Metallica And Lang Lang Prove Metal And Classical Can Be “One”

January 28, 2014



Nine-time Grammy award winners Metallica are no strangers to classical music, in 1999 the band recorded the live album ‘S&M’ (Symphony and Metallica, as opposed to what you were thinking). The ‘Symphony’ part was supplied by the incredible San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Kamen. Metal and classical may seem poles apart but they are, in fact, the ideal bed fellows.

Metal music is all about impact and power and quite simply, so is classical music. Check out Gustav Holst – the Metallica of his day – I think you’ll agree there’s a sizeable juggernaut of instrumental sound going on there!

It therefore made complete sense for Metallica to bring the Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang up on to the Grammy stage for a performance of ‘One’ – from their 1988 album ‘…And Justice for All’.

It’s been 25 years since Metallica first perfomed ‘One’ at the Grammys. In 1989 they were nominated for best Metal Album for ‘…And Justice For All’ but lost out to Jethro Tull, who really weren’t a metal band, they were more of a progressive rock band, who, ironically, were characterized by the use of a classical instrument – a flute to be precise!

But nothing has faded since 1989. James Hetfield’s voice never seems to age, he belts out the song with his characteristically thunderous vocals, which, by turn remain expertly honed. Lars Ulrich’s unique drumming brings the essential familiar underpinning of the bands’ sound and Kirk Hammet, wearing a T-shirt in honour of the late Lou Reed, brought his ever-fierce intensity via guitar.

Pianist Lang Lang performs "One" with Metallica at the 56th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles
Lang Lang, a Grammy nominee himself, complimented the song with unbearably beautiful piano playing which morphed into crackling bolts of electrifying piano balladry. At no point was his sound drowned out by the heavy riffs, it just worked on an anthemic level.

Speaking of the collaboration with Lang Lang, Ulrich said: “Well, I would like to think that on a broader scale that music is music. We have a tendency in Metallica to not look much beyond that in terms of definitions. But, obviously, he’s a very talented musician, he’s a very dynamic musician, he projects himself very well. I mean, when he plays, he’s really full of energy and he’s got a lot of kind of showmanship and kind of energy that protrudes off the stage and right into people’s hearts and souls. So I would like to think that it’s a good collaboration.”

It was more than a good collaboration Lars, it was epic!

-Lucy Jenkins.


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