• Rating: / 6


Last night (October 9) marked the worldwide premiere of Metallica’s latest endeavor, the highly anticipated "S&M2" collaboration to mark the 20th anniversary of the semi-legendary 1999 shows with the San Francisco Symphony orchestra. The film was billed as a "one night only" event with thousands of cinemas and movie theatres all over the globe screening it on this particular date. In our case, we attended the festivities in Bergen, Norway. 

Metallica kicked things off with a bit of documentary footage and some interview segments that served as a great introduction to what we were about to witness. It was a treat to see all parties involved in the undertaking being so enthusiastic and psyched about the prospect of combining their talents and unleashing a storm of gripping and evocative music together in front of a rapturous audience.

As with the excellent albeit slightly flawed "S&M" opus from 1999, "S&M2" also started out with the obligatory "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" theme followed by the atmospheric "The Call of Ktulu" gem from 1984, and we were off to a pretty damn good start. Several songs from the performance twenty years ago also made an appearance here, but the arrangements were slightly different and there were other shades and nuances to them this time around. Then again, could these guys get away with not performing "One", "Master of Puppets", "Nothing Else Matters", and "Enter Sandman" (just to list some examples)? I think not, although it would be brilliant if they would just retire that cursed "Nothing Else Matters", but that is beside the point.

The ferocious and haunting rendition of "The Memory Remains" stood out as did the criminally underrated masterpiece that is "The Outlaw Torn". Were those the two highlights of the evening? You bet! Other notable cuts that made our heads swirl included "Wherever I May Roam", "No Leaf Clover", and "Halo on Fire". The beautiful symphonic version of "The Unforgiven III" with James Hetfield pouring his heart out with the orchestra gently backing him up was also noteworthy. There were a couple of fascinating additions to the set list in the shape of "Scythian Suite" (performed solely by the orchestra) and the hard-hitting "Iron Foundry" (originally conceived by the Russian composer Alexander Mosolov). In terms of low points and losing momentum, "All Within My Hands" is a dreadful piece no matter what you do to it or how you approach it, and neither "Moth into Flame" nor "Confusion" went anywhere either.

Whereas the 1999 film and record had a bit more clarity and definition to it with respect to the overall mix and the how the levels between the various instruments were adjusted, "S&M2" boasted more power and bombast compared to its old counterpart. The 2019 concert was clearly much more aggressive and there was a fiery intent to the proceedings that was almost overpowering at times. I could swear that I heard bones crack and necks snap at the movie theatre last night. The orchestra occupied a suitably prominent role in the film and on stage, and conductor Edwin Outwater oozed charisma and was totally into it – very cool indeed.

As my awesome wife pointed out when we were riding home in our car last night following the screening, one should probably view Metallica’s recent collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony as a continuation of the S&M idea and concept rather than wasting too much time comparing the 1999 and 2019 shows (as I may have had a tendency to do in some respects). After all, twenty years have passed, and Metallica is a different band today than they were back then. "S&M2" is neither perfect nor monumental, but it was an inspired and inspiring watch and you should definitely pick up on it once it finds its way to the record stores and streaming devices and whatnot.