Death Metal Underground

Metallica brings metal and classical closer together

by Brett Stevens
January 27, 2014 –

metallica-band-photo

For their performance at the Grammy awards, Metallica paired up with Chinese pianist Lang Lang for a performance of their dramatic protest song “One” originally from …And Justice for All.

According to VH1, the bond was formed in just 45 minutes of practice time the day before the performance. As you can see below, the result was smoothly integrated despite this lack of extensive practice.

Metal and classical share a defining trait in that both use narrative composition, or knitting together riffs to develop a theme over the course of a piece. This is in contrast to pop music, which is essentially binary, formed of a verse-chorus pair and a “contrast” via a bridge or turnaround. Thus Metallica’s knotwork of riffs and Lang Lang’s melodic development through structured composition are entirely compatible.

The question remains whether metal will adopt this outlook as anything other than a surface aesthetic. If it does, expect metal songs to get more densely riffy and longer with contorted structures like progressive rock, which derived its song structuring principles from classical as well.

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16 comments

  • Jesus Christ...

    …this is horrible. They also recorded an album with the SFO. The orchestra offered no added value whatsoever. The Morricone intro was the best song. And fuck showman Lang2

  • basto

    My guess is that the most honest person in the building was that black guy on the front row not partaking in the standing ovation or even polite clapping from his seat (6:44-6:46).

  • trystero

    Perhaps I am missing something, but I didnt notice any melodic development worth commenting on in Lang Lang`s (admittedly virtuous) playing. At least Kirk managed his later bits reasonably. A more languid pace might have benefited this performance. Not the worst recent Metallica performance I have heard though.

    It is interesting to note that they played a pre-Black Album song. Even in their recent Antarctic performance the vast majority of the songs played were from the first four albums. Death Magnetic was a hint that Metallica recognized exactly why and what part of their music still endures, even though the album itself was a failure. Despite everything I am still quite curious what their next album – if it ever happens – will sound like.

    Trujillo is perhaps the only really solid musician remaining in the band. I agree with basto`s observation as well.

  • TheWaters

    Does Hetfield even practise singing? He has to be one of the most obnoxious live singers ever…..

  • dawn

    Hetfield’s singing voice was always horrible – Flemming Rasmussen was a brilliant engineer/producer to make it sound like Hetfield could sing at all. Even in the 80s his voice was shot. He’s flat and sounds like he’s on the verge of falling asleep most of the time.

    This band is so out of touch with reality, even any good moves they make now are purely coincidental. Think otherwise? Remember LULU; that is not the work of a properly functioning mind.

  • 1349

    Even with such faint singing Hetfield remains charismatic. At the moments when he actually puts some power into his voice, it becomes clear that he understands, or at least has a strong gut feeling of, how things should sound like.

    It’s also interesting how our faces look more and more like our racial archetype as we get older. Hetfield looks like Bush Jr. already.

  • Wolfgang

    Sorry Brett, this performance really sucks.
    The band can’t play well, and the random piano notes on top don’t integrate at all. It’s more like a few drunken fusion musicians performing together, as it lacks the coherent and structured approach to composition that both classical and heavy metal music have.

  • Straw Hat Luffy

    I don’t get how the guy that writes the rest of the material on this site gets impressed with shit like this. This shit’s old, old news… fucking Metallica, seriously?

  • hiarctow

    Well, at times it’s not as excruciating as I thought it might be.

    They probably could learn something from this experience. Lang Lang, egotist though he is, is surely a better influence to have around than Bob Rock or Lou Reed.

  • Fausang Cheung

    Seeing this song performing live at the Grammy Awards is quite enjoyable, but Lang Lang’s improvisation is like a monkey dancing around. It definitely ruins the atmosphere of the whole live setting.