If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s and paid attention to both the rock music scene and the action-film scoring scene, the fact that superstar composer & conductor (not to mention frequent pop/rock collaborator) Michael Kamen teamed up with superstar rock band Metallica for a live show wasn’t surprising in the least. If you didn’t, and you stop and think about it, it seems at least slightly ridiculous that the guy who scored the films Highlander, Lethal Weapon, and Die Hard would go on stage with the guys who gave the world “Master of Puppets” and “Enter Sandman.”

And let’s be clear, it is ridiculous. In the best possible way.

What is it?

S&M is the late-1999 double-album release of material from a set of live shows by Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony (conducted by Michael Kamen).

How does it sound?

Then it comes to be there’s a sampler mix at the end of your tunnel:

Why this pick?

Because it’s a stunt that works.

Let me explain no there is too much let me sum up. At some point someone had to do this, to smash together these two varieties of loud, self-important, self-indulgent musical expression. The rock band had to be established, with mainstream appeal, and loud. The orchestral collaborator had to be established, with a track record of delivering high profile and high impact symphonic results. Anything less from either side and the whole project would’ve fallen apart with a series of dull thuds. It required ridiculousness.

While I listen to this album I’m occasionally struck by the absurdity of it all for a few moments, then it pulls me back in again and I forget to think about why it shouldn’t have worked and let it get back to working.

Which songs are the highlights?

The first disc kicks off strongly with a twenty-minute three-song sequence: The orchestra itself doing a bit of Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstacy of Gold,” the orchestra and band together powering through the instrumental “The Call of Ktulu,” then a heck of a rendition of “Master of Puppets” rounds out the opening sequence.

Unsurprisingly, the two original tracks crafted for this project stand out as the strongest fusion of the two performance elements. “No Leaf Clover” and “-Human” are still two of my favorites, all these years later.

“Hero of the Day” translates surprisingly well to the new style. Likewise, the grim and dramatic “Outlaw Torn” and “One” both sound superb here.

The second disc closes with a really good take on “Battery.”

Which songs don’t work so well?

A lot of the radio-hit barn-burners don’t make very good use of the textures provided by symphonic accompaniment. “Of Wolf and Man” isn’t one of my faves anyway, and throwing a bunch of soaring strings on top of it doesn’t help its case here. “Fuel” just comes off as a noisy mess. “Until It Sleeps” tries and fails to gel. And somehow the biggest hit of them all, “Enter Sandman,” is just kind of… there. It’s not bad, but we know why it’s in the playlist and it has nothing to do with its suitability for this treatment.

Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?

I suppose it might’ve been the so-called “black album” but there’s not much to say about it, really, so I probably would’ve gone with ReLoad.

Any final thoughts?

I mean, yeah, Metallica. Boy howdy do people have opinions about the band or what? Luckily I’ve only ever been a moderate-level fan so I can enjoy bits and pieces from their catalog without feeling like I have to justify my choices. “They sold out! They got terrible! The new bass player sucks!” Eh. Whatever. I’m one of those who started with Metallica (“the black album”) and wandered off some time after… well, this record actually. Clearly my opinion is suspect, from a fannish perspective.

Look, I can’t go all-in on every band or I’d never have any time or money left for anything else. It’s for the best.

Of course one could argue that I’m tempting fate by making that sampler mix. If this webserver gets nuked from orbit then I guess we’ll know why…