Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett has released his first music under his own name with the new four-song instrumental EP Portals.
Leaning heavily on spacey effects and atmospherics, Portals is noticeably different from Hammett’s day job. There are still flourishes of heavy metal, with Hammett letting the distortion, wah-wah pedal, and shredding techniques seep into the compositions. But by and large, Portal is less about face-melting riffs and more about hypnotic rhythms, looping lines, sonic detours from what most listeners would expect from Hammett.
Even though the EP finds him stretching outside of his comfort zone, some of the collaborators on the project come straight from the Metallica family. That includes producer Bob Rock, who was the band’s go-to producer during the height of their fame. Rock produced all of the Metallica’s albums from 1991’s Metallica through 2003’s St. Anger.
Also involved is conductor and arranger Edwin Outwater, who had previously conducted the orchestra that had played on Metallica’s S&M2 production. The towering orchestrations from Outwater can be heard on tracks like ‘Maiden and the Monster’ and ‘High Plains Drifter’.
Solo albums are a contentious topic within the world of Metallica. Neither of the band’s principal leaders and songwriters, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, have released solo albums over the 40-year existence of the band. When bassist Jason Newsted wished to release an album with his side project Echobrain in 2001, it was rejected by the rest of the band, leading to Newsted’s departure.
That makes Portals the first solo release from a member of Metallica while remaining a part of the band. “I was also pretty shocked that I got the complete band’s blessings on it,” Hammett told Rolling Stone. “It was amazing because our band has not had a lot of great progress with band members going solo, as everyone knows.”
“But all that went down almost 20 years ago, and we’re such different people now. We’re all just older, wiser, and more mature,” Hammett continued. “Well, I don’t know if we’re wiser, but we’re definitely older, and a little bit more mature, a little bit more responsible. So something like this takes on a different sort of meaning now than it would have 20 years ago.”
Check out the Portals EP down below.