Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Metallica six stringer Kirk Hammett shows his more expansive side on this gloriously wild and inventive first solo EP.
Whilst there are certainly flashes of his trademark crushing fretwork, the riffs are just one small component of this ambitious and atmospheric quartet, put together by Hammett alongside composer and orchestrator Edwin Outwater.
Keying into his passion for horror films, the guitarist presents these four pieces as mini soundtracks to the movies that have inspired and entertained him.
It’s certainly an enjoyable journey and one that has some unexpected twists and turns on the road, last minute blind bends that can chill you to the bone following a comfortable cruise along a dark highway.
‘Maiden and the Monster’ is a multi-layered, fractured and shape shifting beast that constantly grows. Sweet, delicate patches morph into something sinister and otherworldly as bursts of heavy, distorted guitar jab through swelling strings.
It’s an unsettling effect and one that Hammett revels in, pushing the imagination to its limits. Whilst never overused, this trope crops up again through the EP, the juxtaposition working well as a sudden jump scare that brings a wonderful sense of dynamics to the pieces.
Falling on themes that are a little more home territory, ‘The Jinn’ is a heavier display of muscle, the tribal pounding of the rhythm that opens mixing with more Progressive Rock elements.
With a violin that goes from nimble to dramatic, each new chapter is revealed as we are moved through the sound landscape. Guitar and cello bring heat whilst drums pound and the Hammer Horror echoes of Black Sabbath dwell in its DNA, the violin returning to weave its way through the narrative.
After a solo that is reminiscent of his output in the San Francisco mothership, things border on heavy, jazz experimentation but never letting things get too self-indulgent or oblique.
With the same title as the Clint Eastwood ‘Spaghetti Western’, the rambunctious ‘High Plains Drifter’ captures some of the same spirit that made the Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone collaborations such a giant hit.
There’s the power of something akin to the main theme of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ but this is channelled into a feeling that you’re tearing across a wide desert plain on the footplate of an 1870’s locomotive, all heavy steel, smoke, heat and noise.
Featuring some huge crescendos, the heavy artillery is slashed by some sprawling and delightfully lighter passages that, once again, tell their own story to great effect.
Closing, ‘The Incantation’ is the grandest of all, its use of a more orchestral feel something that has definite echoes of the titans ‘Symphony & Metallica’ albums.
With a dramatic seesawing feel and a wah wah guitar solo, the atmospheric wigout then seamlessly blends in the more classical elements to heighten the power and flood the senses with wave upon wave of this sonic tapestry.
Overall, it’s a thoroughly intoxicating experience and one that will only heighten, not diminish, with repeated plays as hitherto musical motifs and touches are revealed.
More than just a vital curiosity for fans of Metallica, ‘Portals’ reveals more of the man behind the guitar and is a fascinating entry into not just his CV but also that of modern rock music.
A master craftsman, Hammett proves that with inspiration and the right collaboration, there is no end to musical imagination. Here’s to the next phase.
Listen to “High Plains Drifter”: kirkhammett.lnk.to/HighPlainsDrifter‘PORTALS’ AVAILABLE APRIL 23RD