Metallica & San Francisco Symphony: S&M2

Composer Michael Kamen had a vision. Back in April 1999, he convinced Bay Area metal overlords Metallica to team up with the San Francisco Symphony in Berkeley, California, for S&M, a 2.2-hour concert wherein classical music met aggro-rock head-on. Not only that, but Kamen's skilled orchestral re-arrangements of 20 Metallica classics also revealed how many of the band's subversive originals were perhaps more progressively inclined than others may have previously thought.

Though Kamen passed away in 2003, his spirit lingers all across S&M2, a sequel 20 years in the making performed over two nights at the Chase Center in San Francisco in September 2019. Two ace musical directors/conductors—the deeply respected Michael Tilson Thomas and the quite animated Edwin Outwater—trade off baton duties during the 2.5-hour show, each more than up to the task of both revisiting and expanding Kamen's initial blueprints (as well as handling/shaping additional new scoring by Bruce Coughlin).


Returning director Wayne Isham keeps the uber-crisp arena visuals necessarily dark, occasionally bathing both band and orchestra alike in shades of red and blue (the latter hue serving as quite the cool profile outline during a close-up on a French horn player). Meanwhile, those of you well-versed in musical notation should be able to interpret the notes on the bright-white sheet music spread open on a music stand seen between the vertical strings of a harp during "The Outlaw Torn."

Music producer Greg Fidelman nails the intimacy of the in-the-round performing layout for band and orchestra, not to mention how they instantly erupt in full around you when going from whisper to caterwaul (see especially "The Call of Ktulu" and "One"). The all-channel fervor of the internationally flavored audience is palpable all throughout, none more so when vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield beckons them to keep repeating the "whoah, oh-oh-oh" refrain during a guttural "The Memory Remains"—which they then continue doing a capella for a few minutes after the instrumentation fades. Another touching sequence occurs during "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth," a bowed-bass solo tribute to the late, great original Metallica bassist Cliff Burton courtesy of orchestral player Scott Pingel, who's complemented enthusiastically in the back half by tongue-wagging drummer Lars Ulrich.


Ten minutes of behind-the-scenes extras include Tilson Thomas encapsulating a key parallel between Metallica and the classical artform by noting how they both "address primitivism and tribalism" in their music. S&M2 amply shows that wherever they may roam, Metallica remain masters of their domain.

Studio: Blackened, 2020
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 159 mins.
Director: Wayne Isham
Starring: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo, Michael Tilson Thomas, Edwin Outwater