concerned that Kirk Hammett wouldn’t get any guitar solos or Newsted wouldn’t get a chance to shine on the bass, but they both got their fair share of the spotlight. Take note of the intro to “Wherever I May Roam.”

I could’ve listened to the album itself, but then I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to see the camera close-ups of James Hetfield. That was freaky and hilarious at the same time! I also saw the flickering lights and effects that took over the stage and took the performances up a notch. I don’t enjoy live albums much; if the concert is available online, I’ll watch that instead! 

I don’t want to compare S&M and S&M2, but I have to say that Newsted brought something special to Metallica; the way he’d be headbanging and in the zone to every song they played, his backing vocals, how he’d get the crowd hyped up, and his charming personality. Robert Trujillo is cool, but “Enter Sandman” sounds better when Newsted does the backing vocals. Other tracks Newsted’s backing vocals are noticeable on include “Until It Sleeps,” “The Outlaw Torn,” and “Of Wolf and Man.” Though, I will say I prefer S&M2‘s version of “Nothing Else Matters” because it sounds more precise, and Hetfield was able to sing those high notes in the chorus that Newsted helped out on in the S&M version. 

Overall, this is one of my new favorite Metallica concerts, and it proves that Metallica mixed with a symphony is a f*cking epic combination! One day I’ll watch S&M2, maybe 10-15 years later, when somebody uploads it to youtube, haha!

From left to right: Kirk Hammett (lead guitarist), James Hetfield (lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist), Lars Ulrich (drummer), and Jason Newsted (former bassist)

Let me know your thoughts on S&M in the comments below, and is it worth it to give S&M2 a try? 

Take care and see ya real soon!



2 thoughts on “Metallica Took It Up a Notch With ‘S and M’ | Album Review

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  1. I’m with you on Newstead. I thought he added something to the band that is now missing. The S&M stuff never appealed to me much but I’m glad it is there for the people who enjoy it! I didn’t think they would make a 2nd one so I’m glad you guys are getting another album!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m scared to check out the second one because Newsted is not in it haha! But they do a tribute to Cliff Burton, I heard, they played “Anethesia (Pulling Teeth).” I guess it also depends on your musical tastes too.


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