Who would have thought that a speed-metal band from the '80s could push the entertainment envelope in the '90s? Metallica has done just that with its new release, "S&M" (for "Symphony and Metallica" ). Recorded in front of a live audience over the course of two nights, this double-disc set showcases the raw power of Metallica's music brought to full boil, backed by the San Francisco Symphony and conducted by soundtrack king Michael Kamen (who previously worked with the band). Right from the start -- which is the theme from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" ("The Ecstasy of Gold" ) that's become Metallica's signature intro -- you know this is not your typical Metallica outing. But the big surprise is the way that tunes from their earlier thrash-metal epics -- like "Ride the Lightning" -- sound so comfortable in this setting. Granted, some tracks fall a little flat without the brutal rock presentation, but overall, this experiment works remarkably well.
Two brand-new cuts written for this performance, "No Leaf Clover" and "--Human," are included in this stellar package.