By 1999, Metallica were the biggest metal band in the world, but continued to push musical and artistic boundaries. ‘S&M’ (Symphony & Metallica) would be their most ambitious project to-date.
Composer and conductor Michael Kamen had previously collaborated with bands such as Pink Floyd, Rush, Queen and Aerosmith, and approached Metallica about doing shows with an orchestra. It took a couple of years to put everything together.
The San Francisco Symphony was chosen to be the orchestra, and the band had to decide on which songs to play, which was a difficult process for them. Once the songs were picked, they had to be re-arranged with orchestral parts.
Several songs that the band originally wanted to do ended up being dropped because they didn’t work well with an orchestra. Metallica also played two new songs: ‘No Leaf Clover’ and ‘Human’ along with songs spanning their career from ‘Ride the Lightning’ to ReLoad.’
Drummer Lars Ulrich told their fan club magazine ‘So What’ that playing with an orchestra would be difficult, but they were up for it. “There were certainly very exciting variables in there with regards to the audience, and the interplay between us, the symphony and Kamen. But Metallica were about as lean and clean as we had been for a long time, and were certainly ready and prepared to step up that extra notch to the challenge.”
After a couple of days of rehearsal, the shows took place at the Berkeley Community Theatre in California on April 21 and 22, 1999. In addition to being recorded for a double album, ‘S&M’ was also filmed for a video and DVD release. The DVD edition includes a documentary about the making of the album.
Things went so well in Berkeley that Metallica decided to reprise the orchestral performances. They ended up doing a show in Berlin, and another at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Kirk Hammett was very happy with how things turned out, as he related to ‘So What.’ “In retrospect it was super-exciting, it sounded incredible and it was just this amazing feeling being able to wield the power and grace of the symphony with the power, passion and grace of our band.”
‘S&M’ was released Nov. 23, 1999, and made it to No. 2 on the Billboard Album chart. It would go on to sell 2.5 million copies, and since it was a double album meant it was certified five times platinum. It would also garner Metallica another Grammy, as they took home the trophy in 2001 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for ‘The Call of Ktulu.' It would be the last album appearance for bassist Jason Newsted.
Metallica - ‘S&M’ Track Listing:
'The Ecstasy Of Gold' (Ennio Morricone cover)
'The Call Of Ktulu'
'Master Of Puppets'
'Of Wolf And Man'
'The Thing That Should Not Be'
'The Memory Remains'
'No Leaf Clover'
'Hero Of The Day'
'Nothing Else Matters'
'Until It Sleeps'
'For Whom The Bell Tolls'
'Human (Minus Human)'
'Wherever I May Roam'
'Sad But True'